Exclusive interview: ‘Join me’ challenges Canadian pro-life prisoner of conscience
TORONTO, Ontario, June 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After being released from prison on Friday, pro-life advocate Linda Gibbons is preparing yet again to challenge the injunction that has landed her in jail for nine of the last 17 years. But this time, she’s calling on other pro-lifers to join her campaign.
“I really feel if we’re going to turn this around, there has to be some kind of a mobilization,” said Gibbons, who spoke with LifeSiteNews from her temporary quarters in Toronto on Monday. After her lengthiest prison stay to date, the grandmother and devoted prisoner of conscience plans to head right back to jail again at the end of July.
Gibbons’ campaign against the injunction has gained notoriety in the last year, propelled by the length of her most recent imprisonment, with multiple cover stories in the National Post and growing rumblings from pro-lifers about joining her.
“I think that it should be a movement. … Our witness at the abortion clinic is saying we’re here with our bodies,” she said. “And when the court says, ‘Well, no you’re not going to be here,’ we’re saying, ‘Well, regardless of the cost, regardless of the risk.’”
A life-saving witness
Gibbons was freed Friday after 28 months of uninterrupted imprisonment for witnessing prayerfully outside Toronto’s Scott abortion facility. It is one of several in the city that is protected by a 1994 court injunction banning pro-life activity within a specified zone.
Though Gibbons has repeatedly been prosecuted by the Crown in a criminal court, the “temporary” injunction was actually instituted in a civil court at the request of Bob Rae’s NDP provincial government. It came amidst calls for a government crackdown against the pro-life movement after they were declared guilty by the media for the 1992 bombing at abortionist Henry Morgentaler’s Toronto facility.
Charges were never laid in that bombing, however, and the prime suspect was the father of a child aborted at the facility. A Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report even suggested the bombing was likely perpetrated by pro-abortion activists.
Nevertheless, the injunction has had the effect of silencing pro-lifers’ freedom of speech, and effectively shutting down the life-saving work of sidewalk counselors and vigil-keepers.
Gibbons, who has dedicated her life to challenging the injunction, called it a “political construct” that lacks “legal propriety” and “proper authority.” She noted that the injunction itself states the pro-life activity was threatening the financial interests of the abortionists. “[The government is] extorting money from Canadian citizens to pay hired killers to butcher babies,” she said. “The injunction [is] to protect that activity.”
“Since when does a government have an obligation to the commercialization of killing? The government’s duty is to protect life,” she added.
Though she could be released on bail, Gibbons has remained behind bars for long stretches because she steadfastly refuses in conscience to accept a bail condition that requires her to stay away from the abortion facilities. Signing the bail papers, she told LifeSiteNews, would be to say, “Yes I will cease defending innocent unborn children that are about to be killed.”
“I have no intention of agreeing to that. It violates principles. It violates conscience,” she explained.
‘Are you pro-lifers really acting like abortion is murder?’
Gibbons’ 17-year campaign has been fueled by a deep love for children in the womb, and hence a keen awareness of the atrocity of abortion. She has taken to heart a question she was asked once by a Jewish reporter from the Ottawa Citizen: “Are you pro-lifers really acting like abortion is murder?”
“If a two-year-old was being murdered next door, you’re not going to sit down and write a letter to your MP,” she explained. “That we need to do more, that’s obvious, obvious. … If I was going into a house to save a child from a fire, no one’s going to charge me with trespass for that.” At the same time, she insists that she has no interest in calling into question the efforts of pro-lifers who do not join her campaign.
But for Gibbons, the effort is a simple question of maintaining an authentic Christian witness. “If the Church is not seen defending life, it puts the impression that Christ is not really concerned about it,” she said. “The way the Church acts and behaves gives validity to our beliefs.”
She has often been asked if she regrets the time lost with family and the missed birthdays, marriages, and graduations. “When we’re having unborn children slaughtered at the rate we are in Canada, … should our lives go on as normal?” she asked in response. “It’s not normal to live in the Holocaust and sort of pretend it’s not happening.”
“I want [my life] to be a witness that the lives of these children cannot be forgotten,” she continued. “I’m ready to surrender all my assets, … all my time. [Otherwise,] we’re saying these babies must be allowed to die so I can stay in my comfort zone. Because what we say then is it doesn’t matter.”
“When we begin to suffer for the unborn, our identification with them, that’s when we’re going to impact society, when they see that,” she added. “The Church is not hurting enough for the unborn. When we start feeling their hurt in a real concrete way, then things are going to change, because then we’re saying very clearly that this cannot go on.”
Saving babies in prison
Gibbons has been a vocal critic of conditions at Milton, Ontario’s Vanier Centre for Women, where she says women in outer cells are subjected to hypothermia-like conditions as a result of the cold. And she admits that the length of her stay this time around had her convinced that she would never get out.
Nevertheless, she puts her jail time to good use, counseling women struggling with drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, keeping the peace as needed, and spreading the Gospel through one-on-one conversations or by leading Bible studies with small groups.
“I treat them like my daughters. I call them my girls. It’s a matter of just trying to love them where they’re at,” she said.
In fact, in her most recent stint she was able to convince three pregnant prisoners to keep their babies, and connected them with a Toronto pregnancy resource center when they left.
‘As long as God gives me life and breath’
While the grandmother would normally turn around to challenge the injunction again in less than a week, this time she’s going to take a brief break in order to visit her 89-year-old mother and take care of medical needs. But she says she’ll be back at it by the end of July, and is committed to the cause until the very end.
She said she will continue to challenge the injunction “as long as God gives me life and breath. If I can get out of bed and put my feet on the floor, then I want to continue.”
“My mission is to be all that Christ wants me to be. It is his mission and we are simply walking with Christ,” she said. “It becomes simply a daily moment-by-moment walking with Christ.”
See the LifeSiteNews Feature page, Linda Gibbons, Prisoner of Conscience, listing many past reports on her efforts to steer vulnerable women away from making the same mistakes that she herself made.