In one year, Operation Rescue – the grassroots movement to directly and peacefully prevent the deaths of pre-born children – has swept North America. It has raised the strongest challenge to institutionalized child-killing in twenty years. Now, under the name of Operation Sauvetage, it emerged in the heart of Henry Morgentaler’s abortion empire.
On May 26, 62 people drawn from a loosely-knit coalition of pro-life groups barred the front and side entrances to the Morgentaler’s Montreal “clinic”. Of these, thirty-nine had travelled over-night from Toronto. They combined with their fellow Quebecois rescuers to pack the abortuary steps at 8:30 a.m. Another 60 pro-life supporters circled the bungalow-style “clinic” in the quiet, residential neighbourhood of Tetreaultville in east-end Montreal.
“We want to block entrances to the clinic so there will be no abortions today. It’s about time we got off our butts and did something,” said Operation Sauvetage spokeswoman Alice Lebel.
Montreal Urban Community (MUC) Police and some newspaper reports tended to overestimate the importance of the Toronto group. The Globe and Mail, for example, made the baseless allegation that, thwarted from picketing Morgentaler’s injunction—shielded Harbord Street abortuary, Operation Rescue Toronto planned and executed the Montreal action from start to finish.
“There would have been a rescue with or without us,” Kurt Gayle, a Toronto Operation Rescue leader told The Interim. “We were just happy to be able to participate and to help in the initial one, but all the planning – from assigning bilingual pregnancy counsellors to printing leaflets – was handled by the people of Operation Sauvetage.” He said.
To build self-confidence in its members, Gayle noted, Operation Sauvetage leaders invited experienced rescuers from Toronto to take part in the May 26 action, much as pro-life leaders asked veteran American rescuers to help out with Toronto’s first rescue in late October 1988.
A detachment of MUC police – some in riot gear of three-foot-long night sticks and plastic face masks – arrived at 11:30 a.m. in 25 vehicles. Since most of these were squad cars, capable of holding three prisoners at best, arrests dragged on for three hours – well into the afternoon.
Morgentaler “clinic” spokeswoman Judy Ann Martin claimed the rescue had little or no effect on the grisly business of the abortuary, despite the fact that a few women were turned away in the morning, that the neighbourhood was in an uproar the whole day and that Morgentaler planned to apply to Quebec Superior Court for an injunction similar to the one he had obtained in Toronto.
Police ferried the rescuers to four local police stations and charged them with mischief, disturbing the peace and illegal assembly. November court dates have been set. “The fact that they came down with charges means that they are concerned about rescue taking off in Quebec,” Gayle remarked. “The authorities clearly would like to deter people from future rescues by laying charges for the first group.”