The trial was a farce, yet it was a great moment in pro-life history. It was – as Charles Dickens wrote – the best of times and the worst of times.
The prosecutor had to prove that Morgentaler’s clinic suffered some financial hardship August 23 in order to make the case stick against the 76 Rescuers. He read a signed statement from Morgentaler stating that four women coming in for abortions cancelled permanently, but another four, dissuaded in the morning, came back in the afternoon for their abortions. If we can believe him, four babies were saved.
The biggest shot in the arm I got since Barbara Dodd rejected abortion outright and claimed that she had been manipulated by the pro-aborts came at the beginning of our court case, when the nine Rescuers who had refused to sign themselves out entered the courtroom to a thunderous standing ovation from supporters.
Why were they chained together? All any of them had to do to escape was to sign bail orders stating that they would not return to Morgentaler’s abortuary.
In the crowded, noisy courtroom, Dr. Alex Calder, the noble-looking past moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, turned to me excitedly:
“Isn’t it incredible to see Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals getting along so famously?”
I had to agree. If ever there was a genuine getting together and meeting of the minds, it was in that courtroom where we all faced the possibility of a $2000 fine and/or six months in jail for obstructing a police officer. Our differences – real as they are – were put on the shelf. But when Judge High Silverman reacted to a photo enlargement of a 16-week-old preborn child as if it were a dead cat, I knew we were in trouble.
Our lawyer, Paul Dodds asked pro-life physician Dennis Xuereb whether he thought the preborn child is to the man as an acorn is to the oak. Xuereb replied, “No, I don’t like it. An acorn is an inanimate object in one’s hand – quite separate from the oak. I prefer the analogy of a spring to a tree.”
Shortly after that, Silverman abruptly decided not to hear further evidence on the “humanity of an unborn child.” He obviously didn’t want to look at more pictures – large ones and in color – of unborn babies. Dr. Xuereb stepped down from the witness stand.
The trial was bizarre from the beginning. In marches Judge Silverman in his civvies, flanked by a young woman in black slacks and a bright sweater that would have been more in keeping at a rock concert. Additional benches had to be brought in at the last moment for the 160 spectators and accused. Even the large press contingent didn’t have anywhere to sit in the beginning. Shortly after starting late, Judge Silverman adjourned the court for his own dental appointment!
One lawyer represented all 76 of us! That’s got to be a record. Paul Dodds, legal counsel for Campaign Life Coalition, did a “herculean job” as Judge Silverman described it.
After Paul had finished with his witnesses, he asked for a recess so that he could talk to his clients. All the media, police, courtroom staff and the judge had to leave to give us some privacy. During this meeting, most of the rescuers wanted to know why they were wasting their time talking to that man. Rev. Ken Campbell and Dr. Alex Calder urged us to remain silent like Christ before Pilate.
Later, Dodds told the packed courtroom: “They have asked that I be removed. Each has said they will take a position of silence.”
A spokesman for the group, Rev. Steven Hill of Newmarket, told the judge that they had decided “to remain silent” in the light of his ruling: “We rest our case with the unborn’s silent screams.”
Only four of the 76 Rescuers said anything. One warned the judge that he will ultimately have to stand in judgment before God. Responded the judge: “The only judgment today is the one I am going to give.”
Silverman said that the protesters, by standing and sitting in front of the Morgentaler clinic, were in violation of a May 5 Ontario Supreme Court injunction preventing anyone from demonstrating at the abortuary.
“Everyone has to abide by that kind of order, otherwise we would have chaos and terrorism in our community,” he said.
“We already have terrorism,” someone in the crowded courtroom shot back. The judge threatened to clear the court.
Where was Judge Silverman when Henry Morgentaler ran his illegally Toronto operation for over three years? How could he lecture us on law and order when his fellow judges had failed to uphold what was then the law of the land?
The next day, Thursday October 5, Judge Silverman had no hesitation in deciding what had to be done. He made five points – “All of you have been found guilty of criminal offence.” – “Each and everyone of you are criminals by the law of the land.” – “You will not get a discharge because that would be contrary to the public interest.” – “You have thumbed your collective noses at the judges of this court. In fact you have said: I will not obey.” – “If we were to allow such conduct, we would have anarchy in this country.”
Silverman just about ruined the word “criminal” and “terrorist” for me. When someone mentions those words, I’ll think of who they’re not:
Rev. Ken Campbell, Rev. Steve Hill, Father Ted Colleton, Dr. Alex Calder, Rev. John Calder, Pastor John Foster, Linda Gibbons, Carol Snelgrove, Bob Barrows, and all the other law-abiding citizens of our group. I feel humble in the company I keep.
But when I hear the words “Ontario Supreme Court” and “injunctions,” I’ll think of the $83,000 in blood money that Morgentaler spent in getting his injunction.