For many pro-lifers the days on the picket line in front of the Morgentaler abortuary in Toronto are long and hard, but gladly given. Picketing takes place for an average of 10 hours a day through all kinds of weather – rain, snow, sleet and bitter cold. The picketers’ generosity of spirit, of time and of their total selves is astonishing. They keep warm b walking, talking, singing, praying, chanting or briefly popping into a rented motor-home when the cold becomes unbearable. Hot drinks, sandwiches, chili and homemade soup are dispensed from the tiny motor-home kitchen.
A broad cross-section of pro-lifers has turned out every day. They have come from Toronto, London, Kitchener, Hamilton, Kingston, Barrie and many other communities.
Lorraine, a mother of three, has twice come on her own from North Bay and put in two full-day stretches with hardly a break. There are the folks from Cambridge who often travel 60 miles to join the group for an entire day. At least 2 women travel the 40 miles from Stouffville every day.
There are business types, inner city folks, suburbanites, blue-collar workers, homemakers, ministers, priests and many high school and university students. There are the silent picketers, the cheerful, talkative ones, the always serious ones and the sometimes irritating, sometimes inspiring, soap-box orators. There are the powerfully-committed Christian Action Council Women; the 30 neighborhood Portuguese ladies who come to pray the rosary; mothers with children; those who come only to pray and there are those who come to plead with the mothers going in for abortions. Many have never picketed before. In other words, the pro-life community is here.
The thread that binds all of these people is that they deeply love life to the point of selflessness and of giving…as Mother Teresa says: “until it hurts.” That’s real love. If sometimes some of the picketers or some of the strategy is less than perfect it is seen in the right perspective. Pro-lifers are human. The objective is to stop this great evil of abortion and not to emphasize pro-life imperfections.
Henry Morgentaler and much of the media have been critical about this picketing. Veteran pro-lifers recognize that such criticism is proof that the strategy is effective but, for those who are not so wise to the ways of the world, it has sometimes been difficult to separate truth from fiction.
On January 9, Metro Police Chief Jack Marks, angrily stated that Henry Morgentaler had “manipulated the media more than any other person in the history of this city.” Attacks against pro-life strategy, as documented by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, traditionally rely upon such media manipulation which usually includes lies and distortion. One objective is to cause division within the pro-life ranks. Another is to make pro-lifers appear to be heartless, narrow minded, religious fanatics persecuting a humanitarian and suffering abortionist. There is, of course, nothing remotely humanitarian about the highly unnatural, deliberate destruction of tiny pre-born humans in the wombs of their very own mothers.
The propaganda against the abortuary picketing has been intense. The Toronto Star has recently been at its worst, shamelessly lacking in journalistic objectivity and balanced coverage. On January 17th it published a column by Lois Sweet which borders on hate literature. On the same day the Globe & Mail headlined: “Morgentaler Frenzy.” It also published a soppy article about noisy protesters causing innocent local businesses to experience financial loss. In reality, many businesses have been experiencing increased sales because of the many picketers and media personnel coming to the area.
As of January 18th, after 4 weeks of picketing — and contrary to media impressions — there has not been one incidence of violence by a pro-lifer in front of the abortuary. 16 people have been arrested and every single arrest was carried out 100% non-violently. All arrests resulted from refusing to move from the abortuary’s steps. Each protestor had to be handled by police because they followed the normal peaceful resistance tactics of either hanging on to a railing or going limp. One person was injured because he hung on to the stair railing to intensely that three policemen were required to remove him.
Protesters did not ever, as CBC news reported, “tangle with police.” All arrests were personal decisions by those involved and were not part of an overall strategy. But the arrests did, in fact, help the pro-life position in showing the resolve of pro-lifers and encouraging the laying of new charges against abortionists Morgentaler and Scott.
Pro-life leaders clearly understand that continued picketing I essential to finally move the police, the courts and the Attorney General to act decisively. Once picketing stops, then the public will tend to become resigned and complacent and the authorities will feel less compelled to act against the abortuary.
Picketers are allowed “to be themselves” on the line. At the same time, organizers are vigilant and quickly stop anyone who may violate the rules prohibiting violence and profanity. Organizers maintain good relations with the police while constantly reminding them of the fact that they are defending law-breakers who should be in jail.
Acts of non-violent civil disobedience are neither encouraged nor discouraged. Organizers are not there to stop those who reel compelled to make a strong statement about the killing of innocents in the abortuary. Remember, a man called Jesus and all of His disciples placed themselves in positions of far greater confrontation with the civil authorities.
Picketers are encouraged, if they feel able, to lovingly and charitably plead with the mothers entering the abortuary not to kill their babies. Again, contrary to media reports the mothers are neither harassed nor belittled. They are offered help. They are given a last precious opportunity to change their minds, to prevent a lifetime of regret.
The volunteers on a pro-life picket line need support, encouragement, praise and prayers. They especially need your physical presence there with them. They need your trust and your belief in them. Constructive criticisms, suggestions and enquiries about facts are welcome. Your forgiveness for moments of imperfection on their part is needed. They greatly deserve all of this, but more importantly, it will help the cause of the unborn and their mothers in distress.
Steve Jalsevac is on the board of Campaign Life Toronto which
has been co- coordinating the picketing at the Toronto abortuary.