Peter Baklinski

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Toronto pregnancy centre needs help to move to street level beside abortion facility

Peter Baklinski
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TORONTO, August 2, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Babies bound for abortion in Toronto might be given more of a fighting chance at life if a crisis pregnancy centre succeeds in securing a location it has wanted for over 20 years, right on the street level beside a booming abortion business. But to do it they are going to need some generous donors to come forward. 

“We really want the main floor because of the exposure we can have and because of the easy access into our space,” said Enza Rattenni, manager of Aid to Women, to LifeSiteNews.com (LSN).

Aid to Women is located immediately next door to the 'Cabbagetown Women's Clinic' abortuary, but on the second floor.

The business immediately below them, with its two huge storefront windows, closed its doors this spring. The landlord has offered the space to the pro-life organization if they can afford the rent.

Rattenni said their work has been impeded because the abortuary is surrounded by a bubble zone. Once women cross the line as they head to the abortuary, sidewalk counsellors can no longer speak to the women or hand them any kind of material. If Aid to Women moves down a floor, it will be able to hang its large pro-life signs and life-affirming information in the large storefront windows.

Vivid attention-grabbing pro-life material in the storefront windows would be a last-ditch effort to reach out to abortion-vulnerable women.

“Renting the street level commercial space presents us with a unique opportunity to dramatically increase our effectiveness,” wrote Elena Repka, Aid to Women’s President, in an email to friends and supporters.

“We know that if our offices were at street level, many more women would accept our help. And we know that the more women we reach, the more babies we’ll save from abortion.”

“Our visibility and our outreach would become so much more impactful,” she said.

Helping abortion-vulnerable women

Aid to Women, first opened in the mid-1980s, reaches out to abortion-bound women with confidential and non-judgmental counseling. Operating with the motto “we care, we'll be there”, it provides pro-life services including free pregnancy testing, material aid for women who choose to keep their children — such as strollers, cribs, and diapers —, and referral services to doctors, lawyers, and social service programs.

“We get down to the bottom of what’s going on in the lives of the women who visit us — what their needs are — and we address them,” said Rattenni.

Last year, through the centre's efforts, 29 women changed their minds about abortion, choosing life for their babies.

In the mornings when the abortuary does most of its deadly business, Aid to Women is there with sidewalk counselors who attempt to dissuade women from going into the facility to have their children killed. Abortion-bound women are informed about fetal development, the abortion process, and its consequences. Women leaving the abortuary are given pamphlets that refer them to organizations specializing in post-abortion healing.

“Aid to Women has been there in the forefront since its establishment in Toronto and it continues to do a wonderful job in reaching out to women who are distressed and pregnant and even the people who have had abortions,” said Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition, to LSN. “The big thing about them is that no matter what happens, they’re there the next day doing the work.”

‘Our angels’

Both men and women are grateful that Aid to Women reached out to them with a choice other than abortion.

Peter and Anna (names changed) say they loved each other “more than life”. When Anna returned from a nursing contract in Saudi Arabia carrying someone else’s child, Peter was devastated.

“I was devastated and didn't know what to do. Overwhelmed with anger and frustration, I demanded that she have an abortion. I was thinking only about the shame and embarrassment this pregnancy would bring to me and my family,” said Peter.

As the couple was making their way into the abortuary to “get rid of [their] problem”, they were approached by Aid to Women sidewalk counselors who helped them to face their difficulty in a “way that [we] never expected.”

“Now our son Matthew is already 9 months old, and I can say that life has a lot of meaning for me right now,” said Peter.

Though Peter and Anna are “still struggling financially and emotionally”, they view Aid to Women as “our angels” who helped them to see that “God has other plans for us, better ones than we could ever imagine.”

One woman named Cassandra changed her mind about abortion when Aid to Women intercepted her on her way to the abortuary, then set up and accompanied her to an ultrasound appointment. There she heard the heart beat of her child, recognizing it as a little human person.

