March 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world and governments call on their citizens to stay home, many pro-life organizations have been impacted as well.
I serve as communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which has five offices across Canada, and in nearly every major city where we do daily activism and outreach, a state of emergency has been called. While we are still doing whatever outreach we can—driving our Truth Trucks, for example—our street outreach to students and passersby is obviously out of the question for the next couple of weeks. Many of us are working from home on the internships and projects we have planned for the year.
My speaking engagements in Canada and the United States were cancelled within a few days, and I’ve been asked instead to do webinars on pro-life subjects for those stuck at home—last night, I spoke to campus leaders from across Michigan via Zoom on behalf of Protect Life Michigan. CCBR is also now offering our pro-life study series, A Christian’s Guide to Defending Life in the Womb, online over the next five weeks so that pro-lifers can take advantage of this time stuck at home to get better prepared for activism or conversations about abortion with peers.
It has been surreal to see how fast the world can change all around us and how day-to-day activities can suddenly be so different, and so I thought I’d check in with some of my pro-life friends from around the world to see how they were coping with the coronavirus pandemic and the new guidelines surrounding social distancing and staying away from other members of the public.
First, I checked in with my friends at Created Equal, a pro-life outreach group based in Columbus, Ohio that displays abortion victim photography on campuses and elsewhere and posts testimonies of changed minds online, as well as regular sidewalk counselling outside abortion clinics. Yesterday, they posted a picture on Instagram of the “Closed” sign outside the Columbus Planned Parenthood, and I emailed Created Equal’s founder, my friend Mark Harrington, to ask how his team was coping with the coronavirus pandemic thus far.
“During the Trump coronavirus press conference yesterday, government officials asked healthcare providers to cease performing all elective medical procedures,” he told me. “Obviously, this should include abortion providers. But will it? If abortion is health care, as the abortion industry claims, this is an opportunity for them to act like it and close. Of course, we know that they will want to have it both ways. We need to force the federal and state governments to be consistent and not treat abortion facilities differently than other health centers. They say that abortion is health care. They say abortion clinics are health centers. However, when they are held to the basic health standards, they fight those regulations. The medical community is being called on to treat Coronavirus patients. Will abortion centers close for the greater good of dealing with this threat? Abortion is not health care. Abortion is elective. Abortion is not necessary. Abortion is murder.”
Fortunately, Created Equal has developed many projects that can go on despite social distancing.
Follow Jonathon van Maren on Facebook
“Traditionally, the spring semester would be packed with outreach events on college and high school campuses,” Mark noted. “However, because of the shutdown, we are focusing our efforts on sidewalk counseling and our mass media projects. Irrespective of the Coronavirus, we have the means to reach the masses, continue to save babies, and change hearts and minds with our education projects like Operation Overpass, Mobile Billboards, and Clinic Outreach.” As long as the abortion clinics stay open, many pro-life organizations feel it is their duty to be there to offer alternatives.
Joseph Pardo, who operates Cree Women’s Care, the only pregnancy center in Puerto Rico (as well as the Spanish-language pro-life outreach organization Toda la Vida), echoed Harrington’s sentiments on abortion clinics needing to shut down. “As you may know, Puerto Rico is under complete lockdown,” he told me. “The executive order of the governor calls for all businesses to be closed except essentials like groceries, gas, doctors etc.…Everyone must stay in their homes unless they are going to and from one of these places. Our pregnancy center does not qualify as ‘essential,’ but for some reason the abortion clinics, which offer an elective procedure, remain open, making thousands of dollars killing children. We have started a social media campaign through Toda la Vida calling out the fact that abortion is NOT ESSENTIAL.”
Pardo and his pro-life team have checked out the clinics on Puerto Rico and discovered that of the 7 clinics on the island, only three are verifiably closed. Two said that they were closed on their voicemail, but called back to schedule appointments within the hour when the pro-lifers called them (Women’s Medical Pavilian and Clinica Lella) and the final two are openly working (Darlington Medical Associates and Family Planning of Ponce.) “Darlington Medical Associates offers abortion up to 9 months, medical marijuana, and hormone treatment for transitioning,” Pardo told me. “Obviously not essential services. The governor is being made aware of this issue tonight by a couple of pro-life senators. Pray—we will see what happens.”
