TORONTO, Ont. — A Canadian woman who had been arrested last December after she refused to stop reaching mothers inside of an abortion facility, and who faced possible jail time as prosecutors had recommended an 18-month sentence, has instead been placed on probation after hundreds of pro-lifers around the world submitted letters of support.
Justice Rick Libman of the Ontario Court of Justice sentenced Mary Wagner, 43, to 30 months probation and 50 hours of community service on Tuesday. She had been found guilty of one count of mischief and two counts of breach of probation last month, but Libman expressed an understanding for Wagner’s actions, noting that she “wished to reach out in love.”
Wagner had been taken into custody in December after refusing to the leave the Bloor West Village Women’s Center, where she was distributing pamphlets and roses to those in the waiting room.
As part of her bail conditions, Wagner was ordered to say at least 300 feet away from abortion facilities for the next three years. She refused and served six months behind bars, being released during her trial in June under the condition that she return for the rest of the hearings.
Crown prosecutors requested that she be sentenced to another 18 months in jail as a deterrent, but Libman delayed sentencing to give Wagner time to present her viewpoint.
Wagner, a Roman Catholic, had requested following the ruling that supporters send letters to Libman speaking out for the unborn.
“I intend to seek some reference letters, not just for my own character but in support of the unborn,” she told LifeSite News late last month. “[I want to] open it up to the larger community, to the greater community, to speak to the fact that it’s not just one person in court—one person, so to speak, breaking the law—but many people who support justice for the unborn.”
Libman said that the letters were influential in his decision not to further incarcerate Wagner.
“In less than a month, Mary received more than 850 reference letters, 34,000 emails and 67,000 petition signatures in support of her character and unborn children,” Jim Hughes, the president of the Campaign Life Coalition and the vice-president of the International Right to Life Federation, said in a statement. “This overwhelming response is a reflection of a global opposition to abortion in Canada.”
During her sentencing hearing, Wagner also read a letter that she received from a woman who she had helped the day she was arrested. The woman had advised that she felt “hopeless and helpless” when she went to the abortion facility that day, but after Wagner talked to her and showed her “lots of love,” she decided not to end her child’s life.
“If I had obeyed the law, that child would not be alive today,” Wagner declared to the court.
Wagner has been arrested 10 times over the past two decades and has spent four-and-a-half years in jail. Following her previous arrest in 2012, she was likewise told to stay away from abortion facilities as a bail condition, but she refused.
She then remained in jail for nearly two years until her trial concluded, being likewise found guilty of mischief and violating the terms of probation. She was placed on probation again, but returned to the abortion facility despite the probation terms to help save babies, and was arrested once again in December.