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Fr. Tony Van Hee on the day of his arrest in Ottawa, Ontario, Oct. 24, 2018.Donald Andre Bruneau / Twitter

OTTAWA, Ontario, January 29, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – An elderly Roman Catholic priest charged under Ontario's abortion “bubble zone” law has filed a plea of “not guilty,” as well as a formal challenge to the constitutionality of the pro-abortion law.

Father Tony Van Hee was charged in October under Ontario's Safe Access to Abortion Services Act. He was charged with attempting to intimidate people entering the Morgentaler abortion center in downtown Ottawa, by standing across the street wearing a sandwich-board sign that read, “The Primacy Of Free Speech: Cornerstone Of Western Civilization,” and “Without Free Speech The State Is A Corpse.”

Earlier this month, his original “intimidation” charge was dropped and replaced with charges relating to “performing an act of disapproval concerning issues related to abortion services by any means.” Pro-lifers say the change was motivated by the obviousness that the Jesuit priest, who has peacefully protested abortion for almost 30 years, wasn’t intimidating anyone.

“When we pleaded not guilty, we filed a Notice of Constitutional Question challenging the constitutionality of portions of the bubble zone legislation,” Van Hee’s attorney Albertos Polizogopoulos says, The BC Catholic reports. “We expect to set a date for some time in the summer of 2020. This is intentional because we have agreed, with the Crown, to have the constitutionality of the legislation addressed in a separate civil proceeding which we will launch in the near future.”

Fr. Van Hee “never spoke or engaged with anyone and never mentioned or referred to abortion services or related issues,” the notice argues. The “Act is arbitrary and overbroad and contrary to the Charter. As such, the Act is null and void.”

“The limits on Father Van Hee’s freedom of expression do not serve a pressing and substantial objective. The limits cannot be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” it continues. “The means chosen to serve the Act’s objective are not rationally connected to the objective, are not minimally impairing and are not proportionate.”

A similar bubble zone is currently in effect in Alberta, while another died last month in the Manitoba Legislature. Pro-life activists argue there is no evidence of any harassment that would necessitate such laws, and that their real aim is to keep conflicted women from hearing about alternatives or being persuaded to choose life.

In the meantime, Fr. Van Hee continues to protest outside the same abortion facility wearing the same sandwich board, albeit while standing just outside of the bubble zone.