Vancouver was the setting for the second Canadian Operation Rescue. On December 15, more than 100 rescuers blocked the entrances to the Everywoman’s Health Clinic, Vancouver’s first freestanding abortuary recently opened at 44th and Victoria Drive.
The rescuers followed the now standard practice of every Operation Rescue: they blocked the three entrances to the abortuary and then passed the time quietly in prayer and singing. When asked by police to move they refused and went limp as they were lifted on to stretchers for a trip to the paddy wagon. 73 rescuers were arrested and the abortuary was kept closed for six hours that day.
Operation Rescue began in the United States in November 1987 as an organized response to the sporadic rescues and sit-ins at abortuaries that had taken place for many years. Directed by evangelical clergyman, Randall Terry, Operation Rescue now counts the number of rescues in the hundreds and more than 9,000 people have been arrested. Operation Rescue has been a major advance for the pro-life movement as it has attracted the active participation of many Christians who had previously not been involved.
In Vancouver, among those arrested was Father Vincent Hawkswell, editor of the archdiocesan weekly the B.C. Catholic. Father Hawkswell said it had been difficult to make the decision to join the rescue, but that he would do it again to save lives.
“Now I have no hesitation,” he said. “We can’t have people deciding whether or not to kill their babies any more than we can have them choosing which side of the road to drive on.”
Following the rescue, Archbishop James F. Carney issued a stinging statement, supporting the rescuers and criticizing the arrests. Archbishop Carney is the first Canadian Roman Catholic leader to publicly support Operation Rescue, his remarks are as follows:
“Surely, the foundations of a free society are crumbling when police are called to a building where the destruction of human life is being carried out on a large scale, and the persons being carted off to jail are not the perpetrators of the killing, but the people who are protesting the killing.
“The police were performing their duty in arresting the protesters. The frightening danger is the situation is that apparently Canadians want this to be the duty of the police.
“Forty-five years ago Canadians couldn’t have imagined the legal existence of the present abortion clinics. Nor would they have been able to envision that apparently peaceful resistance could ever be considered a greater offense than the destruction that goes on in these so-termed “clinics.”
“There are times, there are situations when persons of right conscience conclude that peaceful resistance is justified. Provided their protests are peaceful and properly motivated, the protesters should be seen as conscientious objectors against the destruction of human life, and thus as defenders of the highest human values.