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40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil

by Christy Knockleby

There's an average of seven people, sometimes only four, sometimes up to twelve people walking back and forth in front of the Sudbury Regional Hospital with their signs. They are members of the Sudbury Right to Life Committee and during the year they meet monthly, sometimes with guest speakers, but with the two forty-day prayer vigils as their biggest action. The majority are Roman Catholic, there because they believe that all human life is sacred and life begins at conception.

Kevin Murphy says it isn't about guilt. They're not there to condemn people but to draw attention to the sacredness of the unborn child. They want people to think ahead of time about what they would do ahead of time about an unplanned pregnancy. "Nobody wants to talk about it," he said. Does he hope the laws will be changed? "There's hope and then there's hope," Kevin laughed. Yes, he would like the laws to be changed so that abortion is illegal. He doesn't lobby politicians because he lacks the time and energy. "I wish I had started this when I was thirty," he said, acknowledging that he is approaching his eightieth birthday.

This is Cathy's first year at the prayer vigil though she was once the president of the Pro-Life Club at Western University, in London Ontario. That was an incredibly hostile experience though the time at the prayer vigil hasn't been entirely quiet either. She's been glad she hasn't put a pro-life sign on her vehicle for fear it would make her vehicle target of vandalism, and she's asked that her last name be withheld from this article for safety's sake. The hostility that being publically pro-life evoke from the public is part of why they focus their vigil on prayer rather than interacting with the public. They want to be there as a testimony to what they believe but they don't want to create scenes. They were both adamant that they would not work with the Show the Truth campaign, a group of anti-abortionists who use troubling graphics, because they don't feel that sort of information should be thrust upon the public - particularly children.

Pro-choice advocate Jessyka Lamirande said she doesn't see a difference between a protest and a prayer vigil. "Their being present serves to make women feel uneasy when seeking to access services. Whether they are there for a prayer vigil or a rally or protest are irrelevant. They are still preaching anti-choice to the same effect that a rally or protest would display to the public and the outcome of making women feel uncomfortable and threatened remain the same." While Jessyka doesn't see abortion becoming illegal in the immediate future she's worried about a lack of access to service for people. She says abortion is available in Sudbury only one day a week and she knows of people who have travelled elsewhere because of the scheduling. She asks "do you really have a right if you cannot exercise that right?"

The shortage of access is something that Daniel Myran and Cailtin Carew, third-year medical students at Western University in London, Ontario wrote about in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives monthly publication. They note that less than 16% of Canadian hospitals provide abortion services. Furthermore: "Half the provinces still require a referral from a primary care physician. To obtain an abortion in New Brunswick or P.E.I., women must first obtain a referral from two physicians stating that the abortion is 'medically necessary.' Despite being mandated as an essential medical service, women in the Maritimes must frequently pay out of pocket at
private clincs, at an average costs of $500 - $900. The majority of clinics have a wait time of 1 - 4 weeks. Longer wait times make the proceedure riskier, and women may have to undergo more invasive procedures due to increased gestational age."

In Sudbury the vigil is scheduled to end on July 19th. Participants Kevin and Cathy see themselves as part of the culture wars. "In the media it is all about yourself, live for now, live for the moment. No consequences," Cathy says. Neither is impressed with the sex education being taught in the schools, wishing that it made clearer that every method of contraception has a failure rate and that it took more seriously the STD epidemic. Cathy expressed frustration that MPs aren't able to introduce private members bills on the issue. People want to talk about it and part of being out at the prayer vigil is to raise awareness that there are people who are concerned. They both expressed frustration that marriage is under attack. They support the definition of marriage as one man and one woman forever. There needs to be more support for families, possibly more of a family allowance that would allow families the choice to have a parent stay at home. People have shouted at Cathy while she was out with the vigil, asking if she works, and she wishes that there was more appreciation as a
culture for the stay at home mom. Paid employment is not the only way to contribute to society.

I asked how the local Right to Life Committee was funded, and was told it was funded by donations from the local participants and supporters. They help to raise money for transportation for local people who want to participate in the March for Life in Ottawa and on their signs they advertise the phone number for Birthright International.

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Christy Knockleby (Christy Knockleby)
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Homeschooling mother and social justice activist, Christy blogs at

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