This is a first in a series of special edition beINSPIRED pieces. As part of The New Abortion Caravan, the individuals who we feature over the next few weeks will be the old guard of the pro-life movement who have fought so tirelessly and sacrificially to be a voice for pre-born children. We are here now because they were here first. Their fight in the early days was the end of the beginning, and we will proudly carry the torch with them at this critical juncture of the beginning of the end.
A 12-year-old girl is alive today because of my friend—and hero—Cecilia (Sissy) Von Dehn.
When a killing centre (abortion clinic) was set up in Vancouver, Sissy took it upon herself to go to the costly personal expense of purchasing a home for the express purpose of saving lives from the horror house next door. Within Sissy’s home was a chapel whose window was only feet away from the wall in which the silent screams of children were released on a daily basis. Within Sissy’s home were signs and messages that pro-life activists would come and gather up in order to witness outdoors to rescue those being dragged away to the slaughter. As pro-life leader John Hof has said, “Sissy, through her home, was a gravitational force that pulled together the dedicated activists in the pro-life movement.”
Sissy didn’t buy that home so she could live in it, but rather, so that others could simply live. And so came a fateful day, in 1999, when a scared, unmarried, pregnant woman, with two born children, in debt and finishing school, arrived at Everywoman’s abortion clinic. The woman recalls,
“As my boyfriend and I parked down the street and I walked up to the abortion clinic, I saw a house with pictures of babies and information about why abortion is wrong, which I knew in my heart. I ran out of the clinic, crying, down the street. I left my boyfriend standing there.” She was convinced she could not kill her child.
In January 2000, a baby girl was born.
I am convinced that one day, in another world to come, Sissy will meet a long line of many more beautiful faces who will warmly embrace her and tell of the long lives they enjoyed on earth because of her life-saving witness.
Indeed, Sissy works tirelessly and sacrificially to be a voice for pre-born children, yet never wishes any acclaim. She has been arrested and jailed for peacefully challenging the unconstitutional “bubble zone” laws which prevent free expression near abortion clinics.
She has welcomed pregnant women and single mothers of born children into her home as a safe haven.
She and her supportive husband adopted a beautiful young girl with developmental difficulties, Nettie, and showered her in love until she passed away in 2002. And now they care for their disabled nephew.
When the abortion clinic eventually moved (I would say, because of the influence Sissy’s pro-life home was having next door by deterring women from killing their children) Sissy allowed the home to be used by The Talitha Koum Society, which accepts women who would be rejected by other halfway houses on the basis of their being “too difficult to handle.”
And, when I and my courageous student colleagues faced violence and censorship from pro-abortion students at UBC back in 1999, it was Sissy who opened her personal home to our team for countless strategy sessions. She fed us, rallied us, stood with us, and loved us. And now, as I write this piece 13 years later, I am sitting on her familiar couch, in her homey living room, with my CCBR colleagues, as we use her house as our command centre for the launch of The New Abortion Caravan. All the while, Sissy spoils us with food and tea and coffee and goes from room to room snapping photos of our youthful team on her camera, with a look of pure delight and hope on her face that change, indeed, is coming, that abortion will end in Canada.
As she admires us, however, what she doesn’t realize is how much we admire her. It has been a joy to introduce my colleagues to this warrior woman named Sissy Von Dehn, who has a strong mind and a soft heart. She’ll be embarrassed to receive this public praise, but the words in Matthew 5:16 are most fitting here:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Thank you, Sissy, for letting your light shine.