Turn the other cheek, unless you're in an abortion clinic

Mary Wagner's civil disobedience would make Thoreau puke

OTTAWA — An anti-abortion activist who is currently in jail in Toronto has received one of the Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee medals intended to mark “significant achievements” by Canadians. Mary Wagner, 38, who has been repeatedly charged with mischief and violating court orders at abortion clinics, was nominated for the medal by Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott.

Vellacott told LifeSiteNews that he had arranged to have Wagner given a medal for “using civil disobedience to further a just cause.” I’m afraid this reflects the intellectual calibre of the pro-life movement very accurately. “Civil disobedience” implies a passive or negative resistance to the state, a non-violent refusal to comply with a law: the seminal example was Thoreau’s refusal to pay taxes to a warmongering government. When a pro-life protester invades a “bubble zone” around a private abortion clinic to express an anti-abortion message, that might, by a generous extension of principles, be considered an act of civil disobedience. I’m afraid Mary Wagner went just a little further than the phrase will allow.

…the appellant appeared at the Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic mid-morning on November 8, 2011, and somehow gained entry to the electronically controlled, secure waiting room of the Clinic. It is common ground that she was not welcome. Abortions are performed at the Clinic and the appellant is opposed to abortion. Once inside, she began talking to the patients who were in the waiting room. While no one testified as to what the appellant said to these patients, it is safe to assume that, as some of them ended up distressed and crying, the appellant was speaking to them about abortion.

Patricia Hasen, part-owner and employee of the Women’s Clinic, summoned the police and asked the appellant to leave the premises. She did not leave. The trial judge concluded, based on this evidence, that the appellant became, at least at that point, a trespasser on the premises. When Ms. Hasen tried to ameliorate the situation by moving her patients into a secure interior area of the Clinic, the appellant tried to follow. This led to something of a struggle at the doorway, with Ms. Hasen trying to close the door leading to this interior area, and the appellant trying to keep the door open so she too could enter this area. During this struggle, Ms. Hasen demanded several times that the appellant release the door. Eventually, Ms. Hasen was able to shut and secure the door.

“Civil disobedience” that involves invading a private premises and tussling with the people therein? Hey, why not steal the flat-screen TV and the good drugs while you’re in there? Thoreau would puke. Whenever I have a go at the pro-life movement I always get e-mails and comments from pro-lifers who insist that most of them are sane, sensible, and peaceful. I’m sure it’s true. In fact, I know it is. It’s also sort of irrelevant: if the pro-life movement cannot distinguish crazy people from sane ones, to the point of suffering from an irresistible propensity for making hero-martyrs out of the former, then it can expect to be treated as a social blight.

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