The persistence of pro-lifers

Mary Wagner has submitted herself to many years of incarceration in order to protect human life.

Canada, to its shame, offers no legal protection for children right up until the day they are born. Our politicians and our media elite ignore that reality – but we are fortunate that a few heroes keep up the seemingly hopeless fight (while most of the church seems willing to wait for the world to come to its senses).

One such hero is Mary Wagner, who is again before the courts for speaking out about abortion; she has been jailed many times for her peaceful attempts to talk expectant mothers out of taking the lives of their unborn children.

The 43 year old pro-life activist – originally from BC – was sentenced again September 12 in a Toronto court.

Life Site News reported the outcome the same day:

An Ontario judge sentenced pro-life activist Mary Wagner to 30 months probation and 50 hours of community service but stopped short of giving her more jail time, even though the Crown asked for a sentence of 18 months.

Justice Rick Libman of the Ontario Court of Justice cited letters attesting to Wagner’s character as well as her deeply held beliefs as mitigating factors when he sentenced her Tuesday for one conviction of mischief and two of breach of probation.

Libman found Wagner guilty August 15 of charges arising from her December 12, 2016, arrest at the Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic, where she tried to persuade women to choose life for their unborn children.

The judge told Wagner after convicting her that she could submit character references at the sentencing hearing. Hundreds of letters arrived, along with tens of thousands of emails and petition signatures.

Paul Schratz, communications director for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, sent the following letter September 1 (and urged others to do the same on his blog):

Attention:  The Honourable Justice Eric Libman

Dear Justice Libman:

As a journalist, I’ve been writing about Mary Wagner for nearly 20 years, and in that time I’ve marvelled at her gentle determination to stand behind her beliefs at great personal cost.

Like millions of Canadians, Mary believes respect for human life includes all stages of a person’s life. She considers the more than 100,000 lives lost to abortion in Canada each year a national tragedy, and she is willing to sacrifice her personal freedom in their defence.

In doing so, Mary carries on a long tradition of individuals willing to make enormous personal sacrifices to speak out against laws they consider wrongful. She herself has quoted Thoreau and his On the Duty of Civil Disobedience: “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator?”

Mary’s conscientious objection doesn’t receive the attention given to protesters who use more radical methods for more populist causes. Mary is seeking justice, not publicity, and as a result she has spent years in jail because she will not ignore those who have no one to represent them.

It strikes me that in a world where disagreement and protest increasingly flare into violent attacks, Mary’s peaceful, prayerful actions testify admirably to the place of non-violent conscientious objection in a civil society.

I respectfully ask you to consider Mary’s humility, peaceful nature, and desire to follow her conscience as she appears before the court. Our fractious, contentious society needs more Mary Wagners.

Several other examples of the persistence, even resurrection, of the pro-life cause have come to my attention lately:

Wesley J. Smith: Anti-euthanasia activist

Wesley J. Smith spoke to Legatus of Vancouver and LifeCanada last week. Photo by Kevin Fraser.

The second annual LifeCanada Gala Dinner sold out September 8 at The View on Lonsdale. The guest speaker, Wesley J. Smith, is a bioethicist and lawyer. An anti-euthanasia activist since 1993, he is still firmly committed to the fight, though not sanguine about the way things are going.

At a smaller event I attended the evening before (sponsored by Legatus of Vancouver), he said, “I came here with a heavy heart because what has happened here is God awful.” Euthanasia is being normalized in both the United States and Canada, he said, asking, “If it can happen in Canada, where can’t it happen?”

Smith’s topic at the LifeCanada dinner was “The Changing Face of ‘Do No Harm’ Medicine.” These quotes from his book Culture of Death (originally published in 2001, revised last year, with the subtitle ‘The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine’) give a sense of what drives him:

The first edition of Culture of Death . . . warned against the growing euthanasia movement that threatened the soul of Hippocratic medicine. When the book was published in early 2001, the discussion about assisted suicide and euthanasia was mostly a caveat of what I thought was likely to come. At the time, only one jurisdiction in the world – Oregon – had explicitly legalized assisted suicide (although the Netherlands had decriminalized the practice) . . .

