In the early morning hours of March 7, fax machines in the newsrooms of British Columbia were buzzing with the message “Rescue in progress. Stop the violence.”
Responding to the many voices echoing the significance of International Women’s week, three women with equally important message decided to do their part to expose a view often downplayed by the media.
“In trying to uphold and support equality and freedom of choice for women, society has opted for still another social solution which brings inequality, destruction and death to the weakest member of the human family, our children, the unborn.”
Jen Ziemann, Kathryn Walker, and Pamela Birch arrived at the Vancouver East abortuary to block the clinic entrance in protest against “this particular structure of violence,” and to “ask women and men to work on strategies which will bring an equality without violence.” We look for answers that women and their children can live with in peace, they stated.
At the scene, the media encountered a blood-spattered building, representing the wasted blood of the innocent children terminated inside its walls. Upon arrival the police read a 1989 Supreme Court injunction which prohibits blocking the facility’s entrance. The women stood their ground and were arrested.
On March 14, they were convicted of criminal contempt and jailed. The three veteran activists (all had previously been convicted for the same offences) were given strong rebuke by B.C. Supreme Court Judge Mary Saunders who told them that repeat offenders are subject to more severe penalties. “The order must not be flouted. Here you were interfering with someone else’s civil rights to enter the premises,” she said.
Birch was sentenced to three months. Walker, who is five months pregnant, was given a two-month sentence. Ziemann, convicted of the same crime three times last year, was given five months.
Two days later, on March 16, 15-year-old rescuers “Charlene” and “Sheryl” were arrested at the scene of the first rescue. Their trial was set for April 5.
Maurice Lewis, who is well known for his pro-life work in the United Kingdom, was also arrested along with the two teenagers. In fact, Lewis was present at the abortuary for sidewalk counseling and offered prayers for the rescuers. Noticing one exit door was not covered and staff was preparing to open it, he promptly blocked it. Police arrived and read him the injunction. At this point, Lewis left.
Upon urging from clinic staff, the police followed Lewis down the block and arrested him as he entered his truck. He appeared in court on March 24 and was sentenced to two months in jail. His sentence was unusual because this was his first arrest and he was not afforded the opportunity of signing an undertaking, in lieu of a sentence, as is customary in such cases.
The Vancouver media has given very little coverage to the rescuers. Pro-life activists are encountering stiff opposition in drawing attention to their message in a province which continues to have one of the highest abortion rates in the nation.