This extraordinary documentary about key figures in the fight to eradicate slavery in the United States is available for free at your public library. Go and get it right now, it’s that good. (If you live or work near the downtown Ottawa public library, wait a couple of days for me to return it.)
This group of individuals took on the greatest obstacle to America achieving the ideals of its founding: slavery…They took it on, dead on when the vast majority of people simply wanted the issue to go away. They would not let this original sin on the American soul go forgotten and they pushed it and they pushed it and they pushed to the fore and eventually war came and slavery was ended and these people were at the heart of that. They are true American heroes and hardly anyone knows who they are.”
These individuals were societal outcasts, initially. Angelina Grimke couldn’t go to her home in the South–she would have been put in jail. A fellow named William Lloyd Garrison was attacked by the mob. Frederick Douglass had to flee to England and Canada at various points to avoid being re-captured. They held a unique vision of an America without slavery, and they held it as they endured defeat after defeat after defeat. Even at the start of Lincoln’s presidency it was absolutely unclear which way things would go.
So too did these activists endure divisions within their own movement–people who viewed the issue differently, or wanted to push in different ways. The documentary is a fascinating look at the hearts of activists and does not exclude their Christian faith, as many a Hollywood film has done with fascinating people; faith so often gets whitewashed out. That would be truly impossible here, as each person acted in accordance with their deeply held Christian faith. They all felt accountability to an everlasting and eternal God, and saw humanity in African Americans as a result. As such, there were theological differences that bubbled up too–pacifist versus non-pacifist Christian practice, for example. (Garrison was a pacifist, but one activist named John Brown believed military force to be inevitable and pursued the end of slavery using violence, for which he was hung.)
So. By now you know I took much of this documentary as a microcosm for the struggle lonely pro-life activists face. After watching this documentary, I thought of those who work tirelessly for life in Canada, to eradicate the stain of abortion today as slavery was the stain of yesteryear. I thought of all those who endure disparaging comments, or professional sanction because they call us to remember, remember, remember that we could be a more decent society to everyone in it. I thought of those like Linda Gibbons, in jail, even today. Always remember, never forget, that today in Canada, far from the fear mongering of pro-choice activists, the only women in jail because of abortion are pro-life activists.
The biggest problem we face is that the victims of abortion do not (generally) escape and do not get to go on speaking tours. The other problem is that the oppression is self-inflicted. Yes, many, many women face soft coercion toward abortion. But in the end, these women still walk themselves, or let themselves be walked to the abortion clinic. We have failed to convince that abortion is a far greater trauma than bearing a child with a disability, or being fearful about not having enough money to support a child, or being fearful about not being able to pursue a particular career. If women would not choose abortion, if men would not let them, acting instead as responsible, loving encouragement to the mothers of their children, then abortion clinics would not have any clients.
Canada without abortion. By choice. It’s our tagline, here, and we at ProWomanProLife have been successful in creating a solid internet presence, a place for pro-life women to go when they feel and indeed are treated as social outcasts. But it’s not quite enough, is it? Just having a space for pro-life women, to ensure we are represented, when the bigger and better funded voices pipe up with drivel like “my body, my choice,” is not enough. How to encourage women sitting on the fence? How to take the great number of women who would never personally have an abortion but still insist on saying they could never tell another woman what to do and transform them into pro-life supporters? How to move people of means and less means so that they give generously to support the fight for human rights for all human beings? How to do all this without it coming to violence, as it did eventually in the fight against slavery in America?
I don’t have all the answers, yet. But a three hour PBS documentary called The Abolitionists has put a renewed fire in my heart to try.by