by Abel Pol
March 17th, 2004. 9:36 AM. A group of (mainly Canadian Reformed) young people are standing in a circle on the lawn in front of St. John's College on campus at the University of Manitoba. They are praying for the strength to do something that has never been done there before. This part is the worst: the last few minutes of waiting before the battle, a battle that took almost half a year of planning.
After their private security guard arrives, a grey van pulls up. One of the young people jumps inside and starts passing out signs. The signs are about four by eight feet, and feature pictures of aborted fetuses next to pictures of other atrocities: Stacks of dead concentration camp victims, Rotting children's corpses, Black men hanging from trees. The young people line up on the grass, facing the sidewalk. Two of them start handing out pamphlets with the title Unmasking “Choice”.
Ten minutes into the display, campus security pulls up. Three large men in uniform and one very angry-looking woman step out and come over. They speak briefly with one of the young people, who explains that the group is making use of their Charter right to freedom of speech. Since everything seems to be under control, campus security leaves.
By lunchtime, the campus "Womyn's Center" has discovered what is going on. Several of their representatives come down to argue with the pro-lifers. One girl hands out free condoms to people walking past the display. "Support your reproductive rights!" she calls out. Somebody is circulating a petition requesting that the demonstration be banned from campus. One of the first people to sign it is the incoming student union president.
The next day the entire process repeats itself in front of the university's main library. Campus security drives by several times, but they do not leave their vehicles anymore. People react to the pictures in different ways. Some women roll their eyes and laugh incredulously. Others come over in twos and threes to argue with and swear at the pro-lifers. One Chinese girl spends a lot of time at the display, studying each picture intently with great sadness in her eyes. She returns later on with a Chinese man. They talk quietly, almost reverently. The foreign students on campus often show a stronger dismay at the content of these pictures than their more jaded Western counterparts.
By early afternoon the pro-lifers run out of their Unmasking “Choice” pamphlets. Twelve hundred have been distributed since yesterday. They continue distributing whatever else they have left over. Suddenly a Jewish rabbi dressed in black robes paces towards them and investigates the signs. He explains that he has received many complaints from the Jewish students on campus about the sign comparing abortion victims to Holocaust victims. "I'm not interested in debating whether abortion is right or wrong," he exclaims. "All I want to know is, will you take this sign down or not?" "No," they reply. The Jewish Students' Association is one of the groups which will later file a complaint.
As the afternoon progresses, the pro-choice counter-demonstration begins in earnest. Somebody is putting up hand-written signs on the lampposts around the display, covered in slogans like "WARNING: SEXIST RELIGIOUS B.S. AHEAD." A number of pro-choice leaflets documenting "common pro-life myths" are circulating as well. A large crowd has gathered. Sometimes it is hard to follow what people are saying, because many conversations are taking place simultaneously.
By 3:00 PM, the pro-lifers begin to take down the display. They collect the freestanding signs advertising the crisis pregnancy hotline as well. Many students in the coming days will discuss what they have seen. Even if this display saves one human life from abortion, it was worth it.
What is the GAP?
The demonstration that took place on those two March days was a part of something known as the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). Pro-life apologist Greg Cunningham explains that the GAP uses graphic pictures and text to "illuminate the conceptual similarities which exist between abortion and more widely recognized forms of genocide."
The GAP originated in the United States, and was first held in Canada at the University of British Columbia about five years ago. At that time the display was violently attacked and destroyed by pro-choice students. Since then, it has been held there more than ten times without further incidents of violence. This year marked the first time that the GAP was held on a national scale. Five other universities across Canada participated besides the University of Manitoba, and a sixth university held a similar demonstration called the "Matthew 28:20 Project".
Is abortion really genocide?
How can abortion be compared to genocide? The Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines genocide as "the mass extermination of human beings, especially of a particular race or nation." According to the latest census data, the mass extermination of the Canadian unborn is costing over 106,000 lives per year. If this is not genocide, what is it then?
