On May 24, ten people entered the Reproductive Health Clinic of Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital and blocked the corridor leading to the examining room. Six of the people were locked together in two groups of three by means of kryptonite bicycle locks around their necks.
The purpose of the action was to close the clinic down for the day. While abortions are not done at the clinic itself, it is the preparation room for those done at Royal Alexandra Hospital. The women are seen by a gynaecologist, have a pelvic examination, complete the necessary forms, and are booked for an abortion at the hospital’s Women’s Pavilion the next day. The reproductive health clinic is not in the hospital but is housed in an office building across the street. Direct Action for Life decided that to do a rescue in the hospital would endanger the lives of women there for legitimate medical procedures. The activists refused to reveal their names, asking to be called “Baby John or Jane Doe.” They fasted all day Tuesday because “going to the washroom would be kind of awkward.” Direct Action appointed counsellors in the hope that they would be able to speak to the women coming in to book abortions. This was a difficult task since the clinic is on the second floor of the office building.
The action was a success. The clinic was closed down for the day and no charges were laid. Some women rescheduled although it is certain that some appointments were cancelled. Normally “clinic” staff sees ten women each day and at least seven abortions are done each day at the Alex. Women come from as far as the Northwest Territories and Fort McMurray (300 miles north of Edmonton). There is a three-to-four week waiting period at the clinic.
Forced to leave
The day’s only incident took place when the clinic closed. One of the participants wants to retrieve the keys to the locks. He gave one of these keys to the security guard, who then refused to return it unless each rescuer gave name, address and date of birth. Since no one wished to comply with such a request, the key was left behind, and one group of three were forced to leave the premises still locked together, much to their chagrin and to the delight of the media. (There were, of course, extra keys, far removed from the scene.)
On June 1, Direct Action picketed the Hys Centre building where the hospital “clinic” is located. The five picketers discovered an injunction had been posted, prohibiting picketing, demonstrating and handing out of literature within 100 feet of the entrances of Hys Centre. It also prevented people from watching and besetting and trespassing. Two pro-lifers decided to defy the injunction and picket near the entrance, while others did the same across the street. Although the police were called, no arrests were made. Another six defied the injunction the next day.
A lawyer consulted by Direct Action described the injunction as “ridiculous” on account of its sweeping terms. It also appears that the plaintiffs-the Royal Alexandra Hospitals and Canadian Urban Equities – are suing those named in the Statement of Claim for $500,000. However, the same layer states that there is no intention to collect the money or to bring the suit to court, but rather to have the interim injunction remain in effect indefinitely.
Direct Action sees picketing and leafleting near the “clinic” entrances vital. This is where women can be given pro-life information and can be intercepted. The organization reports that because of the information distributed and the presence of the pro-lifers outside the building, a couple did indeed decide against an abortion.
Other activities of Direct Action include picketing abortionists at their homes and offices, picketing Planned Parenthood, and leafleting schools (at a future date).
The group is an ad hoc committee. Others will join them for major pro-life protests. On the day of the Queen Alexandra rescue, for example, a group of pro-lifers remained outside the building the entire day showing support for those inside.