Grace Petrasek
The Interim

Something unusual happened at Toronto’s downtown Aid to Women office last fall, just before Robert retired as a full-time sidewalk and office counsellor.

A distraught young father was refused entrance to the next-door abortuary to say a final goodbye to his girlfriend (probably both college or university students). Fortunately, the police came to his rescue within minutes, responding to a rare call for help from Aid to Women. This is what happened.

Robert was standing across the street from the abortuary, carrying a sign that showed a beautiful developing baby in the womb, sucking its thumb. (The picture had appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in 2003). In front of the abortuary, he noticed a young man sitting slumped on the steps. Robert called to him, asking if he needed help.

The young man shouted back, “I can’t hear you because of that screaming hyena,” he said referring to an abortuary guard. Then, he got up and began walking to his parked car, near to where Robert was standing, and explained his problem.

The abortuary guard had refused him entry to say a final goodbye to his girlfriend. However, as he was talking to Robert, he began staring at the sign of the baby and became very quiet. He became teary-eyed.

“Why don’t you try one more time,” suggested Robert. “It’s your right to be able to go in there. If they refuse you, call the police.”

Seemingly startled at this idea, the young man said he’d think about it. Robert then asked him upstairs to talk about his situation with Ann Wilson, the new director of Aid to Women.

In the meantime, Robert returned to the office and briefed Ann about the young man’s predicament. Then, together they said a quick prayer for him.

Before long, they heard him climbing the stairs to the office where Ann warmly greeted him.

She sat down, held his hand, looked him in the eye and in her gentle way, said, “You must be strong. Pull yourself together. Your baby needs you now. Go back down there and try to see your girlfriend one more time. If it doesn’t work, come back and we’ll call the police.”

Again refused entry, the young man returned and with Ann’s help called the police, explaining that his right to access was being denied and that he needed police protection to enter the abortuary. The police operator said that police would come.

Within minutes, two police cruisers arrived on the scene, each driven by a young officer (Ann thought they might even have been young fathers themselves). Deftly, they took charge of the situation, accompanied the young man to the abortuary door and waited until he came out.

Then, they drove away and he stood alone on the sidewalk. Within minutes, his girlfriend rushed out of the building and ran to him. They hugged and in lively conversation, quickly walked to their car.

Apparently, the abortion had been cancelled. Interestingly, the two young police officers may not have realized they had helped a distraught young father save the life of his child in the womb.