"Nobody has an abortion for the fun of it," one pro-choicer shouted at us. Generally women have one because they were not planning to become pregnant, and having a baby at that time would be inconvenient (whether for educational, financial, or other reasons). Canadian women do not have abortions because they are on some sort of fetal hate campaign. However, someone's motive does not change the result of his or her actions. Cunningham points out that genocide does not necessarily need to be motivated by hatred towards the group being targeted, but that this ultimately does not change their fate: "It is cold comfort to an aborted baby that his mother didn't 'hate' him."
Truth or Love?
Can Christians be involved in such graphic and extreme displays? After all, God commands us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and a lot of people walk away from the GAP with hurt feelings. Suppose a Jewish woman who has had an abortion walks past this display and sees the child she aborted compared to holocaust victims?
There are a number of things we need to keep in mind here. First of all, we should never compromise the truth because we are afraid of hurting other people's feelings. Undoubtedly the Pharisees' feelings were hurt when Jesus called them "whitewashed graves" and "hypocrites." This did not stop Jesus from telling them the truth, because it is only through the truth that they would be set free (John 8:32).
"Speaking the truth in love" does not mean that we remain silent. It means that we care enough to tell our neighbor the truth, even if it will cost us our social standing. Our silence will make us share in their guilt (Leviticus 19:17). The unborn are our neighbors as well, and it is an act of great love to speak on their behalf.
Another important point to keep in mind is that the GAP compares victims, not perpetrators. We are not suggesting that the single teenage mom who had an abortion in a moment of weakness is a second Hitler. Instead, we are proving that the victims of abortion are the victims of genocide because abortion as it is practiced in our country today qualifies as such. Our culture tolerates it to avoid conflict, just as many Europeans quietly tolerated the Holocaust.
In a visually oriented culture where the spoken word is no longer respected, graphic pictures are our last resort. It is difficult to illustrate the horror of abortion without using illustrations, because pro-choicers will simply re-frame the debate in terms of a "woman's right to choose." This abstract concept of "choice" sounds much more appealing than the pro-life alternative. Graphic visuals reposition the debate by bringing it back to reality. The onus is on pro-choicers to explain why it is a "human right" to use taxpayer dollars for state-sponsored genocide.
The devil has been a "murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). Abortion is the work of his hands. The world fully supports him in this endeavor and provides the physical structure in which he can work. It is our Christian calling in life to fight the devil, the world, and our own flesh, which is usually reluctant to participate in any kind of spiritual battle.
A time to speak
The GAP was organized by the board members of the University of Manitoba Students for Life (UMSL). When the board was invited by the Canadian Center of Bio-Ethical Reform to participate in the first-ever national GAP day, we calculated that this event was going to cost us more than five thousand dollars. How would an unknown, struggling pro-life student group with absolutely no financial resources come up with that kind of money? We mailed out forty-nine fundraising letters and prayerfully left the rest up to God. Within forty-eight hours the communion of saints sprang into action, and we received our first cheque in the mail. A Canadian Reformed business printed all the signs for us at cost. Another Canadian Reformed business sold us the aluminum piping we needed for the frames at half price. Pro-life groups across Manitoba also sent us notes of encouragement, accompanied by donations from their own (often slender) resources. The level of response we received was enormously encouraging.
God is the God of life. The fight for preserving the life of the unborn therefore clearly is one that Christians should partake in. We often prefer to avoid confrontational situations like those found in pro-life work. Scripture, however, is full of examples showing how God accomplishes great deeds through weak people in order to bring glory to his name. Are you in spiritual hibernation? Maybe it is time to join this battle. How can God be a fortress to you if you never need protection? Pro-life work provides a God-given opportunity to fulfill our calling as prophet, priest, and king. As prophets we can speak the truth about the nature of abortion, and also use opportunities given us to lead people to the source of eternal life. As priests we can express our thankfulness to God by offering ourselves in his service. As kings we can fight the devil, the world, and our own flesh, and by doing so save the unborn from physical destruction.
How are you fulfilling your calling?
Greg Cunningham quotes taken from Why Abortion is Genocide which can be found at www.abortionno.org/Resources/abortion.html. (Warning: This web site contains extremely disturbing photographs).
Reformed Perspective - June 2004