Linda Gibbons. Remember that name. She is a pro-life heroine, and I am ashamed to say that until yesterday I had never heard of her. This woman goes to jail regularly because she believes in the sanctity of life. Makes her a hero for the unborn in my book, and that of many others.
Karla Holmolka is Canada's most notorious female criminal. The crimes she committed could only be described as heinous. She was incarcerated in 1995, and released in 2005, serving ten years of jail time. Ten years for the brutal slaying of three innocent girls.
Linda Gibbons has been in and out of jail for the past fifteen years. When you add it up, her jail time totals over seven years now. This last session has been a long one, with Linda in jail for over 570 consecutive days. So, what is Linda's grave crime?
Linda is guilty of praying in front of abortion clinics and for offering counsel to the women who are about to undergo an abortion. Many of you will be astounded to learn that this is a crime in Canada. But it is the truth.
In 1994, Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae and Attorney General Marion Boyd decided to clamp down on pro-life picketing by passing an injunction that would not allow pro-life people inside a 60 foot "bubble zone" around specific abortion clinics in Ontario. It was no secret that Bob Rae's NDP government of the day was adamantly pro-abortion.
Pro-lifers were upset by the injunction. They felt duty-bound to attempt to counsel women to reconsider their decision to abort. Pro-lifers wanted to be present outside the abortion clinics, to be a prayerful and peaceful presence. The injunction forced pro-lifers across the street from the clinics, where they were virtually ineffective.
Linda Gibbons believes that she must answer to a higher authority than the provincial government when it comes to the issue of abortion. She thinks the legislation is shortsighted, as it does not allow women the opportunity for last minute assistance and it does not allow pro-lifers the opportunity to offer that assistance.
Linda is not willing to stand, ineffectively, across the street from the abortuary. Furthermore, she believes that sidewalks are public space.
And so, Linda's epic battle against the provincial government of Ontario began on September 2, 1994 when she was first arrested for violating the bubble zone injunction. Linda has been arrested many times in the intervening fifteen years. She refuses to sign the conditions that will allow her bail, i.e. not to appear within the bubble zone. She does her jail time, and then goes back to the streets to continue her pro-life efforts.
Many of you will wonder what motivates Linda. Many of you will think her actions are futile. Or foolish.
She calls it a "street ministry" and firmly believes that "we need to maintain our witness in front of abortuaries." Linda's guide is her bible, which clearly states, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29) Through all her jail time, Linda's bible has been her support and comfort. She has also been sustained by the outpouring of mail that she receives daily, from around the world.
Linda does not hide the fact that her own life was touched by abortion. She wants to spare women and men the pain that she experienced. The guilt that she feels because of her abortion motivates her to help others. She stands outside the abortion clinic, and offers to talk to the women going in. No hard sell and no heckling. Her manner is prayerful and peaceful.
But it is not lawful for Linda Gibbons to stand on the sidewalk and offer comfort, and so she is quickly re-arrested and returned to jail.
Slowly but surely, Linda's plight is gaining public attention. Mainstream media have no ink to spare for a simple grandmother who refuses to accept the legality of a 1994 provincial injunction. Unless it’s from a “pro-choice” perspective, abortion is not a story that the mainstream media likes to visit anyway. But Linda's persistence and perseverance are so extraordinary, that the story is gaining ground. Pro-life blogs mention her name frequently, and her story appeared, albeit briefly, in a recent National Post article.
Not many of us would be willing to go to jail to maintain our personal principles. Linda Gibbons is putting her pro-life beliefs on the line, willing to do serious jail time. Many consider Linda to be a pro-life heroine, a prisoner of conscience. REAL Women agrees with them.
To send a note of encouragement to Linda Gibbons, write:
Vanier Center for Women,
655 Martin Street, Box 1040,
Milton, ON, L9T 5E6