On May 4, the B.C. Court of Appeal heard testimony from pro-life and civil liberties intervenors in the case of Gordon Watson and Don Spratt, who were arrested in December 1998 for having stood inside a “bubble zone” in front of Everywoman’s abortion site in Vancouver.
The two men are appealing convictions of violating B.C.’s Access to Abortion Services Act, which prohibits pro-life sidewalk counsellors or protesters within 50 metres of an abortion site. They were holding a wooden cross and signs that said, “Abortion is Murder” and “Unborn Persons Have a Right to Live.”
Intervenors in the appeal case include the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which argues the bubble zone law is a violation of freedom of expression. Also intervening are Canadian Nurses for Life and a coalition of religious groups, including the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Sissy von Dehn, the Vancouver representative of Canadian Nurses for Life, said the case is important, because local people have little knowledge of the bubble zone restrictions. “The existing bubble- zones live calmly in their own orbit with little public knowledge of where they are and why,” she told LifeSiteNews.com in an e-mail.
Local pro-life advocates have undertaken to inform the public with literature about the different ways that some kinds of protest can “cause instant arrest.” She said abortion sites’ staff have called police to try to stop this action, but since the only literature being handed out were copies of the legislation, “they backed off.”
Von Dehn said, “This year, we have signs to wear right in a zone that read, “You Are in a Bubble- Zone,” “Be Informed” and “You Can Be Arrested Here.” “Copies of the legislation were passed out and there was a massive amount of interest and questions” from passers-by.
Public information campaigns have caused Everywoman’s abortion site to move shop at least once in the last 10 years. Pro-life activists hope that the public revulsion for abortion, even among those who publicly support abortion “rights,” will be enough to have the facility shut down again.
The Vancouver group is planning on testing and challenging the legal limits of the law. Von Dehn said, “We plan to go to other sites where the signs would be quickly noted and begin to inform the public in a more active way to see if it is taken as an abortion protest. If so, we want to know: will a judge interpret informing the public about this legislation that makes distributing legal information to the public a crime?”
This article originally appeared May 5 on LifeSiteNews.com and is reprinted with permission