“Anyone that wants to go for an abortion and is feeling vulnerable should come here,” she said, adding that women will change their minds about what is inside of them “once they hear the heartbeat.”

“Adrian, my son, is so happy to have a little brother. I would tell other women that their boy or girl would love to have a sibling.”

Cassandra has nothing but gratitude for the encouragement she received that helped her to “believe that I could go through with the pregnancy.”

Sting operations

So effective is Aid to Women’s pro-life work of counseling women to choose life for their babies, that it has undergone numerous stings from pro-choice activists wanting to shut the place down.

A 2010 Toronto Star article purported to expose Toronto’s pregnancy resource centres, including Aid to Women, as “decept[ive],” painting the centres as anti-woman and militantly aggressive. The account was dismissed by the centres as “inaccurate”, “misrepresentative”, and full of “twists” on the truth.

Last month Tamara Khandaker, writing for www.vice.com, went undercover to Aid to Women as a 6-week pregnant woman contemplating abortion. While she wanted to expose the centre as a “religious organization” run by “nutjobs who have no problem lying to women” and are “hell-bent on convincing you to avoid having an abortion”, she admitted that “if I was actually pregnant, I'd probably trust [them].”

Speaking about her counseling with Rattenni, Khandaker admitted: “Despite all the patronizing, I actually like Enza. She seems like a good person who believes in what she’s doing, and if what she was telling me wasn’t a load of complete s**t, I would trust her. I’m sure many women have trusted her.”

Hughes said that Aid to Women “must be extremely effective or nobody would be paying any attention to them at all,” adding that there must be “a lot of troubled people out there” connected to the abortion industry through a personal experience of abortion “to have them operate a sting on Aid to Women.”

Rattenni called the negative attention “insignificant” when compared to the lifesaving work performed over the last three decades.

“Aid to Women is successful because we save babies from abortion not because of the negative attention we sometimes receive,” she said.

‘Something that needs to be done’

Dick Cochrane, 87, who directed Aid to Women in its infancy and stayed on as director for 25 years, called the proposed move to the street level “something that needs to be done.”

“It’s a long flight of stairs up to the second story,” he told LSN. “If they move to the street level, they will become way more effective in reaching out to women.”

If Aid to Women is to make the move, they will have to raise the funds to cover the extra cost of rent.

“[T]he cost of the monthly rent, (as well as the property tax and utilities payments) is very challenging for us,” said Repka.

“We are currently in a long-term lease for the second floor, so would need to cover the carrying costs for the whole building. We are trying to negotiate a more reasonable rental fee, because we feel that this opportunity may not come along again for some time, if we let it go.”

The centre is appealing to the pro-life community to see if anyone would like to share space in the building with them.

The centre is also asking the pro-life community to “pitch in together” to help raise the funds needed to rent on the street level in the long term.

“If people are really interested in helping abortion-vulnerable women, then we all have to pitch in together. Not one person should share their burden, it has to be all of us sharing the burden altogether to make this happen,” said Enza.

Hughes encouraged pro-lifers to get behind the project: “If those who are running Aid to Women say this is necessary, then it’s necessary. Please do whatever you can to help them.”

Cochrane, who told LSN of the many instances in which the centre was bailed out of difficult straits by the pro-life community, asserted: “When the need is there, people will be generous.”

For Rattenni, a move that would more effectively help women choose life for their babies is a project that practically anybody can get on-board with.

“We don’t have volunteers all the time holding signs and being there for these women, whereas that storefront with our signs will always be there. It will be something that no bubble zone can remove.”

“This would help the women a lot,” she said.

Rattenni, herself a woman of faith, believes that God could use the storefront with its prominent pro-life signs to help change hearts at that last moment.

“This could be one of God’s ways of reaching out to these women,” she said.

“Help us continue the pro-life message within the bubble zone,” she said.

Editor’s note: To financially help Aid to Women, please mail a cheque or a monthly financial gift to: Aid to Women, 300 Gerrard St. E., Toronto ON M5A 2G7, or donate through CanadaHelps.org.

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