The facts of the case:
Who: Cecelia “Cissy” von Dehn, (63) and Don Spratt, (53) are well-known pro-life activists. Their informational protests have never involved violence.
What: Passed out copies of BC’s Access to Abortion Services Act on the sidewalk outside a Vancouver building that houses an abortion “clinic”. They were wearing placards that warned: “CAUTION: You can be arrested here under Bill 48!” and “BE INFORMED! This area is a legislated access [‘bubble’] zone under Bill 48”
When: June 19, 2009
Where: 2525 Commercial Drive in Vancouver.
Why: Because that Act makes it illegal to mention “abortion” within (500 feet) of a facility that provides abortions, and the people walking by could not know that they might be at risk of offending if they mentioned the forbidden word.
Background: The Vancouver Police had been called by the abortion mill three times previously, and had told the staff (and the protesters) that no law was being broken. On this occasion, however, the officer in charge called for a paddy wagon and arrested von Dehn and Spratt. They were charged with violating the Act. They came to trial October 8, 9 and 10 of 2010 and the case was put over until March 16, 17 and 18 of 2011 because the abortion mill needed more time to bring in an additional witness. The day before this event, the Supreme Court of Canada had refused to hear Spratt’s appeal of an earlier charge, appealed on the basis that the Act violates his Section 2 rights to free speech under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While distributing copies of the Act, Spratt’s mouth was covered with duct tape to symbolize his loss of rights.
Spratt has been unable to get work for almost two years because the trial and the possibility of going to jail hangs over him, and no employer wants to start a new employee who may soon be doing time behind bars.
What arguments do the two sides present?
The abortion mill
It’s very clear that Spratt and von Dehn were protesting the infringement of Canadians’ rights, but the law does not forbid that kind of protest—only protests against abortion. Was the abortion mill simply phoning in repeat complaints, fishing for a feminist cop who would make an arrest? Were Spratt and von Dehn being hassled for their opinions? Why were they handcuffed and put in jail, when it is admitted by the arresting officers that they were cooperative?
YOU BE THE JUDGE
- What is the cost to the taxpayers of this mockery of justice?
- Does that possibility that the judge, Crown Counsel, and management of the abortion mill may be militant feminists have any bearing?
- Since January of 1989, when the Supreme Court struck down the last vestiges of protection for pre-born children in Canada, nearly four million Canadian children have lost their lives before drawing their first breath. That court decision said Parliament has a legitimate interest in protecting their lives. What responsibility do pusillanimous politicians bear in those four million deaths? Do our Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and other MPs have blood on their hands?