Canada's 15th annual National March for Life has broken attendance records by a dramatic margin, due in part to rising youth participation in the country's pro-life movement.
“It's been growing every year by thousands. Last year we had 15,000, and this year we had 19,500,” Campaign Life Coalition National Coordinator Mary Ellen Douglas told CNA on May 14.
“It is a significant increase,” she said, noting that the pro-life movement was “constantly growing” in Canada. The May 10 march to Parliament Hill was part of a three-day event in Ottawa, which also included a candlelight vigil, prayer services and Masses, banquets and a youth conference.
Local marches also took place in at least four other provinces, protesting the 1969 legislative act that made abortion legal in Canada as well as the 1988 decision that left the country with no abortion restrictions.
“Over 60 percent of the people who attended the march were under 30,” Douglas said. “It was alive with young people, with lots of enthusiasm, and with other people who are long-term veterans.”
In addition to the remarks delivered by pro-life and religious leaders, 17 members of Parliament also addressed the crowd. Population Research Institute President Steve Mosher, a prominent opponent of China's one-child policy, gave an address at the Rose Dinner on Thursday evening.
On that same evening, an 800-strong crowd attended the youth banquet with an address by Reformed Presbyterian minister Reverend Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition. A day-long youth conference followed on Friday.
“It's getting the attention of the media, who are shocked by the numbers,” Douglas observed. “Even though they try to diminish them all the time, they notice. They know that we're there in force.”
Douglas, a 40-year veteran of the movement, said the timing of this year's march was “providential,” coinciding with a motion in Parliament by Conservative MP Steven Woodworth.
“This motion is calling on Parliament to bring together science and the law – because the law of Canada says you're not a human being until you're fully emerged from the womb.”
Woodworth's motion calls for a science-based examination of the legal question of life's beginning. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is said to oppose the motion, in keeping with his past statements that the abortion question should not be reopened in Canada.
Douglas noted that life's beginning at conception “cannot be decided by a committee. It's a scientific fact … and it can't be deviated from by a committee who decides that it might be better to have a law protecting babies after 20 weeks, or after 12 weeks.”
“If it ever gets to the committee, that will be our next battle: to ensure that all unborn children are protected, from the time of conception.”
At a press conference kicking off the March on May 9, Campaign Life Coalition Youth Coordinator Alissa Golob declared: “Whether you like it or not, the abortion debate is on.”
The group's national coordinator agrees, and says she is hopeful for the next generation of activists and their determination to shape attitudes and public policy.
“I think there's a sense of the terrible injustice going on here,” Douglas observed. “In general, we may see more bills going forward – as more MPs find the courage to stand up, in different ways, until we have all the unborn children protected.”
“We hope next year the numbers will keep increasing, until we have so many people on Parliament Hill that they have to respond. And we'll be there as long as we have to be.”