Arrest of grandmothers galvanizes pro-lifers

On Oct. 24 and Nov. 21, Ontario pro-lifers picketed the constituency offices of about 90 MPPs across the province, protesting the government’s “bubble-zone” injunction prohibiting free speech and free assembly outside abortion centres.

Campaign Life Coalition Ontario president Mary Ellen Douglas told The Interim the purpose of the protest was to pressure the current Progressive Conservative government to drop the injunction banning peaceful demonstrations around abortion clinics.

The injunction was initiated by the NDP government in 1994. Though technically a “temporary” measure, it has no time limit, and the Tories have done nothing about it.

The “bubble zones” have hampered the life-saving work of pro-life sidewalk counsellors, and has led to the imprisonment of two Ontario grandmothers. Linda Gibbons of Toronto has spent most of the last four years in prison for offering help to mothers and babies in crisis. Anneliese Steden of Cambridge, Ont. was in prison for almost three months, following her arrest Sept. 9 outside Toronto’s Scott abortuary.

Mrs. Steden was willing to sacrifice freedom for that length of time in order to draw attention to the plight of the unborn, and to the injustice of the injunction. Currently out on bail, she is awaiting trial, with Linda Gibbons and fellow protester Rev. Ken Campbell of Milton, Ont. on Feb. 2.

Mrs. Douglas says CLC hopes to educate MPPs about the issue, so they will raise it during the legislative session set to begin in the new year. She says if that’s going to happen, it is important to exert pressure now.

Picketers carried signs saying “Grandmothers in jail,” “Abortion and injunction must go,” and “What freedom of speech?”

“Anyone who drove by,” Mrs. Douglas said, “would know what we are talking about.”

Protest organizers also ensured the CLC video, September 9, 1998, was given to MPPs. The video documents the day Mrs. Steden, Ms Gibbons and Rev. Campbell were arrested for their witness outside the Scott facility.

Mrs. Douglas said, “Seeing how the peaceful protests of Anneliese, Linda, and Rev. Campbell got them thrown into jail is a poignant way to show MPPs how unjust the injunction really is.”

She said reports from local CLC organizers indicate the picketed MPPs fall into three categories: those who say they didn’t know about the injunction; those who say they will call the Attorney-General about the issue; and those who say they will raise the issue when the legislature resumes.

Mrs. Douglas said another goal of the campaign was to remind pro-lifers to get involved, to contact their MPPs, and to step up the pressure to end the injunction.