Monday, January 12, 2009

Pro-Life Heroine — Free At Last

Linda Gibbons, a devoted pro-life heroine, has been acquitted of a charge of disobeying a court order. After spending over 3 months in jail for merely protesting outside of an abortion facility in Toronto, Linda is finally free to go. And hopefully, this time she remains free for much longer than mere 9 days.

Yes, believe it or not, last time Linda was arrested just 9 days after she had been found not guilty of obstructing a peace officer. And, since she doesn't belong to any of the designated victim groups (those that better not be put in jail in proportions exceeding their share of the population,) since Linda bears no close resemblance to vandals, purse snatchers, drug dealers or anyone else whose crimes have "social roots", no such options as release until trial, probation or house arrest were even considered.

Linda is not going to give up. But neither are the authorities. There is however one hope - after all those arrests and trials, it's been finally determined that violating a 15 year-old injunction which outlaws peaceful protests at abortion facilities, is not a crime, but a civil offense:
Noting that the 1994 injunction was a civil proceeding, the judge said, "There are rules for civil matters and there are rules for criminal matters. They're separate and apart … The rules are clear and mutually exclusive."

The latest development presents an interesting conundrum for those who have prosecuted Gibbons over the past 15 years. With judges having successively thrown out charges of obstructing a peace officer and disobeying a court order, the province and Crown attorney's office appear to be left with little option but to launch a civil proceeding against her, if they wish to pursue the matter at all. They have two years from the date of the alleged transgression to do so.

However, a civil proceeding raises the spectre of a challenge to the legality of the injunction itself, which was supposed to be temporary but has now stretched to the unprecedented age of 15 years. Pro-life activists in Toronto will be watching carefully to see what path the authorities choose to follow.

For her part, Gibbons had a few words as she was whisked away to a vehicle for a change of clothes and some nourishment after a long day in court: "The courts need to establish their credibility by acknowledging the rights of every human being, born or unborn."
At the very least, I hope that any further disputes over the so called "bubble zone" violations could be settled without arrests and trimester-long detentions. Linda Gibbons has already spent a total of about 6 years behind bars, for nothing else but standing on a public sidewalk, praying or peacefully protesting beside an abortuary. It's time for Ontario police to realize that they have plenty of other things to do than arresting and jailing thought-criminals.

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