In early December, there were three days in hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto for the case against Mary Wagner for mischief and three counts of failing to comply with probation orders.
Wagner was arrested on August 15, 2012 at the Women’s Care Clinic abortion centre on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto after allegedly entering and attempting to counsel pregnant women to keep their babies.
On Dec. 6, abortionist Saira Markovic, medical director of the Women’s Care Clinic abortion mill, took the stand. LifeSiteNews.com reported that it was a “rare occurrence” for an abortionist to take the stand in a case against a Canadian pro-life counsellor. LSN’s research found that Markovic was a past recipient of the National Abortion Federation’s C. Lalor Burdick Award for “unsung heroes of the pro-choice movement,” served as a medical director of Toronto’s Morgentaler Clinic, and helped establish Morgentaler abortion mills in Ottawa and Fredericton. The Women’s Care website says Markovic “specializes in larger pregnancies from 16 to 20 weeks (a three-day procedure).”
Under questioning from the Crown Tracey Vogel, Markovic discussed the disruption in the abortion facility waiting room. She claimed the “disruption” caused by Wagner’s appearance and praying aloud onsite upset her patients in the waiting room and caused her to fear making a mistake such as perforating a uterus in her office. Markovic estimated the disruption lasted five to six minutes.
Defense counsel Charles Lugosi questioned Markovic about fetal development and abortion, yet Markovic downplayed her specialization in late-term abortions by saying most abortions she commits are on “embryos” at the five- to six-week point of pregnancy. She said “for me, it is a baby after birth, when they take their first breath. Beforehand, it is a fetus.” She acknowledged that an unborn child could have a heartbeat.
Lugosi’s lines of questioning drew constant objections from Vogel, who tried to keep questioning strictly within the confines of Wagner’s alleged disruption of the abortion centre. Vogel complained about Lugosi’s line of questioning: “This is a side argument … was the clinic interfered with? Period. End of question … the question is: did she interfere with the lawful enjoyment of property?”
Lugosi countered that Wagner’s legal defense revolves around the position that she was acting under Section 37 of the Criminal Code in attempting to rescue human beings from death. Section 37 justifies actions to defend “any one” under a person’s protection from assault. Lugosi contends that “any one” includes unborn children.
Lugosi began his cross-examination by inquiring how many women Markovic’s centre saw the day Wagner appeared onsite. Markovic first refused to answer the question, citing confidentiality, but after being ordered to answer by Judge Fergus O’Donnell, she said the number was 30, including at least more than one 14-year-old.
Although Markovic said she believes in choice, the Women’s Care Clinic will not allow pro-life literature of the kind carried by Wagner in her facility because the information contained therein is not correct. “I studied embryology. That’s not how (the fetus) looks,” said Markovic. Instead, her centre gives women a one-page information sheet of its own. Patients must sign the sheet, which includes death of the mother as a potential side-effect. Lugosi asked whether Markovic tells her patients that abortion kills an unborn human being. Markovic replied, “what do you think? I never tell them that.” Lugosi then asked whether she tells them she is simply removing tissue. Markovic replied in the affirmative.
After Lugosi handed Markovic a pamphlet entitled “When Life Begins,” Markovic replied angrily: “The patients don’t come to hear about embryology. They come for an abortion … they don’t need my voice teaching embryology … the majority of patients know what they want … they don’t come to me for housing, they come for an abortion … they want an abortion, not anything else … it’s my abortion clinic, it’s not a school.”
Markovic said, “my house is my clinic, this is my life …Someone (Wagner) came illegally inside my house … it’s not normal … why is someone invading my house, my property?”
Markovic said that Wagner called women baby killers, but then backtracked and said she told women they were killing their babies. “She’s imposing her beliefs on my patients,” said Markovic.
The day’s hearing concluded with the beginning of testimony by another Crown witness, Jane Yoon, a 25-year-old nursing student at the University of Toronto, who served as a receptionist at the abortion mill. Yoon said on the day in question, she saw Wagner crouched in front of a patient in the waiting room, speaking and holding a rose in her hand. Yoon said she asked Wagner three times to leave. The centre’s nurse manager came out and also asked her to leave. The pair then used “necessary physical force” to remove Wagner from the area, but did not hurt her, she said.
Asked to describe what force was used, Yoon wanted to refer to written notes she made about the incident on December 30, 2012 and December 2, 2013 – four and 16 months later, respectively. The second set of notes was made with the assistance of Vogel and Detective Constable Tammy Shewchenko of the Toronto Police Service. Lugosi objected, arguing that notes made for the refreshment of memory must be composed contemporaneously to the event in question. O’Donnell turned down the objection, however, and allowed Yoon to use the notes. Yoon described the physical force as “pulling” and said the entire incident lasted 10-15 minutes.
Court adjourned until the following week, when Yoon returned to the witness stand on Dec. 11 to be cross-examined by Lugosi. Yoon told the court she was not given instruction on how to handle protesters, nor was she ever given information regarding embryology or related matters.
Yoon said she asked Wagner to leave several times before office manager Khatija Akoojee came out and took charge of the situation. Yoon said Akoojee told Wagner the site was private property and to leave. Yoon said they then “went to her physically … the two of us combined pulled and dragged her” into the hallway and closed the door. Yoon admitted that Wagner was calm throughout the incident.
Lugosi asked why Yoon made notes of the incident months and well over a year after it happened. Yoon replied there was no reason to do so at the time.
Lugosi then asked whether there was video footage of the day in question and Yoon answered that there was, but it was erased two weeks later as is all footage taken at the centre after that time.
