‘I am wondering how I got myself into this situation, just because I am opposed to the killing of unborn children’
Cambridge, Ont. pro-lifer Anneliese Steden shares some of her thoughts during the Feb. 2-3 “bubble zone” trial, in which she, Linda Gibbons, and Rev. Ken Campbell were accused of “obstructing a peace officer” at a protest outside Toronto’s Scott abortuary last Sept. 9.
We must not only love our neighbour as ourself, but behave as if we did.
– Mary Ward
Feb. 2, 1999
College Park, Toronto
I have been in this courtroom several times before, but always coming in from the other side, handcuffed to Linda, my co-accused. Today I am free – on bail, that is – and I and my other co-accused, Rev. Ken Campbell, are invited by the court to take our seats inside the enclosure that marks the court, as opposed to “court-room,” where the public sits. Soon after the judge has declared the court “in session” Linda is brought in by an officer, handcuffed. After she has entered the “dock,” her handcuffs are removed. We have all stood up as Linda entered, as a sign of respect for her. We cannot say anything, for fear that the judge will clear the courtroom, so we just stand to honour our heroine.
To anyone in the pro-life movement, trials involving our members are always considered life-and-death affairs, since the issue of abortion concerns life and death. It is always puzzling that relatively few members of the media are present, although the courtroom is full to overflowing, and people are sitting on the floor.
My stomach is churning, because I am a law-abiding citizen and yet I am accused of breaking the law, for picketing at the Scott abortion clinic in Toronto, which is protected from demonstrations immediately around the building by a government injunction.
All three of us were arrested on Sept. 9 last year. Linda is still in jail. I was released on Nov. 18, after two and a half months. Rev. Campbell was not in jail this time. The place is full of echoes for me, because in the past, while I was a prisoner, I was also where Linda came from just before the trial: down in the bowels of College Park, in a room called the “bull-pen” which is shared by up to 30 women criminals awaiting trial. The noise in the “bull-pen” is deafening, and the keyed-up women tell their soul-destroying stories in indescribable language. The room itself is made of stone, with stone benches, so that no object may be used as a weapon.
The memories rather unnerve me, but out in the hall just before the trial today I ran into a former fellow-inmate, a lesbian, who kissed my hand and told me that she misses me!
Eventually the judge takes our plea of “not guilty,” and the Crown makes her opening statement. Although we were all arrested for breaking the injunction, we are charged with “obstructing a peace officer.”
Our lawyers take turns with the Crown in hearing the testimony of the arresting officers. In the two days of the trial (to be continued Mar. 1) four police officers and one peace officer (the sheriff who read the injunction to us just before we were arrested) take the stand. Although all are under oath, the answers to the lawyers’ questions vary considerably, and every time they do, there is a twitter running through the courtroom.
Court adjourns at 4:30, and my husband and I enjoy a drink in the bar at our hotel.
Feb. 3, 1999
College Park, Toronto
I am just as nervous, or more, because today I might have to take the stand. I don’t enjoy the questioning of either the lawyers or the Crown.
I am wondering how I got myself into this situation, just because I am opposed to the killing of unborn children.
According to the Canadian Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms, the word “injunction” means a “court order instructing a defendant to refrain from doing something that would be injurious to the plaintiff, or face a penalty. The usual procedure is to issue a temporary restraining order, then hold hearings to determine whether a permanent injunction is warranted.”
Our “temporary” injunction has been in place since 1994, and has not been moved to trial. The injunction is accompanied by a damages claim of $500,000 against 16 defendants, and covers six other locations in Ontario besides the Toronto abortion clinics.
My thoughts during the two days of trial were all over the map: How did we arrive at the ruthless killing of unborn babies in this country? In 1984 Dr. Morgentaler was arrested for opening his first abortion clinic in Toronto; since 1994 pro-lifers are getting arrested for picketing and praying on public sidewalks in front of abortion clinics in that same city. Abortion clinics have charitable status, while pro-life groups like Alliance for Life and Human Life International are losing it. The United Nations has dramatically escalated its war against the unborn, while the Convention on the Rights of the Child is promoting “reproductive rights” from the age of 10.
Canadian law declares the child an “un-person” until fully out of the womb and the cord is cut. No one seems to remember that there is no constitutional “right” to abortion in this country, or that, on the contrary, the majority opinion in the 1988 Morgentaler decision stated that the “State has an interest in the fetus, and that the rights of women and the rights of unborn babies have to be balanced,” and that Parliament has the authority to do so.
The injunction, moreover, which prohibits us from picketing closer than 60 feet, is fashioned like labour legislation, not at all with a living human being in mind. The facts are not at all reflected: Many women go to these places under duress, and are willing to accept help, even at the last moment. That is why we have to be there and be completely accessible to women about the enter.
The injunction purports to defend the business interests of the abortionist – that is, if a baby is saved, the abortionist loses his fee! Yet we can prove that women are thankful for our offers of help. Inside the Metro West Detention Centre, inmates thanked us for our efforts and were appalled that we were arrested and incarcerated.
To some people abortion is a human rights issue. It is interesting to note that Linda Gibbons’ son is in the military and serves with NATO, engaged in peacekeeping and defending human rights on behalf of his country. When he comes home he finds that his mother is a “criminal” for defending the human rights of unborn babies!
After Mar. 1, I, too, might be a criminal in the eyes of the law. My defense is a higher law: “Whatever you do for these, the least of my brethren, you do for me.”