OTTAWA, October 31, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Ottawa’s Catholic archbishop blasted the Ontario government for passing a law last week criminalizing pro-life speech outside abortion centers, saying the impetus for the bill was “deceitful.”
“The terrible, bloody reality of 100,000 unborn babies aborted every year under the guise of choice, sexual liberation and so-called women’s rights is an affront to our civilization,” Archbishop Terrence Prendergast wrote in a guest column in Saturday’s Ottawa Sun.
“Everyone’s human rights suffer when society treats any of us — made in the image and likeness of God — as disposable.”
Bill 163 received all-party support and passed October 25 by a vote of 86-1, with independent MPP Jack MacLaren casting the sole dissenting vote.
The far-reaching bill automatically criminalizes all pro-life activity — including sidewalk counselling, and showing “disapproval” of abortion — within 50 meters of Ontario’s eight abortion centers, a distance that can be increased to 150 meters on request.
Bill 163 also automatically creates 150-meter “bubble zones” around the homes of abortionists and abortion center staff.
The law allows pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare facilities that do abortions, including dispensing the abortion pill, to apply for zones banning pro-life activity of up to 150 meters.
“All three major Ontario political parties should have reconsidered this draconian bubble zone bill before passing it,” wrote Prendergast.
“How free is our province if advocates for its most vulnerable are literally denied access to the public square?”
Moreover, regardless of one’s view on abortion, “(e)veryone who supports free speech should abhor this law,” Prendergast pointed out.
“All freedoms are threatened when the state mutes selected opinions about a pressing social and moral issue.”
The archbishop charged that “the impetus for this law was deceitful.”
Media “have misrepresented problems at the Ottawa Bank Street location. The stories report people with sandwich boards spitting and harassing women entering or leaving the abortion facility,” he wrote.
“There is, in fact, only one man who wears a sandwich board and he is not affiliated with 40 Days for Life,” Prendergast stated.
“This man is frequently spit upon and sworn at, the exact opposite of what the media have stated. He has had his life threatened. Participants on the front lines of 40 Days for Life and the Life Chain also report several instances of receiving curses, threats and worse.”
Moreover, during the annual March for Life in Ottawa, “any incidents of screams, threats and pushing have come from counter-protesters such as Femen demonstrators,” observed Prendergast.
As for one “overly enthusiastic young man” who admittedly entered the abortion center “a few times” to sprinkle holy water, the “police should deal with people who are causing problems under the current laws that prohibit trespassing, harassment and assault,” wrote the archbishop.
“They should not prevent peaceful and respectful protest.”
The bubble zone law “could effectively kill” that March, in which “thousands of Canadians show their opposition to the killing of human life in the womb,” he wrote.
“There is no conceivable route through the streets of downtown Ottawa more than 50 metres from a pharmacy and the abortion clinic on Bank Street.”
Bill 163 “could also suppress the annual Life Chain as well as the 40 Days for Life events that have been a peaceful witness against abortion for years.”
The abortion issue is “far from settled,” Prendergast noted.
“Life Canada polls show that most Canadians are uncomfortable with the absence of any law restricting abortion at any time during pregnancy. A majority favour some limits on abortion,” he pointed out.
“I join all fair-minded Ontarians who ask the legislature to repeal this law and restore free speech regarding abortion.”
Jim Hughes, president of Canada’s national pro-life lobbying group Campaign Life Coalition, said he sent Prendergast an email congratulating the archbishop for taking a public stand.
“We’re very grateful to Archbishop Prendergast for his excellent column opposing this outrageous law,” Hughes told LifeSiteNews.
Hughes credited Prendergast’s “determination to have people get involved” for an increasing number of Catholic bishops and priests taking party in the Ottawa March for Life.
There have been more than 25 bishops at the national and regional marches over the years.
“As we see with the bubble zone bill, pro-lifers are getting pushed to the margins of society, and the pressure is increasing on us to keep silent while children are being killed in the womb,” Hughes noted.
“So it’s hugely encouraging when an archbishop has the fortitude to speak out and be a faithful shepherd. Thank you, Archbishop Terry.”
To read Archbishop Prendergast’s column, go here.