Event grows by 5000 from 2011 gathering
By Deborah Gyapong
Catholic News Service
A largely young and noisy crowd gathered on Parliament Hill for the 2012 March for Life to urge the Canadian Parliament to make abortion illegal and to remind officials that children are the building blocks of society.
Organizers estimated that 19,500 people participated in the May 10 march, a record for the 15-year-old event, according to Jim Hughes, Campaign Life Coalition president. He said about 60 percent of attendees were 30 years old or younger.
Meanwhile, at several Masses around the Canadian capital in conjunction with the march, prelates challenged conventional thinking in society that leads to support for abortion.
"We need to challenge the false idea that abortion is merely a private, personal decision," Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa said in a homily at the packed Notre Dame Cathedral. "The truth is, abortion hurts everyone -- the developing child in the womb, the mother, the father, the extended family, the community, and even our culture.
"We need to be witnesses to our God-given dignity as human beings," he said. "We are created and loved by God from the moment of conception, called into being to be united with God, and to love and serve one another in Christ Jesus."
The archbishop said that the discussion often focuses on individual autonomy and that the slogan often invoked by abortion supporters -- "my body, my choice" -- ignores the fact that the choice to end the life of a child in the womb affects other family members, friends and even the larger community.
"Our decisions have an impact beyond the limits of our own bodies," Archbishop Prendergast said. "The great Catholic social activist Dorothy Day once remarked, 'We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.'"
Marchers arrived around noon to find police had barricaded about one quarter of the lawn outside parliament, reserving it for demonstrators supporting legal abortion. About 50 demonstrators countered the pro-life march.
"If they can make space for the other side of the debate out here on the lawn, why not make space for the other side of the debate inside parliament?" asked former Liberal member of Parliament Pat O'Brien, who served as master of ceremonies for the program.
Eighteen Conservative members of Parliament, two former Liberal members and a Conservative senator attended the march. Several addressed the crowd.
Some of the biggest applause greeted Stephen Woodworth, a Conservative member of Parliament, who has introduced a motion asking a parliamentary committee to review the latest scientific evidence on the definition of a human being. His motion would involve examining the present criminal code definition that says an unborn baby is not a human being under the law until completely exits the birth canal.
"Canada's 400 year old definition of a human being is dishonest," Woodworth said. "It's wrong."
Human rights are inalienable, he said, not a gift from the state that Parliament can cancel at any time.
Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, told the crowd there is "no right to abortion," because the Supreme Court of Canada did not grant that right when it struck down Canada's abortion laws.
"We cannot afford not to have this conversation," he said. "Parliament needs to catch up with what Canadians believe."
Several Catholic bishops also greeted the crowd from the steps in front of the Peace Tower including Cardinal Thomas C. Collins of Toronto who urged the conversation on life to be infused with "love, clarity and charity."
Bishop Noel Simard of Valleyfield, Quebec, speaking as president of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, said supporting life means supporting the family, the building block of society. "Life and family are together," he said.
Echoing the importance of family, Bishop Nicola De Angelis of Peterborough, Ontario, said children are the building block of society.
"Without children there is no school," he said. "Without children there is no family; without children there is no society."
While Archbishop Prendergast presided at the cathedral Mass, Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec, the primate of Canada, celebrated a French-language Mass at Sacred Heart Parish, and Bishop Nicola De Angelis of Peterborough, Ontario, celebrated an English-language Mass at St. Patrick's Basilica.
Editors note: The B.C. Catholic will have full coverage of the March for Life event from Victoria in the May 21 edition.