Angry abortion activists stormed the building. Police carried off 40 rescuers to waiting paddy wagons, including Joan Andrews, the U.S. pro-life activist released from jail October 18, and Joe Borowski, president of the Winnipeg-based Alliance Against Abortion. But six children were saved from certain death and their mothers from exploitation went pro-lifers successfully shut down Henry Morgentaler’s Toronto abortuary on October 29 in Canada’s first rescue mission.
Nearly 200 participated in the operation dubbed the “Mountain Rescue” in honour of Frank Mountain, the Ottawa pro-lifer paralyzed in a June care accident. About 75 risked arrest by crowding onto the front steps and into the back entranceway.
These and hundreds of others in 30 U.S. cities targeted in a National Day of Rescue provided a stay of execution for pre-born children and a second chance for the mothers.
First at the nondescript downtown building and first arrested was Fr. Paul Marx, 68, president of Human Life International (HLI), the Washington-based pro-life organization. Some Mountain Rescue participants were delegates to HLI’s 5th Annual International Conference underway in Toronto at the same time.
“This man came up to me and grabbed me,” said Marx. “He had no uniform on and didn’t show any identification, so I grabbed him back in self-defence.” The man turned out to be Morgentaler’s security guard. Police arrived soon after and the Benedictine priest was charged with trespass and assault. These charges were withdrawn October 31.
Early on the morning of the rescue, Anne Packer, one of the principal organizers, reminded the participants gathered for a strategy meeting that in the past three years, 15,000 children have been killed at the Morgentaler ‘clinic.’
“Please God, some day this place will be a museum that people go through and say, “how could they ever do that?” said the wife of David Packer, the constable dismissed in January 1988, from the Toronto police force for refusing to guard the abortuary. “But now we remember it and we know it, so please be aware you’re sitting in a death camp.”
The rescuers blocked the entrances to the Morgentaler clinic about 8:30 a.m. Staff members and at least 6 women seeking abortions were unable to breach the wall of bodies. Following the rules outlined for them earlier, the participants prayed for the victims of abortion – and for the victimizers. They sang hymns. They were unified, peaceful, and above all else, long-suffering toward those who hurled abuse at them.
“There are many more here than we expected as of just a few day ago,” said Mountain Rescue organizer, Kurt Gayle, 44, speaking from the front steps of the abortuary. “The spirit is just terrific. At this point, we’re stopping the killing. For how long, I don’t know, but right now, they’re not killing anybody,” he added.
Police decided by midday to leave the trespassing but peaceable rescuers where they were. “We were trying to avoid as much confrontation as possible,” said 14 Division Staff Sgt. Paul Johnstone.
At the same time, a phone call to the abortuary revealed that the Toronto rescuers had achieved their goal – the ‘clinic’ was closed for the day. No children would be killed October 29.
Cherrie MacDonald of the Ontario Coalition of Abortion Clinics (OCAC) later claimed the women turned away from the Morgentaler ‘clinic’ obtained their abortion at the Scott ‘clinic’ set up by Morgentaler’s former partner, Robert Scott, MacDonald and two Toronto dailies, however, failed to mention that Scott’s ‘clinic’ operates Monday to Friday only.
At 12:30, about 100 members of the OCAC – some of who had already participated in a downtown peace march – attempted to force a path through the clustered pro-lifers. One individual tried unsuccessfully to climb the barricade of bodies, while others dragged away rescuers who occupied the front yard of the abortuary.
“The contrast between the violent, obscenity-shouting abortion activists and the praying, singing, salt-of-the-earth rescuers were striking.” Said Albin Rhomberg, Director of the Center for the Documentation of the American Holocaust, in Toronto for the HLI conference.
“The confrontation began as soon as the other group cane in,” said staff Sgt. Johnstone. Police inexplicably delayed acting, but moved in about 1:00 p.m. to separate the two groups.
At the rear of the building by contrast, police responded quickly to the threatened attack of the abortion activists, in effect protecting the rescuers, said Paul Dodds, legal counsel to Campaign Life Coalition. Although one pro-abortion woman verbally and physically provoked a police constable, she was not arrested and eventually gave up her attempt to create an incident.
At the front, after a warning, police began to arrest the rescuers. Joan Andrews was one of the first carried or dragged to the waiting paddy wagon.
Police loaded the paddy wagons at a leisurely pace – on the average, filling one every half-hour. To the rage of the abortion activists, this meant that the doors were still blocked at 4:00 p.m., long after the clinic staff stops taking same-day appointments.
However, the arrested rescuers were driven all over the city for as long as two and a half hours, making some of their passengers ill before arriving at the local police station, said one angry rescuer.
The 40 rescuers were charged with breach of the peace. “They were all processed and released,” said Staff Sgt. Johnstone. “It wasn’t a dangerous situation, but more of a public nuisance.”
The Mountain Rescue is a “quantum leap” for the pro-life movement in Canada, says Joe Schiedler, President of the American Pro-life Action League. Pro-life in the U.S. waited for 15 years and 25 million children were murdered before beginning direct, non-violent action. Canadians are prepared to rescue their pre-born brothers and sisters a scant 9 months after the last barrier to legalized child killing fell away, he added.
Jim Hughes, President of Campaign Life Coalition, said he was deeply impressed with the prayerful dedication of the rescuers; a dedication he expects will result in a multiplication of rescues across the country.