Edmonton Prolife’s new executive director is planning an ambitious public campaign that emphasizes some uncomfortable, and perhaps unknown, facts about abortion.
The “Did You Know?” campaign, expected to begin in March, will display on billboards across Edmonton, detailing how Canadian women can access abortion even into the ninth month of pregnancy and the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the procedure.
“I just want to saturate the city with facts. This campaign will tick off a lot of people, but at the same time it’s going to challenge them and make them think,” said Lisa Noble, who became executive director in late last year.
“Almost any person you talk to that isn’t familiar with the pro-life movement is shocked when they hear that you can get an abortion up to nine months. We have to spread the message wide that not only is it true, you’re paying for it as well.”
Edmonton Prolife has organized protests, distributed pamphlets and displayed educational booths against abortion for more than 30 years. The $50,000 “Did You Know?” campaign will be the largest in the organization’s history.
It’s a bold move that fits right into Noble’s personality. Noble joined Edmonton Prolife in 2017, and she hopes to expand its mission. No matter the backlash against the pro-life movement, Noble pulls no punches.
“People can end up yelling, screaming, swearing at me — it’s fine. I stand my ground,” she said. “I have pretty thick skin. You have to realize that most of the time people don’t know any better. They haven’t been exposed to the full reality of abortion and that’s just what we have to show people.”
In Canada abortion is legal at any stage of pregnancy, although the vast majority are done before the 20th week. Access to abortion varies by province. In 2018, there were 12,848 abortions reported in Alberta and more than 85,000 across Canada, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Of those, an estimated 1.1 per cent were late-term abortions, where the gestational age was more than 21 weeks.
For Noble, one abortion is too many.
“I want to see an end to abortion all together, but I know it’s not something that will happen overnight,” she said. “But if we make the noise and bring attention to the truth, I believe in my lifetime we could see the end of late-term abortions in Canada. That would be an important first step.”
Born and raised in Newfoundland, Noble first felt a calling to the pro-life movement at age 14 when a high school classmate gave a presentation on abortion.
“She told this story from the baby’s point of view, from the time it was conceived until it was aborted,” Noble recalled. “She would detail the stages of growth, when it developed fingers, toes, everything. Then, when the baby was aborted, she described all the things that baby would feel.
“At that point in my life I didn’t have a clue about any of these things. And hearing this story, it almost made me want to throw up,” Noble said. “I didn’t eat the rest of that day. I just kept thinking about her story, and how this abortion thing could actually be going on.”
Thirty years later, and having raised three children of her own, Noble hopes to become a leading voice in the pro-life cause — but she recognizes that comes with its share of challenges.
In 2018, a bubble zone was imposed that ensures pro-life protestors must be at least 50 metres outside of abortion clinics in Alberta. While Noble would prefer to see the bubble zone removed, she said the much more important goal is to see Alberta’s abortion clinics eventually closed.
To make that goal a reality, Noble said their message must go beyond rallies and conferences.
“This past year we really fought to get our booth at K-Days and that was one of the best things for us,” she said. “I have a boldness with approaching people and speaking to them – especially if it’s for something I really believe in. There I got to talk to people who have no idea about these things. I had the opportunity to educate and open minds.”
Noble said the pro-life message is also resonating with many young people. She noted the recent court victory for student group UAlberta Pro-Life sets an encouraging precedent. UAlberta Pro-Life won its appeal of a controversial $17,500 security fee implemented by the University of Alberta for staging events on campus, successfully arguing that it violated freedom of expression.
“They seem to be much more open-minded than my generation,” Noble said. “At K-Days I spoke with more young girls than I would ever imagine, and it seems this attitude of ‘It’s none of your business if someone gets an abortion’ is not really resonating with a lot of them. They were open to hearing the other side of the argument.
“Even one teenage boy spoke to me about how, if he got a girl pregnant, he wouldn’t want her to have an abortion. But the messaging from the pro-choice people is that he has no right to have a say in the matter.”
Edmonton Prolife is planning raffles, a gala and meetings with donors to fund the “Did You Know?” campaign. Noble expects her 10 years in event planning and fundraising for the YMCA will be an asset.
Anne Wansink, an Edmonton Prolife board member since 1987, agrees.
“It’s a big task for us and it all depends on the funds, but Lisa is very energetic and she’s got a lot of ideas we haven’t tried before,” Wansink said. “I think her leadership will give us a fresh new perspective. Our main goal is this educational push.”
Noble said the message of abortion advocates relies on ignorance.
“No one in the pro-choice camp is interested in talking about what happens to the unborn child, how it affects the father, the family at large, anything,” Noble said. “It’s just a woman’s personal choice and there is no other context or repercussions beyond that. And because of this attitude, a lot of girls who step into these clinics have no idea what they’re doing. So we have to educate people on what is really going on.”
Noble expects pushback against the “Did You Know?” campaign, but the biggest obstacle is apathy.
“Nothing will ever change if we just say we’re pro-life and leave it at that,” she said. “We can’t drive by an abortion clinic, knowing babies are being killed there every day, and just be OK with it because, well, at least some of us are pro-life. We just can’t. At the end of the day, we have to try and save those babies.”