Pro-life effort looks to take baby steps

By  Allison Hunwicks, The Catholic Register
  • May 9, 2012

A grassroots pro-life movement is hoping to spark a review of abortion laws in Canada through open debate with local MPs, all while maintaining a fair and open discourse for all sides on the issue.

“I’m pro-life from conception,” Mike Schouten, campaign director of the weneedalaw.ca web campaign, told The Catholic Register. “I also recognize that in the current situation in Canada there’s obstacles in our way that prevent us from having a law that bans all abortions. That’s simply just not going to happen right now.”

Schouten said the campaign aims to take an incremental approach.

“I’ve noticed that by and large most pro-lifers who are active in the political realm always advocate for the all-or-nothing approach. It’s asking from government too much. So, in a sense I wouldn’t be happy with just some law or any law, but I would see that as a small victory towards greater victory.”

This ideology eschews a “black and white” approach to the idea of abortion legislation, which Schouten feels can be polarizing and discourages proactive discussion of the matter.

“The whole debate is framed like we’re polar opposites of each other, and yet the majority of Canadians fall in the middle ground where they want something,” said Schouten, who also noted that most Canadians may not even be aware there are currently no laws regulating abortion timelines in Canada.

Schouten, who has been politically involved with both the Conservatives and the Christian Heritage Party, has set up the We Need a Law site so that users can easily send letters to their local MPs and party leaders with just three clicks of their computer’s mouse.

In addition, petitions can be printed and distributed from the web site.

“In a democracy such as Canada, we have that benefit and we should use it to communicate with those who are in government. We know that they love it when they get communication, even if they don’t agree with it,” said Schouten

“At least they know that Canadians still care. They have the support, or they have the concerns shared with them by their constituents.”

The web site also actively promotes the work of MP Stephen Woodworth, who has been championing the establishment of a parliamentary committee to study the definition of human life with Motion-312. Despite this, Schouten feels M-312, introduced in late April, needs to progress over a lengthened period of time to gain positive acceptance from Canadians.

“If that unfolded over the next six months, that would be very destructive to Canadian society because we know that there’s people on both sides. If that discussion evolved over six years, there would be a lot less resistance to it. We see that Canadians, as they become more educated because of the advances in science and medicine, are learning more and more about it,” said Schouten.

For other pro-lifers, however, accommodating the opinions of all Canadians goes against any logistical soundness contained in Woodworth’s scientific approach to establishing humanity.

“Life isn’t a matter of opinion, life is a matter of fact and truth,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for the Campaign for Life Coalition. “Life begins at conception — scientifically, morally and in every single way. So to suggest that whether we’re human or not is a matter of opinion is exactly what happened in some very serious civil rights issues of the past.”

Douglas also noted this could open the door for abortion legislation in the form of gestational laws, which would also be counterproductive to the establishment of life beginning at conception.

Nevertheless, Schouten’s campaign still aims to bring the pro-life discussion not only to Canadians, but to governing bodies.

“Our hope is that the discussion can continue in the House of Commons,” said Schouten. “This is where the Supreme Court suggested the discussion needs to take place as far as where in the pregnancy should fetal rights be protected by law.”

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