Young, Female –
The Canadian movement advocating for the sanctity of life from
conception until natural death has a refreshing – and some may
find surprising – face today. By Alex Newman
When 23-year-old Ruth Lobo was arrested last fall for a controversial display her pro- life group set up at Carleton University, she set off a minor media storm. Even the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
weighed in, arguing the student had a right to her voice
on her own campus – even though they might not agree
with what Lobo’s display said.
A year earlier, an elementary school student – Lia
Mills of Toronto, then age 12 – chose abortion as her topic
for a school public speaking contest. Despite opposition and threatened backlash, she placed first in the competition.
Then there’s American Abbey Johnson, a young woman who watched an
ultrasound monitor in a Texas abortion
clinic as an unborn child recoiled from
the instruments. She is now a vocal pro-life advocate.
Or consider Gianna Jessen, 32, who
addresses audiences around the world
about her life – a life her biological mother tried to end
in a late-term abortion. She continues to tell everyone:
“I didn’t survive so I can make everyone comfortable.”
Articulate, educated young women who embrace the
gains of the women’s liberation movement – this is the
face of today’s pro-life movement. Look at any photo or
video from the annual March for Life on Parliament Hill
and you’ll see them – row on row of young women ener-
getically propelling their banners forward.
Though men of all ages also number among the pro-life movement’s ranks, young women stand out because
“the unconvinced in our country are willing and able to
listen to a young woman’s voice more than a man, no
matter what his age,” according to Andrea Mrozek, 35,
founder of Canadian advocacy group Pro WomanProLife.
What’s more, their presence “counters the inaccurate
stereotype that it is paternalistic men seeking to restrict
women’s rights,” adds EFC legal counsel Faye Sonier,
as it might sound,
it’s women’s rights
that actually inform
much of the pro-life
message these days.
28. “We can and will speak for ourselves. A woman can
These young women aren’t just bringing a message –
they are the message.
Raised by baby boomers whose bid for social and sexual freedom included divorce and abortion, these women
embrace a feminism that allows a pro-life perspective.
“They’re tired of hearing that if you’re intelligent, you
must be pro-choice, and they’re saying ,‘Don’t advocate
abortion on my behalf,’ ” says Jennifer Derwey, a 29-year-
old Nova Scotia resident and member
of Feminists for Life of America. “In
fact, if I had to guess who was pro-life
on campus – the 22-year-old or the
52-year-old – I’d guess the 22-year-old
Although university classrooms – in
women’s studies, sociology, philosophy
and sometimes even religious studies –
promote a pro-abortion position, many
young women reject that viewpoint,
Derwey adds, “because they have seen the [physical
and psychological] damage abortion causes, and how
it affects economic minorities more than middle-class
women. Susan B. Anthony in the 19th century said those
who drove women to abortion need to shoulder more
guilt. The root of the issue was poverty and the status
Not so long ago Derwey was pro-choice herself. That
is until she researched military rape in the Congo for a
graduate degree: “It seemed to me that Western funding
for abortion in the Congo was only going to further the
systemization of abuse that imprisoned these women.
The stories and images haunted me.”
As surprising as it might sound, it’s women’s rights
that actually inform much of the pro-life message these
days. “There is clear evidence that abortion negatively
affects women in physical and emotional ways,” Sonier
says. “It is not a quick and simple procedure, like remov-