When Jim Hughes called his 84-year-old mother last April to tell her he was being sued for $500,000 and was named in an injunction sought by the NDP government to stop all picketing within 500 feet of abortion clinics (later joined by abortion groups), her calm reply was, “I’ll support you-but what did you do?”
That’s what he’s still wondering since he has only picketed twice in the last five years, on both occasions for 30 minutes as part of a prayer vigil. Neither he nor the other 17 defendants have broken any law or done any wrong. However, he thinks that as President of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), the political arm of the pro-life movement across Canada, he is an obvious target for the abortion movement. “Politically, the government and some politicians don’t want us telling people about pro-life issues. They want to stop CLC. They see us as their major opposition.” Then he adds, “I guess being named in this action means we’re being effective.”
Still, he’s worried about the outcome. “Based on the decision of the judge, the work of pro-life counselors could be seriously impaired and affect the saving of preborn babies. The worst scenario is that we could get a judgment against us with damages and costs, amounting to several million dollars. This would have a devastating impact on the work of Campaign Life Coalition in the future,” he says.
Jim is married to Ginny, a nurse, and they have four children. It was at their parish church, Corpus Christi, in Toronto, about fifteen years ago, that he was awakened to the pro-life cause. Moved by the inspiring homilies on the sanctity of life by its priests, which continue to this day, he was especially impressed in the early 1970s by the courageous action of Toronto’s late Archbishop Philip Pocock, who broke with the United Way over their intent to fund abortion groups. Following this decision the Archbishop established Share Life, a separate, Toronto Catholic charity. “To me his action was a riveting message to all Catholics to stand up for life,” recalls Jim.
He believes that many people don’t care or aren’t aware of the abortion mentality in society because the non-religious media report only “pro-choice” news. For instance, this Ontario government injunction ignored by the non-religious media, is a good example of how those in power are directly attacking, through the courts, the freedoms of all citizens to disagree with government policy. In fact, lawyers representing the 18 pro-life defendants are calling this legal action a classic civil rights case and one of the most important of its kind in the 1990s. He can’t believe its significance is being ignored in the media.
As for the unexpected government legal action, he says it’s deepened his prayer life. “If I didn’t have my faith, I don’t know how I’d survive all of this,” he admits. Every morning he recites the rosary before coming into the CLC office. “I walk along the sidewalk near my home and pray for all the people on the other side, for the judge, for the opposition lawyers and for our own lawyers, for the 18 defendants and their families, and for the survival of the pro-life movement and our moral values.”
Then typically, on a brighter note, he adds, “I consider it an honour to represent the pro-life movement in this action as an advocate for the Good Lord, and for mothers and their preborn babies.”
Mary Ellen Douglas
Civic-minded Mary Ellen Douglas, 48, is a former Catholic school trustee and past president of CLC Ontario. She and her husband, Allan, have five children and live in Kingston, where she used to host a local cable TV show, “Lifelines,” a program of pro-life-related issues. An active volunteer in pro-life work since 1971, over the years she’s helped organize hospital pickets, prayer vigils and fundraisers. Now she serves on the Kingston General Hospital Board of Governors, courageously representing the pro-life view amidst opposition.
She recalls that at one meeting, a woman governor, who is a member of a national abortion organization, demanded “better” facilities for women having abortions. She said the regular gynaecology room was too harsh. She wanted space on another floor and a room with pink walls, fluffy pillows and soft music. The Board granted her demands.
Mary Ellen thinks she’s been named in the legal action because she was on the panel of Ontario pro-life leaders who refuted media and pro-abortion allegations in a March 1993 Toronto press conference – the same one attended by Rhonda Wood. She believes, too, that her CLC political activity made her a likely target. “It’s interesting that feminists encourage women to take on political roles – as long as they aren’t pro-life,” she notes.
On the legal action she says, “That this kind of shocking action is being taken by those in power to stifle the freedom of pro-lifers to speak out and demonstrate for their beliefs is very worrisome. We’ve done nothing wrong and for a government to use such heavy-handed tactics makes you wonder if any of our cherished freedoms are secure.”
She says that few people in the Kingston area know about the legal action. However, she’s done what she can to “get the word out.” As the pro-life media person in the Kingston area, she is now hamstrung because as a defendant, her lawyers have advised her not to speak publicly or to the media about the legal action. Nevertheless, last month she organized a potluck supper to raise funds for the new Pro-Life Defence Fund, established to help the 18 defendants with legal costs.
The guest speaker was one of the lawyers defending the 18 pro-lifers. He astonished the audience by explaining the possible far-reaching effects of this action and how it could result in denying any individual’s right to protest if they disagree with a government.
A seasoned pro-lifer and in the cause for the long term, Mary Ellen is philosophical about the outcome. “We’ll keep praying to win but if we lose, we’ll continue to keep the pro-life issue alive,” she says.
Judy, 53, says that she learned about the evil of abortion while growing up, when she’d hear her father, then head of the Montreal homicide squad, denounce clandestine abortionists for their horrendous crime. He ranked them lower than drug pushers for the untold harm they did to women and children. Ten years ago, when Toronto’s first abortion facility opened, Judy was appalled. She joined CLC to help the pro-life cause and distressed pregnant women.