My friend Manuela Steiner, who runs the continental campus organization ProLife Europe out of Vienna, Austria, told me that it is “an extraordinary time…we are basically under lockdown as well: school, universities, shops are all closed; all tourist locations are of course closed; we are called to stay home. The only exception is grocery shopping or doctor’s appointments. The coronavirus crisis has affected ProLife Europe very intensely! The main goal of our organization is to found pro-life groups at universities and schools—so now, with all the schools closed, it means that we cannot continue this work. We and all of our existing groups had to cancel public events all across Europe. But we must not be discouraged by this change—this time of crisis can also be a big chance for ProLife Europe, because we can still reach people online.”
ProLife Europe has launched a Corona Action Plan to help people utilize this time to reach out to peers who might actually have time to engage on abortion now that other activities have been largely eliminated: “With people not allowed to leave the house, there will be a lot of time spent on the Internet, and so we are putting all efforts into social media. Group meetings will be held via Skype. Most groups already have their own social media accounts, so now they are called to fill them with videos, pictures, posts. Just like discussing abortion with people on the street, you can have these discussions online. These are rather big changes for our group members, but we are prepared to lead them through this time! This crisis shows that people still do care for each other—and it is our responsibility to include pre-born persons in this situation.”
Eliza Clotea, the president of Students for Life Romania (who I met at a gala after the Austrian March for Life last October) has launched a similar plan called “Month for Life.” The Romanian March for Life has been cancelled for the time being, and “we were preparing more than 15 events but the pandemic has made us cancel them all—it was a bitter reality, but God has His plans and knows everything better. We are still fighting for life, even if it is not outside on the streets. The Internet is a great tool and we have made a list of 16 ideas for online and at home activities.” Students for Life Bucharest is offering students pro-life films to watch; pro-life podcasts have been recommended; tips for sharing pro-life content on social media have been sent out; pro-life webinars for high school students have been launched; and pro-lifers are being urged to take time to help the elderly.
I also reached out to my friend Andy Moore, who works at the Susan B. Anthony List. He sent me an email blast from SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, who laid out her organization’s response to the pandemic:
We take seriously the health of our canvassing team and the voters we seek to reach. Over the weekend our field team made a quick pivot from door-to-door canvassing to live calls to voters in our targeted battleground states. We hope voters may be more receptive to our phone calls during this period of quarantine.
Without missing a beat, our staff has moved to remote work. We are handling all of our ongoing activities and meetings online, continuing to monitor and impact activities on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the country. We continue to engage with our supporters and call out abortion extremism wherever it raises its head – in the Democratic primary, in down-ballot elections, and in the abortion lobby’s response to coronavirus.
Our Government Affairs team has been on the front lines, working late into the night last Friday to ensure that pro-life Hyde Amendment protections were included in the coronavirus response funding package- read our statement here. Our watchfulness continues this week as the Senate votes on related legislation.
We are actively tracking the abortion lobby’s insidious misuse of the Covid-19 quarantine to promote the chemical abortion pill. This dangerous drug ends the life of an unborn child and poses a severe threat to his or her mother. We will fight back against cultural and legislative attempts to expand this “chemical coat hanger.”
Around the world, the global pro-life movement has been facing this surreal and challenging time with the creativity the pre-born children we seek to protect deserve from us. As long as the abortion industry refuses to stop the work of killing babies, pro-lifers worldwide will continue to find ways to confront, expose, and fight this injustice—even if our nations have declared states of emergency and we are required to stay at home.
Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he speaks with Alessandra Bocchi, who is currently in Rome, about what is actually happening on the ground in Rome and across Italy. Bocchi is from Lombardy, the hardest hit region of Italy, but is “stuck” in Rome due to the government’s requests that people not leave their current locations in order to stop the spread of the virus. The scene she shares is quite surreal.
You can subscribe here and listen to the episode below: