WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Joining pro-life champion Linda Gibbons, left, in protest across the street from Woman's Health Options, were Patty Hwong and Marion Biollo.
Standing outside of the Back Porch, Linda Gibbons looked harmless enough. A 64-year-old grandmother, diminutive in stature, she was bundled up in her winter jacket, and also wore a scarf and mitts.
She held a sign that read, "Pregnant? Need help? 800-712-HELP"
One would never guess from her appearance that she has been arrested 22 times, and spent more than 10 of the past 20 years behind bars.
In her hometown of Toronto, she often protested at the Morgentaler Clinic, and police have arrested her multiple times for violating injunctions that prevent her from protesting within 120 metres of Toronto abortion clinics. While the injunctions have been labeled "temporary," they have continued since 1994 - almost 20 years ago.
"They have made up injunctions that basically say I'm forbidden to be in that area (the 'bubble zone'). It's a suppression of human rights, our freedom to be there, our freedom to associate with others, our freedom to have our convictions and act them out on the street," said Gibbons.
She has been jailed for her peaceful protests, with judges refusing her bail unless she promises to stop the protests outside of abortion clinics. She refuses to abide by those conditions, convinced she is answering the broken cry of humanity.
Gibbons was in Edmonton for three days, Nov. 22-24. She protested with others in front of Women's Health Options on Nov. 22.
"I was asked to stand in solidarity with the local pro-lifers and the unborn lives that are being taken across the street. I'm here to pray and witness," said Gibbons.
She told the WCR abortion treats the fabric of society in a relativistic way, changing the population through abortion, reducing the number of young people willing to support the health care costs of seniors, opening the door to euthanasia.
The next day she spoke at St. Joseph's College about her experiences in jail. She spoke too about her efforts to raise funds for Mary Wagner, another pro-life champion currently in jail for abortion clinic protests. Wagner is trying to bring a legal challenge to Canada's abortion law and to change the legal status of the unborn in Canada.
On Aug. 15, 2012, Wagner was charged with mischief, interference with lawful operation of a business and breach of a court order, as a result of her peaceful outreach to pregnant mothers at a Toronto abortion facility. Her crime? She offered women there a rose and pro-life counseling.
Of her own anti-abortion protests, Gibbons said that in some instances, she is able to reach some women who then turn away from abortion.
"There are other babies whose mothers have not responded in love. At that moment, we are here to be in solidarity with that child, on the last day of his life, that he not be alone, that there be someone to mourn him, pray for him, that he has not died hidden away where no one recognizes the sanctity of his life," said Gibbons.
Her presence at the abortion clinic, she said, at the very least gives that unborn baby some respect in his or her final moments.
Some residents living near the abortion clinic have complained about her presence, saying she should not be there. Her response is that these babies are visiting their neighbourhood too, and she asks what those people are doing for unborn babies.
"Do you really want a human extermination centre on your street?" she tells them.
Gibbons said she feels called by God to continue her fight against abortion - whether she's in prison or not.
In prison she has led pregnancy counseling and chastity education, preached the Gospel and organized Bible study groups. Other female inmates would approach her about their problems such as drug addiction, prostitution or shoplifting.
In Edmonton, the Back Porch is directly across the street from the abortion clinic. In Toronto, a property was subdivided so that an abortion clinic was on one side and Gibbons' pregnancy crisis centre on the other.
"If you go upstairs in our office and stand in the hallway, you can hear the suction machine running next door."
The authorities told her that she could no longer continue with her ministry without being arrested and no longer protest along the public sidewalk. The injunction created an unprecedented legal situation, she said.
In October 2012, Gibbons was awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal, nominated by Tory MP Maurice Vellacott. The MP made note of the hypocrisy when abortionist Henry Morgentaler is honoured for killing more than 5,000 babies, yet women like Gibbons and Wagner are imprisoned for trying to save babies.