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.
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Planned Parenthood closes Iowa abortion facility because of low business
DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.
Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”
The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.
“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.
As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.
“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.
American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.
“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”
That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.
Be loving and compassionate, he said.
“Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”
Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.
Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.
Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers
MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.
Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.
DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.
DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.
She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.
“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”
Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.
“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.
After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.
“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”
Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.
"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.
DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.
Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.
Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.
When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:
The decision to have an abortion is for a woman to make, not the Governor of Indiana. https://t.co/1VOroXS2br— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 24, 2016
Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”
DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary.
The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage
May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.
Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.
These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.
This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.
Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.
Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.
“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:
In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.
By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”
That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”
Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.
And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.
Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.
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