Linda Gibbons has spent more than half of the past 16 years behind bars for witnessing against abortion.

On Aug. 3, the National Post featured Linda Gibbons on its front page in what called “the largest piece on the pro-life heroine yet from Canada’s national media.” Religion reporter Charles Lewis interviewed Gibbons at the Vanier Centre for Women where Gibbons told the reporter she has a constitutionally protected right and religious obligation to witness against abortion.

According to Lewis, Gibbons “believes she has a Charter and God-given right to counsel against abortion, to stand in front of an abortion clinic and offer advice and to do otherwise is no different than watching Nazis dragging Jews out of their home in 1938 and saying nothing.” He draws attention to the activist’s persistence in describing her “protest-prison loop” – what LifeSiteNews calls “the seemingly endless cycle of arrest, then release, and (usually within a matter of days of her release) arrest again.”

In 1994, the Ontario NDP government of the day sought and obtained a “temporary” injunction prohibiting the constitutionally protected freedom of speech and expression of pro-lifers outside facilities that do abortions. Gibbons has been arrested nearly 20 times for allegedly violating the so-called bubble zone when she prays and counsels to abortion minded women within 60 feet of the Scott’s abortion mill on Gerrard Street in downtown Toronto. She has never been charged with directly violating the injunction but rather ignoring an officer’s request to leave. Pro-life leaders say the charges are politically motivated to prevent a constitutional challenge against the 16-year-old “temporary” injunction.

Gibbons is always peaceful during her protests and usually does not even speak to police and sheriffs as she is being arrested. After a 1998 arrest of Gibbons, journalist Michael Coren sardonically noted that “the city is a lot safer now.” She has spent more than half of the past 16 years behind bars, including nearly 600 days since her most recent arrest in January 2009. She has been offered bail but refuses to abide the condition to not return to the abortuary.

Lewis in his Post story quoted Celia Posyniak, a Calgary abortuary director, who said that Gibbons’ actions are “creepy,” explaining that “They don’t even have to say anything. It’s intimidating just to have someone standing there … Why is it acceptable to intimidate women making a personal and legal decision?” Gibbons’ lawyer Daniel Santoro says that his client has a constitutional right to free speech which is being suppressed. He told the paper, “All she does is try to talk to people and if they don’t want to listen, then fine.”

Lewis explained that injunction “did not come out of vacuum” and says that it was a reaction to the supposed harassment of abortionists and women seeking abortion by pro-lifers on the street, as well as the fire and explosion in May 1992 at Morgentaler’s Toronto abortuary. The injunction was obtained two years later.

While Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, while generally pleased with the story and applauded the overall fairness of the article in its treatment of Gibbons, he thought Lewis did a poor job in explaining the injunction, in particular how it came about. Hughes explains in the September CLC National News, that the media ignores leads on who is actually responsible for the abortuary fire including prime suspect David Patten whose girlfriend had an abortion at the site and was later arrested for murdering his own parents, and a Canadian Security Intelligence Service report that said there was evidence that the pro-abortion movement perpetrated the violence to “make the government take action against the anti-abortionists.” As the CLC president noted in the organization’s newsletter, “The suspects (we pro-lifers) had been identified, apprehended, tried in the court of public opinion by the media and found guilty.” The pro-abortion movement got a public relations victory, security paid for by taxpayers, and the injunction to restrict the free speech rights of pro-lifers.

On Aug. 10, Gibbons appeared at the College Park court before Madam Justice Mara Beth Greene to deal with pretrial motions. More than 50 Show the Truth demonstrators witnessed outside before the proceedings and the court was filled with pro-lifer supporters. Charles Lewis was also present and he reported on the proceedings the next day in the Post.

Her lawyers, Nicolas Rouleau and Daniel Santoro, argued that the legal system has failed Gibbons by not dealing with her in a proper venue or timely fashion. The lawyers say that violating the injunction should be dealt with in civil court and not criminal court, that the injunction should not be in force indefinitely and, according to Rouleau, the Crown “now 16 years later is taking advantage of its dereliction.”

The Post reported that “Santoro has said he suspected the Crown knew it could not make a civil case for a permanent injunction and so has dodged the issue by charging Ms. Gibbons under the Criminal Code.” Judge Greene characterized Santoro’s charge against the Crown as “horrible” and questioned whether he had any basis for making the allegation. “Because nothing has happened in 16 years,” replied Santoro.

Another hearing on other motions will be held on Sept. 2.

Also in attendance was Mary Wagner, a British Columbia pro-life activist who was arrested in the Spring for allegedly entering an abortion mill. She was charged but the case was dismissed in July.