A very broad interpretation of the terms “watching and besetting” has landed three Vancouver activists with suspended jail sentences for their pro-life counseling in front of Everywoman’s Health Centre.
Christine Hendrix and Gordon Watson were handed a 15-day suspended sentence for breaking an injunction outside the abortion clinic.
John Hof, president of Campaign Life Coalition B.C., said one of the picketers was holding a sign which said “End Abortion Subsidy” and the three were counseling women as they entered for abortions.
“These people were targeted,” Hof said. “They are visible front-line protestors.”
The injunction outside the clinic has been in effect since 1989 and was previously only used for pro-life activists in the Vancouver area. The activists use the Gianna House Everywoman’s Pregnancy Centre, adjacent to the Everywoman’s Health Centre, to counsel women who decide to keep their children.
Mr. Justice Low said he applied the terms of the court order because the accused pro-lifers were “provoking and upsetting, far beyond attendance merely for the purpose of communicating information.”
The judge accepted the evidence of the abortion-clinic staff that the conduct of the pro-lifers “did have an obvious emotional effect on their targets.”
Lawyers representing the picketers argued that interpreting the term “watching and besetting” to restrict all speech and assembly in front of the clinic contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.