Early one sprng mornig a few weeks ago, in downtown Toronto, Tom Brown was handing out pro-life pamphlets on the streets in front of  Buruiana’s abortuary. He was waiting for his partner , Mary Burnie. Nearby, he noticed a man and a woman approach the abortuary but then hesitate. Politely, he asked if he could speak to them before they went inside. They agreed.

While he was showing them picture of fetal development and what abortion does to the uborn child, Buruiana,the abortionist,arrived ‘for work.” Suddenly, he strode toward the couple, grabbed the man by the shoulder and shouted, “Don’t listen to those people. Go inside.” Then he disapeared behind the iron gate of his white brick abortuary called “Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic.”

The startled couple, both immigrants, looked at Tom in confusion. Mary Burnie had now arrived on the scene and she invited the couple next door to Aid to Women, an emergency crisis centre, where they talked and watched a video on fetal development.

Within an hour the couple had decided against having the abortion. The man said their family doctor ad referred them to Buruiana’s because his wife was nervous about her pregnancy. “But if abortion was not so easy to get, we would not have come here in the first place,” he said. Grateful for the infromation and help, they left and promised to keep in touch.

Witnesses for Life

Tom, a businessman with felexible hours, and Mary, a retired biochemist (whose sister Helen picketed before her for years at Morgentaler’s), and Barbara Brown (wife of Tom), Anne Dobson and Joanne Dieleman, witness regularly once a week at one of Toronto’s downtown aborturaies. They’ve been deoing this work for eight years.

But they’d prefer to be doing something else.Picketing did not come naturally to them and they had to get used to the sights, sounds and rhythm of the streets. Still, they saw this kind of activism- publicly protesting against abortion- as an important and necessary way to inform the public about the truth of abortion ignored by the media.

By holding p pro-life signs with one hand and handing out pro-life pamphlets with the other, or by quietly praying or by offering last-minute help to a woman about to enter the abortuary, they stand up for life on the streets.

For their efforts, each has been scorned,sometimes spat upon,shouted at or givenan obscene gesture. Despite the humiliation, monotony, noise, bad weather and sore feet, they often find something to laugh about- or even rejoice over. Each has saved the lives of several babies.

Tom and Mary

On a different day at Buruiani’s abortuary, Tom and Mary are witnessing and handing out pamphlets to people who pass by- an Indian man in turban, a man in grey business suit carrying a briefcase, and a neatly dressed black couple. They all accept a pamphlet. Then a man in an open red convertible drives by and slows down for the red light. He shouts, “Haven’t you got better things to do? Are you going to bomb that place, too?” He’s referring to the recent destruction of the Morgentaler abortuary. Tom and Mary shake their heads and carry on.

Beside the abortuary is a tavern. Men,waiting outside until it opens, greet Tom and Mary. With a chuckle, Tom says, “These boys are all pro-life even when they’re tipsy, and that’soften at 9 a.m. even though the place doesn’t open until eleven.” As he speaks, a muscular young man guides an unsmiling girl through the abortuary gate. Mary asks if she can talk to them. The man refuses, smirks and edges the girl up the step. However, when he looks back the smirk has gone from his face.

This is a quiet day according to Mary, unlike one day last week when a man on a bicycle slowly rode by and Tom offered him a pamphlet. Suddenly, he spat in Tom’s face and sped away. Tom had ot go next dorr to clean up. He rises above such insults, saying what is NOT acceptable in pro-life work is violent behaviour. He attributes spiritual meaning to his street work and offers it as atonement for the evil of abortion.

He says it’s never easy coming odwntown to witness and it usually takes a lot out of him. When he sees a man (usually an escort) or a woman about to enter the abortuary, he prays for the abortuary, he prays for the right words to approach each to offer help.On the street he finds most people pleasant, and estimates he’s handed out thousands of pieces of pro-life information over the years. When pressed about how many babies he’s saved, he says he doesn’t keep count but perhaps he’s helped redirect fifty women from the abortuary. That’s probably why Morgentaler named him and four other pro-lifers in a million-dollar lawsuit in 1089 for witnessing outside the Morgentaler abortuary. The case is expected to go to court early next year.

Mary Burnie pickets two full days a week, one with Tom and the other with whoever is available. She wishes more retired people or pro-lifers with flexible daytime hours would make a commitment to picket a few hours a week, as do a faithful few. This abortuary is the busiest, she says, but often no one is outside to picket or to offer last-minute help to a woman who might change he rmind. She says seniors, in pairs or groups, could contribute an important pro-life presence on the streets.

As she speaks, cars, streetcars, delivery trucks, ambulances and cyclists stream by, often slowing down for the red light at the nearby corner. One car driver whizzes by on the green light and honks his horn in support; another stops for the red light and through his open window calls out, “ Iwish I could do what you do, but I have to go to work every morning at six o’clock. Aren’t you luck?” Mary waves to him and calls back, “You have a good day.” Then smiling, she says, “Imagine him saying that to me after I’ve worked for 41 years.”

As the morning unfolds, a young man who earlier brought a pale-looking woman into the abortuary, steps onto the sidewalk for a smoke. Mary says to him, “Tell me how come it’s not OK to smoke in there, but it’s OK to kill your baby?” He stamps out his cigarette and goes back inside.

Then along comes Irving, and 82-year-old retired business man and Russian immigrant, who is carrying his grocieries. He greets Mary warmly and they chat about the economy. He says they used to argue about “ a woman’s choice,” but now they’re good friends and agree to disagree. She teases him and he moves along, bidding her a goodweekend. It’s getting late now, so she gathers her belongings and goes next dorr. Another day on the streets is done.

