On August 23, 1989, a grandmother of 80 years, a 76-year old priest and 11 youths under 18 were among 91 people arrested for peacefully blocking access to the Morgentaler’s Toronto abortuary. What made that sweet grandma and others face criminal charges?

Criminal charges for a sit-in? Yes! What was trespass has been, since May 5, contempt of an Ontario Supreme Court injunction banning any pro-life counselling, picketing or sit-ins near Margentaler’s Harbour Street abortuary.

Apparently there are some expressions that the Charter does not protect. Like an expression of love and concern towards a woman which may cause her to decide to keep her baby rather than pay Henry to kill it. But there are other expressions the Charter does protect. A Winnipeg pornography distributor was recently acquitted of 242 obscenity charges because a Manitoba judge found the Charter of Rights to protect his right to express incest, group sex and homosexual bondage through his videos.

A Charter of Rights that protects the expression of perversion? While, under the Charter, to express concern to a woman and offer to help her keep her baby is a criminal offense? An offense that a total of 10 priests and pastors are now charged with?

Of the 91 arrested on August 23, 15 are still in custody as of the time of writing, August 30. And how were they treated? The grandmother and the other women were strip-searched – a standard search for drugs and weapons, I’m sure. The men, including the 76-years-young priest and two pastors were also strip-searched.

Six women and nine men are still in prison. They refuse to sign a condition for release that says they will not go back to try to save more women and babies from being victimized by abortion. Yet when charged with being a criminal abortionist in 1983, Morgentaler was released without condition. He refused to sign that he would not continue to kill babies. But then, can we expect justice from a “justice” system which legalizes and protects baby killing? Which protects pornography of the most graphic violence as “freedom of speech” and grants a court injunction against Christian counselling?

While those who practice civil disobedience are prepared to suffer the consequences of their actions, incarceration is never pleasant. So on August 27, to encourage the pro-life women prisoners; we held a Sunday evening prayer vigil outside the maximum security Toronto West Detention Center, where they are being held. Were the authorities angered by 500 quietly praying and singing people in the soft glow of candle light?

For two days after the vigil, the women were denied soap, towels, showers, medication, eye glasses, Bibles and sanitary napkins.

During one of those days, their only food was a single sandwich. They had been in the same clothes for six days. They were forced to sleep in overcrowded cells while others stood empty. When confronted with the facts of this inhumane treatment, the prison officials told the press that the ladies must have lost their soap or had it stolen. They said the women were receiving standard treatment and that there had been no attempt to break them. If so, why did they receive new cells, soap, clothes and have Bibles returned on Tuesday evening?

You say this can’t happen in Canada. It is happening in Canada, in Toronto the good.

Technologically we are the most advanced civilization that has ever existed, yet perhaps the most morally bankrupt. Not even the animals kill their young, yet we have turned one of our most respected professionals – our doctor – into a contract killer.

We have a justice system that strip searches grand-mothers and priests for daring to interfere with contract baby-killing. Only 20 years ago, the killers would have been the ones in jail. This is not civilization, it is a new barbarism, a new thick blackness.

Steve Hill is minister of Newmarket Christian Fellowship Church