After almost two years, Mary Wagner’s trial on charges of mischief and failure to comply with probation orders came to an end in a north Toronto courtroom June 12, with her stepping out to freedom amid hugs and congratulations from about three dozen supporters. But the case may not yet be over.
Justice Fergus O’Donnell found her guilty on all counts and sentenced her to five months in jail on the mischief charge and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders. He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because the time spent in jail exceeded the sentence, she was freed immediately.
The charges related to her entry of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 12, 2012 and an attempt to speak to abortion-bound women there. She was arrested, charged, and has spent the duration of the following time in jail, the majority of it due to her refusal, for reasons of conscience, to agree to bail conditions that stipulated she stay away from abortion sites pending conclusion of the trial.
“I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many contributions you’ve made spiritually, financially, through letters, through word of mouth,” Wagner told supporters.
She told LifeSiteNews that although there were some difficult times in jail, it was nonetheless “fruitful in many ways, because a lot of people there are hungry for God and are looking to reach out to Him. I was constantly meeting women wounded by abortion and encouraging them to seek the mercy of God.”
Wagner said in jail, “I had the chance to share the truth about the wound of abortion.” She estimated some 80 per cent of the women she met in the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton had undergone an abortion and of those, 90 per cent said they regretted it.
Wagner confirmed that she and her defence team will appeal the verdict.
She paid tribute to her lawyer, Charles Lugosi, and thanked supporters for donating to her legal defense fund and for their prayers. “I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many contributions you’ve made spiritually, financially, through letters, through word of mouth.”
She planned to head to British Columbia to visit her family, whom she hasn’t seen for nearly two years, after which she plans to “pray in solitude” and “be open to God’s will.”
Wagner’s defence rested on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which allowed for actions in the defence of other human beings. It was the Lugosi’s intention to demonstrate that the unborn at the Women’s Care Clinic on August 12, 2012 were, in fact, human beings under Wagner’s care and protection.
Lugosi also appealed to Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, “not just to believe, but also to act, in the free exercise of these rights. Without the free exercise of these rights, these rights are meaningless.”
In a rebuttal, Crown attorney Tracey Vogel argued the bottom line was that Wagner admitted the elements of both sets of offences she was charged with, interfered with the operation of a “private medical clinic,” had no reason to be there and caused “great upset” to patients, their families, and friends.
In his verdict, O’Donnell acknowledged abortion is a subject of great controversy and one over which there has been much previous litigation. He decided, however, there was no possibility of the success of Wagner’s argument, as the defence of necessity was not valid on account of her failure to use other avenues at her disposal for opposing abortion.
On sentencing, O’Donnell noted there was nothing he could say that would modify Wagner’s behavior. He acknowledged it was not his place to judge her strongly held beliefs; however, he said he did not find her actions “respectful” and encouraged Wagner to think about whether her 22 months spent in prison might have been better used advancing her cause in a more effective manner.
O’Donnell said it was his role as a judge to emphasize rehabilitation, deterrence, and denunciation so that the sentence resonated with her and others. Although he said abortion is a very polarizing issue, he added the Canadian way is one of compromise. Allowing either side of a controversial issue to break the law only encourages others to feel they can do so. The kind of “havoc” Wagner caused in August 2012 had to be circumscribed with further probation orders, he said.
The defence has 30 days to file a notice of appeal in the case.
A longer version of this article appeared at LifeSiteNews on June 12 and is used with permission.