On December 17, ten people were arrested for blocking access to Edmonton’s four-month-old abortion “clinic.”
By blocking the rear and front entrances, they violated the terms of a blanket injunction that was obtained by the “clinic” after the first Operation Rescue on November 17.
At 7:00 a.m. on a very crisp winter morning, rescuers went to a special Mass offered for them in a church a few blocks away from the abortuary. They proceeded over to the “clinic” at 8:00 a.m., and were there for only half-an-hour before police appeared, read them the injunction and arrested them.
When they refused to sign an undertaking saying they would not return to the abortuary, Madam Justice Elizabeth McFadyen gave three of the protesters six-day jail terms each. They were: Lianne Laurence, 32, The Interim’s western correspondent, her younger sister Maryann, 20, and seminarian Gary Brisbois, 29.
Also participating in the rescue were Miss Laurence’s parents David, 59, and his wife, Christine, whose 59th birthday was that day, and Aaron Jacejko, 18, John Kirk, 63, and Maureen Wight, 40. These five agreed to sign the undertaking which stated that they would not return to the “clinic” until the time of their next court date. The judge deferred hearing their case until January 23.
Two others, Luke Laurence, 17, and Kimberly Manweiler, 16, also refused to sign the undertaking but since they were young offenders, Justice McFadyen did not know if it was in her jurisdiction to send them to jail.
They returned to court the next day and admitted they had breached the injunction by blocking the entrance to the abortuary.
Their court appearance was scheduled for January 20, and the judge, apparently uncertain what he should do with them, asked that a pre-sentence report be prepared before he decides what they should receive as punishment.
Edmonton lawyer James Brown offered the protesters his services free of charge. They were only too glad to accept. “They are up against all these high powered lawyers with no one to represent them. I felt it was time I did something,” he told the Alberta Report in an interview.
On January 7, Lianne Laurence returned to the abortuary and promptly was arrested for entering the rear compound of the “clinic” and trying to persuade clients against abortions.
She put pictures of aborted babies under the windshield-wipers of cars of the girls waiting for abortion, only to have some of them thrown back in her face.
At the time of her four previous court appearances, Ms. Laurence had acknowledged that she had broken the injunction.
This time, however, she told the judge that she didn’t recognize the injunction and could not follow an unjust law. Justice J. B. Feehan (not notably pro-life) pointed out to her, “Yu haven’t saved any babies by going to jail.”
After she quoted St. Thomas Aquinas (13th century Catholic philosopher) to the effect that no one is bound by an unjust law, the judge that he had studied Thomistic philosophy and urged her to try and change the law.
“No one is putting you in prison because of your convictions. They’re putting you in jail because you don’t obey the law. So for goodness sake change the law.”
Because Miss Laurence didn’t admit to breaching the injunction, the judge was unable to sentence her and postponed the hearing until January 10.
The “clinic” lawyer, Ellen Ticoll, former spokesperson for Edmonton’s Planned Parenthood, was left to prove she had breached it. The next day when Miss Laurence returned to the abortuary trying to talk women out of having abortions, she was arrested again.
In the hope of offering a defence for her, Michael O’Malley, President of Campaign Life Calgary, arrived in Edmonton. The two appeared before Justice David C. McDonald, who postponed sentencing until there was an official motion by Ms. Ticoll.
The judge said he would consider allowing Mr. O’Malley to speak in Miss Laurence’s defence.