How do you solve a problem like Mary Wagner? Is she a criminal or rock star?
Yesterday a rally took place outside the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland to protest the Christmas Eve incarceration of Canadian Mary Wagner. She is being held in the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ontario, a medium/maximum security correctional facility.
Wagner was arrested for the crime of entering the waiting room of an abortion clinic on December 23—this time, the Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic in Toronto—and quietly offering individual women a rose with a card stating where they could learn about abortion alternatives and asking them if they wanted to talk about alternatives.
Like the US, Canada has “bubble zone” laws where free (pro-life/pro-woman) speech rights are trumped by the right of abortion providers to conduct their grisly business and lie to patients about fetal development and abortion’s impact on women, among other things.
Canadian judges have shown hostility to Ms. Wagner. One Justice delivered a tirade that included “You’re wrong, and your God is wrong!” Another Justice referred to her “very stubborn streak” and turned down her request for public funding of her constitutional challenge, finding that it wasn’t in the public interest to challenge the law defining when a child becomes a human being by presenting scientific testimony demonstrating the humanity of unborn children. The Canadian press has been largely silent about the 40-year-old’s peaceful pro-life witness and imprisonments (totalling over three years).
Wagner is, however, something of a “rock star” in Poland. She drew huge audiences and received widespread coverage in the Polish media (both Catholic and mainstream) during a two-week visit last October.
Polish filmmaker Grzegorz Braun directed a documentary about her, which will be shown in the US and Canada in February 2015. The film is titled “Not About Mary Wagner,” to reflect (he explained) her “unwillingness to be in the spotlight.” But in many respects, it’s not primarily about Ms. Wagner anyway. It’s about laws that let doctors kill unborn children with impunity while punishing those who protest such killing, even when they do so peacefully. It’s about a society that is collectively in denial about what happens during and after abortion, that wants only to change the subject and never think about it. And it’s about the cowardice of all of us who know full well that human children are torn limb from limb in these “women’s centers,” and we do precious little about it.
According to “The Interim” ("Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper"), over 15,000 Poles signed a petition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper last May, as Ms. Wagner’s last trial date approached, capping her 23-month incarceration for peaceful pro-life activity. The petition read in part:
Article 19 of the Declaration states:
Similarly, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2, guarantees freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression—not just to believe, according to her attorney, “but also to act, in the free exercise of these rights. Without the free exercise of these rights,” he explains, “these rights are meaningless.”
Wagner has explained that her effort to speak to women about abortion alternatives is motivated by a desire to allay their fears about continuing the pregnancy by offering hope and real alternatives, to spare the lives of their children and spare them the suffering and remorse of having undergone an abortion, and also to challenge the erroneous definition of human being in the Criminal Code, a question that has never been presented to the Supreme Court of Canada.