Monday, August 08, 2011

Ramping up the pro-life movement in Canada

Ten years ago, the media would not give the pro-life movement the time of day in Canada.

Now, I think we have succeeded in getting media attention for our cause.

Notwithstanding the extra attention, we have not been able to change public opinion in our favour.

This is not a criticism of the pro-life movement. It's more of an observation.

We should not be satisfied with mere media attention.

We need to move forward and amplify our efforts.

And I'd like to suggest two angles that will help us do that. They're inter-related.

The first angle is what I like to call micro-pro-lifism. I'm sure someone will come up with a better term.

The problem with pro-life activism as I see it is that it's focused on national and provincial action in very specific areas of large cities.

Pro-life activism has not reached every suburb, every neighbourhood, which is what it needs to do. Most people don't encounter pro-life thought. Most people don't follow politics well enough, or they don't care. The pro-life cause is a blip on their radar, if it's there at all.

This has to change. We have to create a climate where average people cannot go through a day without encountering pro-life thought in their locale. That locale is not the abortion clinic, or the church, or online. It's their street, their community centre, their library, their grocery store, etc.

So how do we manage to get in these institutions, which are often closed off to us?

And this is the second angle of my plan.

We must build our own institutions. We have to become a community, not just a bunch of activists who believe in a cause.

We have a few institutions: some churches and some schools. That's not enough. We need to create spaces which are open to people who are not of our faith or even our political persuasion.

Let me give you an example. In Ottawa, there is a project to build a pro-life medical clinic. I'm not sure what kind of clinic this would be, whether it would treat all patients or just address crisis pregnancies.

I'm hoping it's the former. A medical clinic would be a great place to expose non-pro-lifers to the pro-life philosophy. If people know that's the pro-life clinic, and we help them in concrete ways, that's a plus in our favour.

What are other possibilities? A community centre. A sports complex. A private library. A musical venue like a coffee house. A cinema. If it's a place where large numbers congregate, we need one of those run by the pro-life community.

Of course, this is incredibly labour-intensive, not to say expensive. I can also foresee the objection that such efforts deter from the real efforts to stop abortion-- lobbying and prayerful witness.

How would a private pro-life library be of service? It's not just the fact that we could stock the shelves with pro-life books, although that would be of use. There would be pro-life posters. We could host pro-life speakers. We could advertize the phone number of the local crisis pregnancy centre.

Another example: how would a coffee house/musical venue run by a pro-lifer help us? Besides giving pro-life artists the chance to build experience and audience, it could be a place for local pro-lifers to meet. It could also donate to the local pro-life pregnancy centre.

A third example: how would a sports complex help us? Besides keeping kids out of trouble, we could stack literature racks with pro-life literature. We could have pro-life type summer camps. We can teach a pro-life vision of "health". Like a strong anti-alcohol, anti-drug, pro-chastity stance.

You get my drift?

People who have nothing to do with the pro-life movement would have a contact with it. And being helped by the pro-life movement, in their local neighbourhood, they would be more open to consider what we have to say.

I think that unless the pro-life movement is able to do this, it will not get ahead. We can't just be a bunch of disembodied voices in cyberspace, or a bunch of noisy political militants. We have to be real to the general population.

When pro-life thought is not alien to their world, it won't seem so scary for them. These institutions would also provide a crucial basis for political and social mobilization. People can find many spaces for local activism. Whereas now, your choices are basically the local pro-life organization (if there is one and if it's active) or the church (if you attend one).

Two caveats: I think that in order for this to work, it would require not taking a cent of government money. The moment we accept tax money, we are subject to someone else's rules, and that could put our efforts in jeopardy. Everything would have to be absolutely privately owned and operated.

The second caveat is that I don't think it should be overtly Christian, although I anticipate that many Christians will be involved. When people see Christian institutions, they sometimes think it's for someone else, not for them. These efforts need to be seen as open to the general public.

I can also foresee the objection that these efforts might be impractical in an age of human rights commissions. What if we do not want to hire the left-wing pro-abort for the job?

Then I think the solution is to fight for our freedom to hire whom we please.

These are all necessary efforts, and the lack of freedom and pro-life institutions are very much tied into why the pro-life cause is so far behind.

I know that I'm not well-placed to put this strategy into practice. However, I'm hoping that the idea might catch on, so that we start thinking about it, and eventually building our own spaces.