Constable Richard Mau of the Toronto Police Service was called as a Crown witness. He said he first received a report, based on calls from the centre, that there were three violent protesters at the abortion centre. This was later updated to encompass one violent protester and finally, no violent protesters.
When he arrived, he saw Wagner in the hallway with roses and pamphlets in hand, as well as roses on the floor. He said he asked Wagner to leave, to which she replied, “due to my beliefs and convictions, I choose to stay.” He said he and his police partner physically moved her toward the elevator.
Under cross-examination by Lugosi, Mau said he took no steps to preserve video footage of the incident. He also acknowledged he did not read Wagner her rights until after she had been placed under arrest, rather than when she was first detained. He acknowledged that she was co-operative.
Akoojee also took the stand. Now an emergency nurse with Trillium Health Care, she was head nurse/office manager at the abortion centre for two years. She said she first saw Wagner follow a couple into the centre and place pamphlets and roses in the waiting area. She said she told Wagner the site was private property, she was not allowed to be on the premises, and could not distribute pamphlets.
Akoojee denied abortion centre personnel were aggressive with Wagner and were simply trying to “back her toward the exit door” while ordering her to leave. She later said she took Wagner “by the shoulder” while telling her, “you don’t know about real life. You’re living in a bubble.”
Akoojee said she did not compose notes to refresh her memory about the incident until December 2013, almost a year and a half after the incident and with the guidance of Vogel and detective constable Tammy Shewchenko.
Questioned by Lugosi, Akoojee said about 30 women use the Women’s Care Clinic daily for “the removal of tissue.” Challenged by Lugosi on that terminology, Akoojee said, “I’m a medical professional. It’s tissue that’s being removed.” She said the abortion mill “is a business” and that Wagner sought to “enforce her religious beliefs.”
She said the abortion mill provides “informed consent” but insisted “it’s not a biology class … we never, ever give a lesson on embryology,” explaining, “we’re not there to teach anyone anything … an abortion clinic doesn’t go through the stages of life.”
Akoojee denied anyone from her centre called Wagner a “psycho” or “told her to ‘go f— yourself’,” or that anyone assaulted her.
The final Crown witness was April Cabaluna, another receptionist at the Women’s Care Centre. She has been employed there since April 2012 and continues to work at the centre. She said she first saw Wagner kneeling in front of a patient in the waiting area, asking her to reconsider her decision and offering her pamphlets and a rose. Wagner did not respond to subsequent requests to leave, so she called police. Cabaluna claimed Wagner was trying doors on locked rooms, knocking on windows, and becoming agitated when she couldn’t get in. She denied hearing Markovic swear or call Wagner names, denied that Akoojee threatened Wagner, and said she was scared at what Wagner might do.
On cross-examination by Lugosi, Cabaluna recanted comments made in her police phone call, in which she reported Wagner was “throwing fists.” She agreed with Lugosi’s suggestions that Wagner was gentle, nice, laid hands on patients in prayer, and asked them not to abort.
On Dec. 12, Wagner took the stand. Lugosi asked Wagner about her life and role models, to which she answered Mother Teresa: “She showed how our faith can be animated through loving our neighbor.” She also said she was influenced in her pro-life views by her parents, especially her mother’s difficult pregnancies, and Joan Andrews Bell, who has been arrested numerous times for her peaceful, pro-life activism.
Relocating to Toronto from British Columbia, Wagner said she was arrested in March 2010 while attending at a Bloor Street, Toronto abortion site. She did it, she said, because she felt “called to protect my neighbor who is in danger,” realizing that “each human life is precious and each human life begins at conception.”
Wagner said she has since been arrested some half-dozen times, serving a total of over two years in prison for her actions. “I’m not deterred by that. Human beings in the womb are worth protecting.” In response to be called a criminal by some who oppose her actions, Wagner said, “I hope people will see beyond human laws, human beings are being killed.”
She said she needs to be in abortion mills to provide information about the developing baby the women are carrying and to let them know there is support for both mother and child.
Asked by Lugosi about entering Makovic’s abortion facility, Wagner said she sought to protect babies from abortion and she does this by “approaching women with love.”
Wagner said she followed a couple into the site, approached a woman in the waiting room, and, kneeling down, offered her a rose and said, “this is for you. I’m here to support you and your baby.” She said she was soon asked to leave by Yoon.
Akoojee soon entered the waiting room, grabbed her, and tried to escort her out of the room. Wagner told her “this is an assault,” to which the office manager said “you can charge me if you want.”
In the hallway, Wagner resumed praying and said that was when Markovic came out and screamed at her, “you’re a psycho” and “go f— yourself.” Wagner alleged that Akoojee threatened her.
When police arrived, Wagner told them she would not leave voluntarily, because “staying here is the only way I can show love and respect to the children being killed.” She testified that she did not see any women crying, as abortion personnel claimed on the stand had happened.
Asked by Lugosi if there had been violence during the incident, Wagner said there had been. “Twenty babies were killed and I was assaulted physically and verbally.” She denied that her peaceful protest constituted verbal assault.
Wagner concluded by setting the stage for the planned constitutional challenge of Canada`s abortion law, stating that she was acting under Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which sanctions self-defense of a human being, and acknowledged the trial would serve as a test case in challenging the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, one is not considered human until fully born. She said that, because Parliament will not amend the abortion law of its own accord, she is taking it upon herself to do it.
The Crown attorney had no questions for Wagner. O’Donnell refused Lugosi’s request for unconditional bail for his client. The justice said the bail conditions were minimal and Wagner “has to make her choice … it’s not within my control.”
On Feb. 4, the Ontario Court of Justice will hold a hearing to consider Wagner’s standing for the constitutional challenge.
With files from LifeSiteNews