Today . . . not only has the Netherlands formally legalized lethal injection euthanasia, but so too has Luxembourg. In 2002, Belgium instituted an even more radical regime of doctor-administered death than practiced by the Dutch – and the country subsequently embraced euthanasia with a deadly ardor that even surprised me. Meanwhile, Switzerland allows “suicide tourism” – in essence turning the land of the Alps into Jack Kevorkian as a country – to where many hundreds of suicidal people have taken a one-way trip to die in legal suicide clinics.

Worse is yet to come. Canada’s Supreme Court imposed a very broad euthanasia license across the country as a Charter right . . .

Responding to a question at the Legatus event about how we should respond, he said we should “talk liberal.” Euthanasia, he said violates principles of equality and protection of the weak. “What’s happening now is not liberal.”

Stephanie Gray: Talks at Google

Stephanie Gray was a hit on Talks at Google.

Stephanie Gray, based in Maple Ridge, created a bit of a stir in the Catholic media world earlier this year when she made a very successful appearance on Talks at Google.

A June 22 report from Catholic News Agency began this way:

A pro-life activist walks into Google’s headquarters and delivers a speech so compelling that within 24 hours, the online video of it surpassed a similar speech given by the head of Planned Parenthood.

It may sound like the start to a far-fetched joke, but on April 20th, pro-life speaker and activist Stephanie Gray did just that.

Gray was the co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and served as its executive director for several year before starting the ministry which she now runs, Love Unleashes Life.

She spoke in April as a part of the Talks at Google series, a program that brings a variety of speakers to the company’s headquarters to discuss their work. Gray has participated in more than 800 talks and debates on abortion.

Her Abortion: From Controversy to Civility video has been viewed more than 109,000 times now.

We Need a Law

It has been encouraging to see the clear purpose and determined activism of We Need a Law, based in the Fraser Valley, which works to “mobilize Canadians and persuade our political leaders to pass laws that protect children before birth.”
They point out:

Canada is the only democracy in the world which provides no legal protection for pre-born humans. This is a sad reflection on a country that prides itself on a high standard of human rights.

We know that the majority of Canadians want some protection for children in the womb. The gap between public opinion and public policy regarding abortion legislation is growing, and we need to increase pressure on our government to take action to end the injustice of almost 100,000 deaths each year in Canada.

We Need a Law points out that “Canada is way out of line with our international counterparts when it comes to protecting pre-born human rights,” comparing us with France, Spain and Germany.

Vancouver Life Chain

There have been Life Chains in Vancouver and around North America for decades now. The Vancouver Life Chain will take place at Women’s and Children’s Hospital (outside the bubble zone) at 29th and Oak October 1, 2 – 3 pm. (For information about Abbotsford, Burnaby, Langley and Surrey/Delta Life Chains go here.)

Here is the invitation:

All church and pro-life groups and individuals are invited to help make this a large grassroots movement in solidarity with other Life Chains across North America. Please arrive 15 minutes early to find parking and be in position by 2 pm. Feel free to bring a lawn chair if necessary for the elderly and infirm.

There will be no arrests at this event (as long as everyone takes note of the phrase ‘outside the bubble zone’). As I consider Mary Wagner’s pilgrimage and the upcoming Life Chain, though, I am reminded of other heroic people, including one of my former pastors and a current worship leader at our church who were arrested and jailed for many months for protesting outside abortion clinics. The struggle continues.

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3 comments for “The persistence of pro-lifers

  1. Nice job on the persistence of pro-lifers Flyn. To see the actual numbers of letters of support for Mary Wagner all over the world is very impressive. TY for all your work. Pastor John Kaptein

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