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Mary Wagner stands with supporters outside the courthouse after her release June 12, 2014. Tony Gosgnach / LifeSiteNews.com
Tony Gosgnach

Pro-life prisoner Mary Wagner found guilty, but released

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach
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Mary Wagner stands outside the courthouse June 12, 2014 right after her release. Tony Gosgnach / LifeSiteNews.com

TORONTO – After almost two years, Mary Wagner’s marathon trial on charges of mischief and failure to comply with probation orders finally came to an end in a north Toronto courtroom Thursday afternoon, with her stepping out to freedom amid hugs and congratulations from about three dozen supporters. But the case is far from over.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell found her guilty on all counts and sentenced her to five months in jail on the mischief charge and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders. He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because the time spent in jail exceeded the sentence, she was freed immediately.

The charges related to her entry of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 12, 2012 and an attempt to speak to abortion-bound women there. She was arrested, charged and has spent the duration of the following time in jail, the majority of it due to her refusal, for reasons of conscience, to agree to bail conditions that stipulated she stay away from abortion sites pending conclusion of the trial.

“I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many contributions you’ve made spiritually, financially, through letters, through word of mouth. Thank you.” 

Stepping out into the sunshine on a warm and windy day, Wagner remarked that the wind was something she noticed right away.

“The wind is something we don’t experience much in jail … because there’s a high wall around us,” she told LifeSiteNews. “The first thing that struck me was the wind. I feel free, inside and out, and it’s beautiful to see the people again – the good friends on the outside we’ve been separated from for a long time. So thanks be to God.”

She said although there were some difficult times in jail, it was nonetheless “fruitful in many ways, because a lot of people there are hungry for God and are looking to reach out to Him. I was constantly meeting women wounded by abortion and encouraging them to seek the mercy of God.”

She said she saw the time as “an opportunity for the Holy Spirit really to be at work in hearts that are broken, seeking and are open to God. So quite easily, prayer groups formed and people asked why I was there, why I was in jail. Immediately, I had the chance to share the truth about the wound of abortion.”

She estimated some 80 percent of the women she met in the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton had undergone an abortion and of those, 90 percent said they regretted it. “I would love to see more of a connection between the outside world and the inside world for women who are hurting,” she said. “Maybe just by penpals or visits and that, because a lot of them don’t have connections with somebody in their lives anymore.”

Wagner confirmed that she and her defence team will appeal the verdict. “Ultimately, the victory is not so much in the courts,” she said. “Of course, we’re going to seek justice for the children through the courts, but regardless, the call to love our neighbor who is in distress, who is in imminent danger remains. So I hope, God willing, to continue to reach out to the mothers and children who are in danger.”

She paid tribute to her lawyer, Dr. Charles Lugosi, who was joined by a co-counsel for the last several hearings thanks to monies raised for her defence fund by pro-life supporters. Lugosi continued “to persevere, continuing his research without funding. … This case was not widely known for the longest time,” she said. “But he continued to work very hard. … He’s put forth tremendous effort with great integrity in continuity with true justice and with our faith as well.”

“I’m very grateful for Charles’s work and for the support of all who have contributed through their prayers and financial contributions, large or small,” she said. “I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many contributions you’ve made spiritually, financially, through letters, through word of mouth. Thank you.”

As a devout Catholic, her immediate plans were to attend Mass that evening and then head to the west coast of Canada to see her family. “The last time I saw my family … for the most part, was over two years ago. I hope, after a few days here, to go back to the coast and spend some time with them and then take some time to pray in solitude … and be open to God’s will.”

Prior to the verdict, Lugosi made final submissions before O’Donnell, arguing that the constitutionality of Section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states a human being begins only when he or she has emerged in a breathing state from the birth canal, has not been considered in any of the previous abortion-related cases before the Supreme Court, including the pivotal 1988 Morgentaler one.

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He had previously argued unsuccessfully that expert witnesses should have been allowed to testify at the trial as to the humanity of the pre-born. As well, he pointed out there were inconsistencies between the Supreme Court’s findings in the Morgentaler case and those in the euthanasia-related Rodriguez and Carter cases, where the court enunciated certain value-of-life statements.

“In both Carter and Rodriguez, the courts affirmed the unconstitutionality of involuntary euthanasia – involuntary death through deliberate medical intervention,” he said. “Why not be consistent and decide that involuntary abortion of the unborn child is also unconstitutional?”

“It is beyond the competence of Parliament to define whether a child is or is not a human being,” Lugosi continued. “The expert evidence is conclusive that a new human being begins at conception and-or fertilization and that abortion kills a human being, as a matter of reality.”

“It is a violation of natural law, the rule of law, the supremacy of God, the unwritten Canadian Constitution and the Constitution Act, 1982, for the judicial branch of government to abdicate to members of the legislative branch or executive branch of government, the absolute, untrammeled right to use legal definitions to exclude any class or individual human beings from the legal protections shielding all innocent human beings from a fatal assault intended to cause death,” he added.

Wagner’s defence rested on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which allowed for actions in the defence of other human beings. It was the defence’s intention to demonstrate that the unborn at the Women’s Care Clinic on August 12, 2012 were, in fact, human beings under Wagner’s care and protection.

“As a matter of reason, a child is the same human being one second before birth and one second after being born alive. Location of the child, in or out of the womb, is irrelevant. What matters is scientific truth, free from corrupt and biased thought that seeks reasons to justify the death of an innocent child.”

Lugosi also appealed to Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, “not just to believe, but also to act, in the free exercise of these rights. Without the free exercise of these rights, these rights are meaningless. The rule of law has a moral component consistent with natural law and to deny the defendant’s defence is to subvert the rule of law and the superiority of natural law.”

Wagner saw her actions, concluded Lugosi, as legal, consistent with the entire constitution of Canada, the common law, the rule of law, and the supremacy of God.

In a rebuttal, Crown attorney Tracey Vogel argued the medical evidence intended to be put forth by the defence was “irrelevant” and that the two expert witnesses slated to testify, and whose will-say statements were put before the court, were not impartial. “This does not assist a live issue before the court,” she said. “The evidence is not true.”

The bottom line, Vogel continued, was that Wagner admitted the elements of both sets of offences she was charged with, interfered with the operation of a “private medical clinic,” had no reason to be there and caused “great upset” to patients, their families, and friends.

In his verdict, O’Donnell acknowledged abortion is a subject of great controversy and one over which there has been much previous litigation. He decided, however, there was no possibility of the success of Wagner’s argument, as the defence of necessity was not valid on account of her failure to use other avenues at her disposal for opposing abortion.

On sentencing, O’Donnell noted there was nothing he could say that would modify Wagner’s behavior. He acknowledged it was not his place to judge her strongly held beliefs; however, he observed her approach was not necessarily respectful. He encouraged her to think about whether her 22 months spent in prison might have been better used advancing her cause in a more effective manner.

He cited Wagner’s “very stubborn streak” and said it was his role as a judge to emphasize rehabilitation, deterrence, and denunciation so that the sentence resonated with her and others. Although he said abortion is a very polarizing issue, he added the Canadian way is one of compromise. Allowing either side of a controversial issue to break the law only encourages others to feel they can do so. The kind of “havoc” Wagner caused in August 2012 had to be circumscribed with further probation orders, he said.

The defence has 30 days to file a notice of appeal in the case. Reasons for a number of O’Donnell’s judgements during the trial, including disallowing public funding of Wagner`s defence and the testimony of expert witnesses, are still forthcoming.

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

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Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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