Why do we continue in the face of violent opposition?

There is no doubt that any controversial issue brings with it a certain amount of opposition, and the abortion debate is no different. When we bring our message to the public, and especially when working with our campus teams at universities and colleges across Toronto, it is not uncommon for people to come out and try to block our photos or conversations. We are used to it. However, despite our consistent peaceful and civil approach, our team members have faced significant verbal assault, theft and damage to our property and sometimes, things have even gotten physical.

Why then, would we continue? It’s because of the amazing conversations that we have with people, the hearts and minds that we see change every day. Sometimes the effect we have is far greater than we could ever imagine.

The day of my own assault, I was approached by a young man at Ryerson. I asked him what he thought about abortion, and he told me that he used to be pro-choice. I asked him what changed his mind. He said, “I reflected on the images that you guys bring here. It really doesn’t look like just a clump of cells. And besides, you are just a clump of cells, I am just a clump of cells. But more than that, the images made me change my behaviour. Women think they need safe and legal abortion, but what they really need is for men not to treat them like objects. It is unfair for me to treat a woman like an object and expect her to just go get an abortion. So my contribution to lowering abortion is that I’ve changed my behaviour, I no longer treat women that way.

This young man’s life was changed because he passed by our signs on the street. And his changing his behaviour will have a positive impact on the women in his life as well. Just this one mind changed will have a positive ripple effect on many, all the way down to possibly even sparing a pre-born child from a violent fate.

Our photos simply show what abortion looks like. It is up to each person to take from it what they will. The conversations like this one, that I was lucky enough for this young man to share with me, are what keep me going, they’re what keep our team going, and until abortion is unthinkable, we will do just that. Lives depend on it.

Testimony of a Mind Changed by Truth

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it goes without saying that a video is worth far more. 

At the beginning of September, I was at York University with my colleagues, talking to students and other people in the community about abortion. As usual, we were displaying large images that show ultrasounds of healthy pre-born children, and images of the victims of abortion to contrast, and show evidence of how abortion violently ends their lives. This time, however, I also brought video evidence. 

I interrupted a conversation that my colleague Leire was having with a young man who was pro-choice. He was saying that abortion is sometimes justifiable, depending on the circumstances of an unexpected pregnancy. I asked him if he had ever seen what abortion actually looks like and offered to show him an animated depiction. He had never seen, and agreed to watch.

He quietly watched, as former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino described the most common procedure, aspiration (suction) abortion.

When Dr. Levatino showed the suction machine being turned on, the young man gasped in disbelief and horror, as he watched the 11-week fetus’ head torn off by the machine, and sucked through the cannula, then the arms, legs, and torso ripped apart and also sucked through. He shook his head in shock and disgust, as he watched the abortionist go back into the uterus to retrieve the parts left behind – an arm, some tissue, and scrape them out. 

When the short video ended, I asked him if what he had seen had changed his opinion about abortion. He said, “Yes, that is horrible, and no circumstance justifies doing that – ever.”

While Leire had built great common ground with him and had a sign in front of her with an abortion victim on it, for him, that picture didn’t tell the full story. When he saw with his own eyes what abortion actually does – decapitates and dismembers a living human being, he decided that was something he could no longer justify, no matter the circumstance. He became pro-life, because he saw the truth for himself. 

We often tell people that we don’t actually protest abortion, we simply bring the truth of what it is to the public, and abortion protests itself. For this young man, he went from holding pro-choice beliefs, to being completely against abortion, in under 4 minutes flat. The video may end up saving a life one day.

Adoption, Suffering and Love: Reflections of a Powerful Conversation on a Rainy Day

On dreary, rainy days, it can be hard to find the motivation to get out on the streets and engage people on the topic of abortion. When the weather is gloomy and gray, it feels like it casts a shadow on the day, and sets the mood for conversations about an already heavy topic, to also be heavy, and more difficult to “see the light”, as it were. The weather really can have an affect on our moods and motivation.

A few of us managed to brace the weather on one of these days, and I was doing “Choice” Chain in downtown Toronto, and kept seeing the same young man walking past. The third time, I asked him, “what do you think about abortion?” He had an arrogant demeanour, and said my signs were “disgusting, and ruining local business,” and that “people are trying to go to lunch.”

He then said he agreed with abortion, because fetuses lack consciousness and can’t respond to stimulus until birth, which he thinks is necessary to have the right to life.

We spoke about how fetuses do in fact respond to stimulus in the womb, and can feel pain about halfway through a pregnancy, but newborns don’t even have consciousness in the way he means, and he agreed newborns have the right to life. We discussed other scientific facts about prenatal development, and he admitted he wasn’t aware of anything I told him, or much about the topic at all.

He then said abortion is acceptable because if placed for adoption, the child may grow up in an unloving home. I pointed out to him that there are many approved couples who are waiting to adopt a baby in Canada, but the waitlist is very long. I asked if he knew anybody who has adopted. I wanted to point out that odds are, they adopted a baby from outside of Canada for this very reason. He thought I meant does he know anybody who is adopted. He said his mother was adopted and was really messed up by it, because she grew up in a home without love.

At this point the arrogance disappeared in an instant, and he started to cry, and was really shaken. I said, “I am sorry to hear that, and I know that adoption isn’t perfect, and is emotional for everyone involved… can I ask you something?” He wiped his face and shook his head yes.

“Do you love your mother?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “And does she know it?” He paused for a moment. “Yes,” he said.

“Then she does have love in her life,” I said. “And maybe that was the purpose of her enduring a loveless home – to have you, and to finally have love in her life. And you love your mother, and have love in yours. Adoption isn’t perfect, but it means more options, and hope, are possible. With abortion, that’s it.”

He said he himself planned to adopt one day instead of having biological children. I said, “So you see the good in giving someone a chance at life.” He said yes, and that he had to go, with none of the arrogance and hostility that were present at the start of our conversation. I thanked him for talking to me and he walked away.

It is human nature to dwell on the negatives, and sometimes even forget about the positives, so I understand and empathize with this young man for initially seeing only his mother’s suffering as a result of being adopted. It was a powerful and emotional experience for both of us as he came to realize that he himself was the remedy to that suffering.

He may or may not have changed his opinion about abortion following our conversation, I’ll never know. But he definitely had a change of heart, and as my friend Maria says, “Once the heart is changed, the head is the easy part to flip, it is much harder the other way around.” Once a person realizes that even when a person has suffered greatly, that love makes it all worthwhile, they have changed their perspective, and that’s a great start. And that makes a gloomy, grey day, feel all the brighter.