Barbara and Anne

It’s a bright windy day outside. Barbara Brown and Anne Dobson, a seasoned pro-ife pair, arrive at the abortuary to witness.Often they see the amusing sidwe of street life and to picket with them is to receive a refreshing lesson on the facts of life.

As they hand out pamphlets, a black middle aged man comes along and says, “I’m with you. Take care.” Then a white woman in her thirties wearing tight purple slacks refuses their pamphlets and in passing, shouts, “I hope your daughter has 25 children and marries and Arab.” Anne calls back, “That’s pretty racist thing to say, ma’am.” Next come two exuberant youths with their baseball caps on backwards. Thy look at the pamphlets and exclaim, “Hey man, we’re with you. Abortion is awesome. It robs the cradle.” A few moments later a sleek black car drives by, slows down and a woman calls out, “Get a job” and gives the finger sign. “You’re lovely,” says Barbara. “Have a nice day.”

These women have many tales to tell about their experiences on the street. Anne tells about a girl of 18 who last week angirly approached her and said, “it’s ridiculous for you to be standing here minding other peoples business.” Anne said, “Tell me. I’m standing here, quietly minding my busness handing out pamphlets and you come over here and tell me to mind my own business.” Then the girl went on to say that if she got pregnant she couldn’t have a baby because she was still inhighschoo. “Have you ever heard of chastity?” asked Anne. “What’s that?” the girl asked. “It’s not having sex before you’re married” The girl though that idea was ridiculous because sex was everyone’s right and a part of life.”It’s part of life for young girls running around and getting into all kinds of trouble because of it,” said Anne. The girl lookd at her in amazement. Then she said she was pro-choice and Anne said, “So am I.” After discussing promiscuity, teenage pregnancy and venerreal diseasem she admitted maybe Anne had a point about choice.

Another day, a casually dressed man, who said he was 28, came along. Scornfully, he said, “Give me a break. You’ve no business being here on the streets telling poor women what to do.” He said that in relationships “sometimes things get out of hand.” Then he said that he was gay and had just broken off a relationship and now tested HIV positive.

“The Lord loves everyone,” replied Anne, “but He doesn’t always like what you do. Tell me, do you think that people with AIDS, who are often unwanted, shoul dbe killed?” “Of course not,” he replied. “Well, that’s what is happening to babies in abortion,” She explained. He seemed surprised and stayed for a while longer to talk about abortion. When heleft, he muttered maybe abortion wasn’t such a good idea after all. In parting, Anne said, “God love you.”

But not all passerby are so amenable. A man at the tavern next door. Once staggered out the door, looked at Anne’s sign, and said, “Children shouldn’t be having children.” “Children shouldn’t be having sex,” replied Anne. “Do you like sex?” he asked. “Do you like drinking?” She asked him. “Yeah, too much,” he replied as he zigzagged down the street.

Picketing isn’t what Anne looks forward to either, but she thinks that if someone can learn the truth about abortion, then it’s wothwhile. “People on the street are sad souls. If you can give them a moment’s pleasure just by saying hello, then why not? The Lord asks us to be faithful and to give Him a few hours a week. It’s no big deal.”

Barbara, who spent 18 days in jail after the 1989 Operation Rescue, recalls one bitterly cold day last winter when she fel ill and almost didn’t come to picket. Hat very day though, she and Anne helped a confused woman at the abortuary door to change her mind about abortion. They brought her to Aid to Women, which referred her to a pro-life doctor and gave her financial help. Just two years earlier, they had done the same thing for another confused immigrant women, who was destitute but who wanted to have her baby. Last month, the grandmother of that baby, now one year old, visited Canada from another country. She sent Barbara and Anne the baby’s picture and phoned to tell them, “I’ll never, never forget what you both did to help save my grandchild.”


Joanne Dieleman, also a seasoned picketer and now director of Aid to Women, spends much of her time now working behind the scenes giving practical help to distressed pregnant women. For instance, shortly after the Morgentaler abortuary was destroyed, a pregnant woman watched the report on TV.She was in an abusive relationship and did not know where to get help.

She heard about Campaign Life Coalition on TV and called them. She was sent to Joanne, who immediately accompanied her to a Justice of the Peace to obtain a peace bond for her protection. The she brought the destitute woman and her two small children some groceries, connected her to a pro-lifer who donated a bed, and sat the woman down for a practical lesson on how to deal with her abusive boyfriend and how to budget her next welfare cheque. “She’ll be all right; she just needed protection and support in a bad situation,” says Joanne, who will keep in touch with her.

“Often pro-lifers are accused of not caring for the pregnant woman andnot helping her,” says Joanne. She says it’s unjust criticism. “We do help quietly, behind the scenes, as volunteers. People don’t know about our work.” A few sayd later, she helped to move a young woman who was staying at Aid to Women, temporarily, to a more permanent place with apro-life family until she has her baby. In her “spare” time, Joanne has written a pamphlet, “Sidewalk Counselling Saves Babies” to help new pro-lifers on the street. Life is never dull for this mother of eight grown children.

Recently, Tom and Mary did something different. They attended the baptisms, one a Catholic and the other Baptist, of two babies whom they had halped save from abortion last fall. On both occasions, the grandmothers of each baby singled them out in gratitude for their help in saving their grandchildren.”When you see a bab baptized, who was saved from abortion,” says Mary, “you think there but for the grace of God might have gone another innocent.” But immediately she and Tom Shrug off any credit. They insist that they just happenned to be in the right place at the right tie and that any credit for a saved baby goes to all pro-lifers who witness on the street.