Pro-life activist Mary Wagner with Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller. Photo by Agnieszka Ruck

Pro-life activist Mary Wagner marks first jail-free Christmas in seven years

By  By Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • December 18, 2018

VANCOUVER – For the better part of a decade, pro-life activist Mary Wagner has spent the holidays behind bars.

Her last seven Christmases have consisted of small gift bags from prison chaplains and a “nice dinner” of processed turkey, stuffing, vegetables and a butter tart. 

“Every time I have been in custody over Christmas, I had a sense of joy in that the first Christmas was so poor,” she said. “Jesus was born in unpleasant circumstances,” and she was experiencing “similar poverty and wretchedness.” 

Yet, it was always also with a sense of “heaviness,” being unable to celebrate with family “the way you know you should be celebrating the birth of Christ.”

Wagner, 44, is from Delta, B.C., and has become an internationally-known pro-life activist. According to Ontario judge Neil Kozloff, she is also an unrepentant serial offender. Her crime? Ignoring court orders and entering abortion clinics, giving roses to the women waiting inside, and offering prayer and information about other options.

If repeated to day, those actions violate Ontario’s “bubble zone” laws, which demand abortion protesters keep a certain distance away from clinics. Kozloff, who sentenced her to seven-and-a-half months in prison in an Ontario court last July, said then that Wagner had broken that law 14 times in 18 years.

“People have often asked me if I could not simply stay outside the area I am forbidden to enter and in that way avoid arrest,” Wagner has said. “But this question forgets something: the children scheduled to be killed will have no one to stand up for them.”

Wagner didn’t let the threat of jail time stop her from picking up roses and stepping back into abortion clinics. She has spent a total of nearly five years behind bars.

“Being back in custody is not usually an easy thing, but there is something beautiful about being close to those who are broken,” Wagner told the B.C. Catholic.

Wagner has been visiting family, reconnecting with supporters and giving talks to high school students. When she is invited to speak in classrooms, she shares her reasons for opposing abortion  and her experiences while in custody. She has made a few shocking discoveries while behind bars.

“About 85 per cent of the women I speak with (in prison) tell me they have had an abortion,” she said. “I met a few women who came out in a very hostile manner... but that was the exception.” 

She said one woman she met in custody had become pregnant at age 15 and was forced into aborting the child by her mother. The results were devastating: the girl broke ties with her family, fell into substance abuse and was still dealing with the effects when Wagner met her behind bars at age 29.

“Abortion is really a mother taking her child’s life and deep down she knows it’s wrong. No one is punishing her, so there is this self-punishment that goes on.” 

With the holidays coming up, Wagner doesn’t have plans to visit abortion clinics anytime soon. She is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with her family, attending Mass and taking a month-long retreat to pray and think about what to do next.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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