It was 2015 when Sangah, a registered nurse from Korea, came to Vancouver to pursue further studies in nursing. Alone in a new city, enrolled in a difficult program with plenty of exams, she still managed to carve out a bit of a life for herself.

In December of 2017 that changed. 

“I was doing OK till I got pregnant” she told about 350 people attending the 2019 Focus on Life Gala May 27 at the Italian Cultural Centre. The annual gala raises funds to support life-affirming media initiatives and media channels that direct people in crisis towards support services. 

Sangah had been having a relationship with a married man who already had children of his own. In December 2017 she realized she had all the signs of pregnancy, so she took a test and said she was determined to “take action” if the test turned out positive. 

She was indeed pregnant. The father had no interest in admitting to his affair or being a part of their child’s life. As far as she was concerned, “there was no reason for me to carry on with the pregnancy.” She went to Vancouver General Hospital and scheduled an appointment for an abortion. She had to wait one week for her appointment. 

In the intervening week Sangah said she was “feeling weird” and kept having second thoughts. Without family or many friends in Vancouver, she told only a few local people about her pregnancy. She received no encouragement to abort.

In fact, one told her the story of her own unintended pregnancy and how all her needs were met throughout the pregnancy. “God was so generous to her and gave her everything that she needed one by one,” Sangah said.

After hearing the woman’s testimony she decided not to go through with the abortion. She went to visit a church, where she met another woman who directed her to a crisis pregnancy centre.

“I think the Holy Spirit was telling me not to go for the abortion through other people,” she said. 

Norma Cody, executive director of the Christian Advocacy Society of Vancouver, said Sangah’s story is not unique. The society provides support and counseling for women dealing with unintended pregnancies, as well as for post-abortive grief, domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Cody said when women come to her organization their heads are spinning. “Many women come in not knowing their values. They hear from others that abortion is the ‘best’ option.” 

The goal for Cody’s staff is to reduce a woman’s anxiety so she can take in the information she is offered and at the very least try to help them “get to a place, while talking to us, to hear their own heart,” Cody said. 

For women like Sangah who decide to continue with their pregnancies, even though it seems to make no sense in their life circumstances, CAS offers prenatal instruction, parenting support, and donated maternity and baby clothes. 

Helping women in unexpected pregnancies is one important branch of pro-life work supported by Focus on Life, a partnership co-founded by the Christian Advocacy Society, the Archdiocese of Vancouver, and Signal Hill. But so is trying to prevent young people from getting into a situation where they might think abortion is the best option. 

The Signal Hill Value project is one example of how this is done. 

The Signal Hill organization works to change current culture through presentations and projects that teach teens to see the inherent value in every person. Its Value Project consists of hour-long presentations given in schools, and three-day retreats aimed at giving youth the skills to become leaders in their community.

Derek Scott, the executive director of Signal Hill, said the goal of the presentations and retreats is to help young people see themselves as valuable and learn to see others as people who have inherent value. If they can see the value in every human being, they will be less likely to make “life-devaluing decisions,” he said. 

Dr. Wayne Hammond, a psychologist who specialized in resiliency training, said the Value Project approach is scientifically sound. He said young people “develop value systems because they want to be like the people who care for them.”

Providing an opportunity to develop relationship and be cared for by people who treat them as having inherent value has a big impact on shaping young people’s value system and their belief in their own self-worth. 

Archbishop Miller greets attendees at the Focus on Life Gala. (Rita Yee photo)

The biggest obstacle to reaching more young people through the Value Project is not lack of interest, Scott said, but finances. The goal of the Focus on Life Gala was to raise funds to help bring the Value Project to more young people and support the work of the Christian Advocacy Society. 

In his closing remarks, Archbishop Michael Miller told participants that in pro-life work it is vital to remember that “each person has his or her own role, and it is important to stand together” to create a culture of life.