The gritty realities of an Operation Rescue event
I am sure it is not necessary to explain to any of our readers the meaning of Operation Rescue. I missed the one they had in October, but I was ready for the recent event – Jan. 12, 13 and 14. We were told to meet at an establishment in Toronto at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12. About 70 people were present. Anne Packer and Kurt Gayle gave us our instructions. We would go by bus to the Morgentaler abortuary.
The police – not too many, but enough – were standing quietly in a line on the outskirts of the crowd. Even when a scuffle began in the middle, they didn’t seem to be interested. Then, they suddenly went into action. Apparently, by mutual arrangement between the police and the pro-abortionists, women were being escorted into the abortuary by the police. Some had their heads covered with scarves. Our people “sat” their ground and tried to keep the entry blocked. But they were dragged away by the police and – with the physical assistance of the pro-abortionists, who were mostly women – the “patients,” as they are called, entered the house and the “physical” side of the Operation was over. Some stayed on to pray for the women who were now inside the abortuary, being “treated” by the staff.
I went home feeling quite confused. Had we achieved anything? We didn’t seem to have saved any babies. Is there not a better way? I wasn’t sure and I went to bed early, as tomorrow was another day.
On Friday morning, we assembled again. We were told that we were going to the Scott abortuary on Gerrard Street. The procedure was pretty much the same as the day before, except that we got there first. The police were much tougher on the second day. They twisted arms and thumbed pressure points in people’s necks. Quite a number were arrested and taken to the police station and released after the usual paper work.
Although things didn’t seem any different from the day before, I began to see a greater value in the Operation. I was standing up. I looked down at our pro-life people – perhaps 60 of them. They were sitting on the hard, cold ground – it had snowed a bit earlier and was very cold. Many had not eaten and been called “scum” and other less-printable names. But, they simply sat there and prayed, sang, suffered and smiled. I felt that if prayer and penance and patience have any value – and we know that they have “upstairs,” if not down here – all this is not lost. Let’s not forget the lesson of Moses on the mountaintop while watching the battle between the people of Israel and the Amelikites. As long as Moses kept his hands aloft in prayer, the Israelites were victorious. When he stopped praying, they began to lose. Eventually, they were victorious through the prayer and penance of Moses! We may not see immediate results. But the prayer and penance never go to waste.
We had been told that there would be a big pro-abortion demonstration at the Morgentaler abortuary at noon on Saturday. After the misery of Friday, I wondered how many we would have on Saturday. We expected about 100. To our surprise and delight, more than 200 arrived and could not be fitted into the room. There were people who had driven through the night from North Bay and Thunder Bay. There were people from Niagara and Kitchener and Hamilton and Waterloo. The enthusiasm was tremendous and infectious. By about 10 a.m., the police had erected barriers on the street in front of the abortuary and we were not supposed to occupy that part of the street.
Our people decided on some civil disobedience and began to crawl along the street and get arrested. I was watching this from a safe distance. I had not intended to get involved. Then, I saw some young girls and boys being dragged along the ground by the cops and thrown into the paddy wagons – which were taking them away and returning empty for more. I saw Paul Dodds (my lawyer) getting his neck twisted and a few old men – like Leo Beecher – older than I am, being thrown around. The Irish in me began to boil and I felt it was time I got into the fray. I can’t remember how I got around the barriers, but I found myself in the middle of the throng and hoped to be arrested. But some of the police knew me from other times and I was greeted with, “Hi, Father.” I stood in front of one large policeman expecting to be grabbed and dragged off. But he smiled and said, “I wanted to be a priest once. But I wasn’t good enough, so I became a policeman.” I said, “I wanted to be a policeman once, but I wasn’t good enough, so I became a priest.” A fib, of course, but it relieved the tension all around.
Then I met a young policeman named John, who had arrested me three times last year. I said, “John, why don’t you arrest me?” He laughed and patted me on the back and said, “You’ll have to wait your turn, Father.” Then I realized that I was definitely not on the hitlist. I would have to provoke arrest. Just at that moment, Rev. Fred Vaughan, a great pro-life Baptist minister, came alongside with a younger minister and said, “Why don’t we get arrested together?” It reminded me of, “Let us go to Jerusalem and die with Him.” I said, “Sure.” So we sat down where they would have to trip over us and we were arrested and put in the paddywagon. I have to say that I was “handled with care” and no force was used. There were 11 of us. Beside me was my great friend, Dr. Ray Holmes. We were taken to 14 Division, where quite a number of our people were already. There must have been between 20 and 30. There, I met Sergeant Ross, who had interviewed me on a previous occasion. He welcomed me as an old friend. I must say that I have found this police officer a gentleman. He is efficient, decisive, courteous and cheerful.
But, I had a shock coming. Our people – including quite a number of girls aged 18 to 20 – were at the far end of the room. On a wall just beside them were three pictures, which I could only call disgustingly pornographic. They displayed young women with bare breasts and in most provocative poses. It was impossible to notice them and our girls were obviously embarrassed. If I had been alone, I would probably have pretended not to notice the pictures. But as a priest, I felt I should show some leadership – or was it the Irish again! Anyhow, I walked over there and tore the pictures from the wall and threw them on the ground. Nobody did or said anything, but the ladies thanked me. I understand that the police have an anti-porn squad. I suggest that this squad should spend a week or so visiting the offices of police stations and ordering pictures that are degrading to women be removed forthwith.
The Operation Rescue was over, at least in terms of hours and days. But the effects will linger. Were we victorious? In media and sporting terms, we probably lost. The pro-abortionists boasted that 16 abortions were committed on Saturday in spite of our presence! What a victory! But, as in the United States, I believe it is only the beginning of a growing movement that will eventually wake Canada up to the awesome fact that in murdering babies by the thousands, we are destroying our country demographically, economically, morally and spiritually.
This article originally appeared in The Interim ‘s March 1989 issue.