Meet ORTLEF’s New Board President, Debbi Canepa, PhD

I am proud to be part of Oregon Right to Life (ORTL). As the new board president of the Oregon Right to Life Education Foundation (ORTLEF) and vice president of the local chapter in Washington County, I am honored to work with passionate pro-life people dedicated to the belief that life is precious from the moment of conception to natural death.  

The journey to my current beliefs took time. I am sorry to admit that I was once pro-choice. As a college student in the 1970s, I bought the lie that abortion was necessary for women in a crisis pregnancy. I just was not educated on the subject, even though I was a biology major. 

This experience is why I so passionately believe in the work of the Education Foundation at ORTL. We strive to educate people about the value of human life and the horrors that can ensue when it is devalued. I enjoy helping people on their own journey of discovery as they explore pro-life ideals.  

After college, I went to graduate school at Oregon Health & Science University, earning a Ph.D. in Anatomy with a specialty in reproductive physiology. Courses in embryology began to crack my belief that abortion should be legal. Additionally, during graduate school, I had a religious awakening that confirmed my belief in the sanctity of human life, leading me to be fully pro-life. I also met my sweet husband Frank during this time, and his clear reasoning helped deepen my new pro-life beliefs.  

My subsequent pregnancies and births of our four sons developed in me a profound respect for the unborn child. I knew my children, how precious they were before they were born and had a deep respect for their own individual personalities – even in utero. By this time, I was a college professor teaching anatomy. I added embryology to my course load after my last child was born. I honestly don’t know how anyone could teach embryology and not develop a deep admiration for the embryo and fetus. 

It is a miraculous journey we have all gone through, and it inspires me still.

Debbi Canepa, PhD


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