Mary Wagner used to be the girl next door — with a tomboy streak. Growing up in a home full of boys on Vancouver Island, she became a second mother to the younger ones and also learned to fix a car. At times, it looked like motherhood awaited, and at times, it looked like the convent.
Now it seems like Wagner is headed for a life behind bars.
Wagner, 38, has just been convicted of mischief and sentenced to 40 days in jail for entering a Toronto abortion business and counseling the women there to keep their babies. It’s Wagner’s second conviction since 2000 and her second time in jail in two years. This spring she was actually acquitted of the same offense — but not before she spent four months awaiting trial. She could have been released during the interim before her case was heard, but only if she signed an agreement to stay away from abortion clinics.
Wagner makes an unsurprising observation:
“I’ve never been in a social setting where it is easier to talk about abortion,” she said. “The women all know that abortion is about killing babies. Some may say, ‘But what if the mother is on drugs?’ or ‘What about rape?’ but they know it’s a baby. I guess they haven’t been exposed to the language conditioning the rest of society has” experienced.
Given their youthfulness and lifestyle, several of her fellow prisoners usually come into jail pregnant.
When contacted last month at the Vanier Center for Women in Milton, Ontario, she spoke with compassion of her fellow inmates, 80% of whom are behind bars for drug- or alcohol-related crimes. “So many come from very different backgrounds than my own life of privilege. My life would have been very different If I had not had this background.”