Amberlee Nicol doesn’t fit what she sees as the stereotype of a pro-lifer — old and male.
Rather, Nicol is a young, soon-to-be married woman who recently graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alberta. She’s also a featured speaker for this year’s Alberta March for Life, which starts at noon on May 10 in front of the Alberta Legislature.
“We have all of these people who care about abortion, but the important thing is that we take that passion we have during the March for Life and we don’t let it stop there,” said Nicol, a campus co-ordinator for the National Campus Life Network, a university-focused pro-life advocacy group.
“(The march) is a really great visual witness to people’s passion for the pro-life position (but) our enthusiasm for the issue can’t begin and end with our attendance at the March for Life. We have to take that passion and put it towards something else the rest of the year.”
Nicol has attended the March for Life for the past three years. This year she will be one of five speakers at this year’s event, which also includes Stephanie Fennelly, director of the Wilberforce Project in Edmonton, and a performance by Hank Round, a Calgary singer with Down syndrome.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Morgentaler Decision legalizing abortion in Canada. Despite the decision, Canada’s bishops noted that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn.
In 2016, there were 97,764 abortions in clinics and hospitals reported in Canada, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Alberta reported 12,948 abortions that year. Ontario had the highest number, at 38,383, and Quebec had 23,393, according to the CIHI report.
Attendance at the March for Life continues to grow, according to the Alberta March for Life Association. In 2017, more than 3,600 people attended the event, and it has grown steadily since it began in 2007.
“More people are becoming aware that they need to do something with their voices or with their voting, with talking to their MLAs,” said Pat Dube, president of the Alberta March for Life Association, adding more people are realizing that the need to take action on issues like abortion and euthanasia.
Dube said the March for Life hopes to attract more young people like Nicol.
Nicol was raised in a pro-life home, and it was as a U of A student that she first became actively involved in the anti-abortion movement after she successfully re-started a pro-life club on campus.
That wasn’t always an easy task. Nicol noted that pro-life students often face attempts critics and university staff to censor their demonstrations – especially in 2015.
“We were blockaded for two days straight by an angry mob of oppositional students, who were angry that we set up a large display in the middle of campus to start a conversation on abortion,” said Nicol.
The following year, the UAlberta Pro-Life club was prevented from demonstrating on campus after they couldn’t afford to pay a $17,500 “security fee” by the university, citing the events from 2015.
The courts dismissed a complaint by the UAlberta Pro-Life Club against the university last year, but Nicol said that hasn’t stopped her from advocating on campuses across Alberta.
Nicol said campus advocacy is vital to convincing young people to join the pro-life movement. It’s a lot of work, but she said she’s impressed by the students involved on campuses across Alberta.
“Even though they’re young and inexperienced and face a lot of opposition — either institutionally or socially from the university — they’re still willing to do what it takes in order to spread that important message on campus,” Nicol said.
The pro-life movement is under fire not only on campuses, but also in society as a whole, Nicol said, citing the recent Canada Summer Jobs attestation requiring applicants to agree to the government’s view of reproductive rights, and the recent bill to create buffer zones around abortion clinics.
“It’s specifically taking peaceful pro-life advocacy and demonstration and turning it into a crime if you’re standing too close to an abortion clinic,” said Nicol, adding the buffer zones won’t affect the march.
“I hope that the Alberta government and Ontario government are prepared to arrest people praying the rosary across the street, because that’s what they’re essentially banning.”
Nicol said if the pro-life movement wants to get more young people involved, it needs find common ground with them and ask them respectful questions about the morality of abortion.
Groups like the National Campus Life Network or the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform can help teach these skills and make activists more effective, Nicol said.
And while Nicol believes the March for Life will continue to be widely attended, she hopes that people see it as the starting point for their own involvement in the pro-life movement.
“It’s important that someone’s willing to show up every year, hold signs and be a visual witness to the pro-life position, but it’s also so important that that same person shows up once a month to volunteer for something, to vote for a pro-life candidate, to share the pro-life message,” Nicol said.
“The pro-life movement has to be not just a once-a-year thing, it has to be all throughout the year.”
The Alberta March for Life coincides with similar events across Canada, including the National March for Life at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.