Regular picketers are those who make a commitment to picket regularly, when they can, weekly or monthly. Like the originals, the regular are consistent witnesses for the pre-born child and are the mainstay of visibility on the picket line. More are needed to relieve or replace those who can no longer come, either on the picket line or inside the Way Inn. They include Patrick, a community college math teacher in Hamilton, who became aware of abortion in the ‘70s by reading pro-life journals. A long-time picketer, he comes once a week after school.
Anne Sr. is an articulate mother who pickets faithfully, often with her daughter Anne who is a university student. Anne Jr. recalls her mother screening political candidates at the door, during elections, about their pro-life positions. Inspired by this concern, Anne became more aware of the issue and now pickets frequently.
Claire comes weekly “to see if I can deter someone from going in there.” A life-long Liberal until the Charter of Rights excluded protection for the unborn, Claire now feels picketing is her most visible protest.
Edith, a retired office worker, is a new regular. She pickets “because I may be next with euthanasia.” Retired a few months ago, she wants to relieve or replace “burnouts.” She travels an hour-and-a-half on public transportation from Brampton.
Catherine, a nurse, mother and grandmother – who also spends an hour each way getting to and from the abortuary – comes on her day off. Disgusted with the government, she wants to do something active for the unborn and comes as a witness “to the horror.” She is consoled by the like-minded people who come to the picket.
Patricia, also a retired nurse, mother and grandmother, has been coming quite regularly since the abortuary opened. Resolute about her job as a picketer, Patricia counsels at the rear and is never nervous about her responsibility “to come here, do a job and bear witness to the unborn.”
Julie is a pleasant, pensive mother of five, who first organized “Second Harvest” for the hungry in her suburb. When she heard about the second (Scott) abortuary opening, she became alarmed. “What’s the point of feeding the hungry when we’re allowing babies to be killed in the same city?” She has been a regular picketer for two years and helps with Operation Rescue.
Next is blonde and blue-eyed Cathy, recently married, and a nursing student at the University of Toronto, who often counsels at the back. She comes because “I’m horrified at what goes on inside this place.”
Steve is a university math student who became aware of abortion in high school, when he used to picket on his lunch hour. He has been a regular, several times a week, for three years, and enjoys talking to Peter, the dock worker, about life.
The picketers make their own fun. For example, one cold day I saw Sister Mary, who is a lovely older lady, former high school principal and teacher, who says “I come here to protest that this place should still be open. It’s the very least I can do.” She and Peter were the only picketers on that frigid morning. Peter introduced me to Sister Mary, explaining that when he first met her he thought she “was single and eligible.” Peter, a widower, then confides “She’s single, Sweetie, but can you imagine, she’s also a sister. Imagine my tough luck.” He chuckles with mischievous glee.
Occasional picketers are those who “drop in” on the picket line for an event, but not regularly. They are a boost to the regulars and most welcome. I met many occasionals (I am one) who attended the last 24-hour prayer vigil on December 10, to protest the abortuary opening four years ago.
Here I met Joe, a handsome, aspiring writer, son of pro-life activist parents, who pickets “to protest the banality of evil that is so common in our society; like the killing that goes o inside the abortuary, unnoticed and condoned by the public, often good people who do nothing to protest or stop it.”
John is an intense young father of two, grandson of a well-known English journalist, and son of parent writers. He says his pro-life upbringing was cemented at a Catholic university. Shyly, he confides he “should be here more often,” echoing the thoughts of many picketers.
Peter, a burly, bearded graduate student at the Center for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, is a congenial, well-spoken picketer who has picketed on and off since the abortuary opening. Raised in a Newfoundland family which “considered abortion reprehensible,” Peter makes time to picket “not because I’m doing good necessarily for the pro-life cause, but the alternative – to do nothing – is worse. That would signify capitulation or despair.” He finds that “coming here is a way of salving your own conscience, although one doesn’t expect success to come of it.”
Greg, a middle-aged businessman, husband of Natalie and father of three daughters (who all picket) has just begun to picket after realizing, “We must first stop the killing and only then can we have a gentler, kinder society.” He and his family will shelter a pregnant woman in their home because his wife, Natalie (a nurse), successfully intervened with a troubled expectant mother at the rear of the abortuary. She will live with them for a while. Greg feels blessed, saying “The more I give away financially to the pro-life cause, the more I keep getting back.”
Larry, a high school teacher, pickets on Saturdays and, along with Mike, oversees the Way Inn. Both are bachelors and see this as their opportunity to contribute actively to the pro-life cause, when others with families cannot. Since last November, the abortuary has operated on Saturdays and has remained closed on Mondays, which allows those unable to picket on weekdays to do so on Saturdays.
On the occasions of well-attended prayer vigils, I have seen groups of high school students and groups of women from outlying areas such as Brampton. These include Marriet, a mother of five who comes weekly, and Gayle, also a busy mother of four, who says, “Everyone should come and see this place. It makes you cold inside.”
From Whitby comes Mary Louise, who sacrifices her only day off during the week to join her friend, Corrie, a veteran pro-lifer, the mother of seven and a grandmother, who pickets to “work against abortion. There is little else that I can do that is visible.”
Also from Whitby comes Johanna, with her 90-year-old Dutch-born widower friend, who insists on riding his bicycle to her house before accepting her ride to Toronto to picket. On the bleak day I met him he had passed up his usual seniors’ meeting to picket.
From Thornhill came Ruth, Stella, Irene, Alice and Mary Ann who spend hours traveling on the subway. Other people I have seen include a few university professors from St. Michael’s College, a few senior physicians, teachers, business people, a young lawyer and his law student wife, a warehouse worker, many home-makers, an occasional priest or minister, a rare R.C. bishop and many others I don’t know.
And yet despite the shining example of so many self-sacrificing picketers, there is still something about the public necessity of picketing that rubs me the wrong way. However, I know that in my head, to do nothing is wrong. In my heart, I know that I must do something. Something that is active to witness for the unborn…See you on the picket line.
Grace Kelly wrote her article before Ontario Supreme Court Justice Craig imposed an injunction May 5 on pro-life picketing outside the Morgentaler abortuary.