Judy thinks she was named in the legal action because she gave a workshop entitled “Sidewalk Counselling” in June 1992, at the national pro-life conference, “Save the Planet’s People.” Sometime later, the Toronto Sun broke a story about a detective who had been hired and paid by the NDP government to attend the conference. The ‘private eye’ attended workshops, picked up literature and purchased tapes, which were then handed over to the government. The tapes of her workshop were among them.
A former teacher, Judy volunteers at CLC two days a week, helping to organize various pro-life and political activities. Married to Peter, a retired ?Catholic school principal and a former Toronto Catholic school trustee, they live in west Toronto and have five grown children.
For eight years now, she’s been picketing and sidewalk counseling outside abortion facilities. Undaunted by the taunts from the street, she says that if she had a dollar for every time she’s been given the “finger sign” or told to mind her own business that she’d be rich. But she says, “Our Lord asked, ‘Can you not wait and watch with me for an hour?’ I see sidewalk counseling as part of the spiritual carrying of the cross.”
Almost two years ago, while putting her beliefs into practice outside a Toronto abortion facility, she helped a tearful, immigrant woman, about to enter the building, to accept pro-life help. The woman later gave birth to her baby. A few months ago, this same mother and her one-year-old daughter testified in the legal action about how grateful she was for pro-life help.
As the mother and her one-year old daughter sat in the waiting room, a bystander noticed them and asked who the beautiful baby was. He picked up the child, and to all present, he announced, “See this baby? She was saved by pro-life picketers.”
When Judge Adams’ decision came down last August 30, stipulating the terms under which pro-lifers could continue picketing at Toronto’s downtown abortuaries, Joanne Dieleman worried that picketers would be afraid to come back. But that didn’t happen. Relieved and grateful, she says, “Everyone is back now and it’s picketing as usual – just as it has been for the last ten years.”
As the co0director of Aid to Women (together with Dick Cochrane), Joanne, 58, a Dutch-born midwife, organizes and co-ordinates picketers and sidewalk counselors at three of Toronto’s downtown abortuaries. Experienced at handling the problems of distressed pregnant women, who often choose life for their babies at the abortuary door, she will continue to help them with emotional, financial or material needs if they request it. For instance, recently, she stayed all day at the hospital with one mother who was having a difficult labour. Earlier, she had hurriedly arranged to have the woman’s two-year-old child continue to stay with a pro-life picketer and foster mother, Rosemary Connell, when the mother went to hospital unexpectedly. With good humour, Joanne says “that day at the hospital was a day of relaxation for me.”
Joanne and her husband, Adrian, have six grown children of their own and two more adopted (one mentally incapacitated, one with spina bifida). For twenty years they were foster parents to over 250 children (mentally, physically, handicapped and street children), wards of the Children’s Aid Society. Ten years ago, Joanne’s pro-life involvement began. She became a volunteer with the North York Pregnancy Care Centre. About this time, she heard that Morgentaler was planning to open a downtown Toronto abortuary. Appalled, she joined other pro-lifers on the street protesting the abortuary opening and handing out pro-life pamphlets. She had now become a pro-life activist.
Later, when a coffee house “The Way Inn” was set up adjacent to the abortuary as a pro-life ministry to distressed pregnant women, Joanne was asked to take charge. However, in 1988 when Morgentaler obtained an injunction barring all picketing, “The Way Inn” merged with Aid to Women and moved to another location. Then in 1992 it moved next door to the downtown Buruiani abortuary where Joanne and her volunteers have since saved over 200 babies.
Joanne, a staunch member of the Canadian Reformed Church, says that when the April 1993 lawsuit was launched against her and 17n other pro-lifers (two have since been dropped), members of her church rallied behind her. Their support and sympathy were immediate. Following the church service the first Sunday afterwards long-time neighbour, pro-life picketer and church member, Hettie Boot, handed out information about the NDP government’s action to the congregation. Later, one man came up to Joanne saying, “I think you’re going to need help.” Then he handed her a cheque for $500. A few months later, word spread about Joanne’s grueling fifteen-hour cross-examination in which she was asked 3,505 questions by opposition lawyers, again church members rallied behind her. They held a fund raising dinner to help the Aid to Women Support Group.
When asked if she would rather do less stressful pro-life work, she replies without hesitation, “No, but some mornings I have to admit that I’m reluctant to come in. But when I do, I know it’s right. This kind of pro-life crisis work has to be done.” Then she reflects, “I see this kind of work as my contribution as a Christian to a hurting world.”
Still, there are unexpected rewards to the emotional ups and downs at Aid to Women. For instance, even though it is solely dependent upon donations to continue its work, Joanne never worries about money. Recently, when she usually makes a weekly bank deposit, there was no money available. Later the mail came. It brought a cheque for $1,000 from someone who had filled out a coupon attached to the Aid to Women pamphlet. It is often given out on the street by picketers. Joanne had never heard of the donor, but she says, “that was our latest miracle.”