CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World

It is all about the unborn

By  Alissa Golob, Guest Columnist
  • January 22, 2015

During my 14 years in the pro-life movement, I’ve been physically attacked, had rocks, condoms, ketchup thrown at me, had speeches picketed, been publicly mocked, and have had horrible things said about my family, most especially my mother who had me as a result of an unexpected teen pregnancy. I have also had the honour of knowing Mary Wagner for close to five years and have accompanied her numerous times as she has been arrested for disregarding a court order and handing out roses at abortion clinics.

Some may question Wagner’s motives. After all, what can she do to change the abortion laws or save any babies if she’s behind bars nine months of the year? Indeed, a column in last week’s Catholic Register suggested Wagner intentionally sets out to be arrested and there “is certainly a heavy dose of contrived disingenuous in all this.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. But who better to explain her motives than Wagner herself? In an open letter from her imprisonment at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ont., she eloquently explained her motivation for actions that have led to multiple incarcerations.

“Jesus thirsts for love, especially in the poorest and most forgotten,” she writes. “Who in our cities and towns are more forgotten and unloved than the child — indeed the mother and child — entering the abortion clinic?”

Wagner explains that, due to her presence, there have been cases in which women have called off an abortion (I have been present and spoken to one such couple). Even when the intended result does not happen, her presence means these children were not utterly abandoned in death. Despite the fact her actions inevitably result in arrest, Wagner sees it as a blessing because she is able to share in a small way the suffering Jesus endured so willingly for each one of us. I put it to you like this: If walking down the street at night you happened to glance through a living room window and saw a man beating his toddler to death, what would you do? Would you wait for permission from legal authorities to trespass on this man’s property to prevent the killing?

Would you picket outside his house in hopes that this action would help educate him on child abuse? Or would you do everything in your power to stop the death of a defenceless human being, even if it meant trespassing on his property?

As Catholics, do our actions match our belief that abortion kills a human being? If clinics made of glass walls were set up across the country, killing newborns instead of preborns, would we be criticizing the actions of those trying to save them? Are Wagner’s critics condemning her because what she is doing is truly wrong, or because they are reminded they are not doing enough?

Part of the beauty of the Catholic Church is its firm defence of human rights, even if it means obeying a higher moral law. The Catechism of the Catholic Church perfectly encapsulates Wagner’s bravery stating, “the citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons…refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to an upright conscience, finds its distinction between serving God and serving the political community.”

When Sophie Scholl was just 21 she was arrested and beheaded by the Nazi “People’s Court” for distributing anti-Nazi literature at the University of Munich. Today, Wagner is arrested for distributing roses with crisis pregnancy literature attached in abortion clinics, where it is also illegal to do so. Both women sacrificed their freedom and refused to stand by while their countries destroyed human lives and assaulted human dignity.
Martin Luther King Jr., hailed as a great civil rights activist and prisoner of conscience, actively sought arrest because he chose to act where others remained silent. Although Wagner’s intent is not to get arrested, using civil disobedience is part of her modus operandi. In King’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he writes, “Any individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
If there were more prisoners of conscience like Wagner, God’s creation would be a better place.

(Golob is the Youth Co-ordinator for Campaign Life Coalition.)

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