Rally mobilizes support for pregnancy care centres

By Quinton Amundson, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Carol Butler does not get into a regular habit of engaging in political demonstrations.

However, the executive director of the Haldimand Pregnancy Care & Family Centre in Dunnville, ON, felt it essential to be present and speak at a Parliament Hill rally Nov. 24 to lend a voice to those worried the Liberal government is set to revoke the charitable status of crisis pregnancy centres.

Organized by Campaign Life Coalition, roughly 100 people gathered to protest a Liberal campaign promise to “no longer provide charity status to anti-abortion organizations (for example, crisis pregnancy centres) that provide dishonest counseling to women about their rights and about the options available to them at all stages of the pregnancy.”

If this legislation is passed in the House of Commons, institutions like Butler’s will be plunged into severe financial uncertainty, and thus in a tough position to serve its many dependent clients.

“(This year) we have had over 700 one-on-one appointments, about 500 people attending programs and over 600 children accessing our child-care services and nursery while their (guardian) attended our program,” said Butler. “We have also handed out 1,400 baby-care items to women in need and have received 4,500 calls and texts from vulnerable people.”

Campaign Life has collected a petition with 14,000 signatures with a demand that MPs oppose any bill, motion or regulatory policy that intends to punish pregnancy centres and pro-life entities. The petition was presented to three Conservative MPs — Leslyn Lewis, Cathay Wagantall and Arnold Viersen — who attended the rally and have pledged to deliver the petition to their colleagues in the House of Commons (it will also be sent to every MP’s office).

Campaign Life’s national campaigns manager David Cooke said more signatures have rolled in since the rally.

“We want to create a snowball effect as we have a feeling that the Trudeau government was hoping that this issue could stay in the background and they could pass whatever they wanted to pass behind the scenes,” said Cooke.

He said the urgency of this fight was underscored Nov. 26, as the government introduced Bill C-3 which would amend the Criminal Code to essentially criminalize pro-life activists from advocating outside of abortion centres.

“In effect, Bill C-3 could criminalize efforts to offer women alternatives to abortion through peaceful demonstrations, prayer and sidewalk counselling right across the country,” said Campaign Life president Jeff Gunnarson in a news release. “Laws that censor Canadian citizens, stripping them of their rights and freedoms to speak and to gather have no place in a free and democratic society..”

The financial wounds are already showing at Haldimand Pregnancy Care & Family Centre, said Butler. She told the crowd of pro-abortion activists executing various “intimidation tactics,” including threatening phone calls and online messages to potential community donors.

She identifies “fake clinic” and “forced birthers” as the two misinformation smears she perennially hears the most about her own institution and others of its kind.