When Sitting Down Gets You Arrested

Graham Preston, a 56-year-old father from Queensland, Australia, went to jail recently for refusing to pay fines of roughly $8000 that have accumulated after 10 years of non-violently blocking the entrances of four abortion clinics around the state capital, Brisbane. He refuses to pay the fines on principle, arguing that trying to save the innocent from harm should not be regarded as a crime. He is pictured above with his family.

Mr Preston, a member of the pro-life group Protect Life, has already served a total of 10 months in jail over five separate terms, mostly in Brisbane’s maximum security Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. This time he is not due out until Christmas. It is the longest jail term received by an Australian pro-life activist. The following account was written by his wife, Liz Preston.


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My husband went to jail this week. For eight months. His crime? Sitting down. Yes, I know, sitting down is not usually regarded as being a crime and especially not one you go to jail for eight months for. But it depends on where you do it and how often.

My husband, Graham, along with a few others at different times, has sat down on dozens of occasions in recent years in front of the doors of Brisbane abortion clinics, and refused to move. He has not been charged with “sitting down” of course, but with things like trespass. But sitting down and refusing to move is all that he actually does.

I know that at this point some readers, when they see that he is opposed to abortion, will say that being sent to jail for such sit-ins is just what he deserves. But let’s try and think about this for a moment.

Graham, like myself and others, believes that when a woman is pregnant she is carrying a baby. There is surely nothing too controversial with that belief – I’ve carried a number of babies to term myself and I have no doubt that, yes, they really were babies that I was carrying.

Indeed, I would venture to say that every woman who is happily pregnant has no doubt that she is carrying a baby and there is always much delight in viewing the ultrasound images. If the baby should be lost through spontaneous miscarriage, then there is usually considerable grief at that loss.

Further, Graham, like myself and others, believes that abortion deliberately ends the life of the baby that is being carried in the womb. Again, this should hardly be a controversial claim: as noted above, pregnancy involves the carrying of a baby in the womb, so if an abortion is carried out, that means a baby’s life is deliberately taken.

So, back to where this article started: if a child is about to be killed, everyone should try to save that child’s life. Right? Well, yes, normally, but apparently not if the child we are talking about saving is a child that is scheduled to be killed by abortion.

In the minds of some, if the mother or parents of a preborn child decide that they want to have an abortion, then their child loses absolutely all right to have their life protected. But not everyone is prepared to simply turn away and abandon such children to death. And not without good reason either.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, states in the opening paragraph of the Preamble: ” . . . recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (emphasis added).

Article 3 of the Declaration reads: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.” (emphasis added).

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), to which Australia is also a signatory, reaffirms in the Preamble the following statement from the earlier Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959): ” . . . the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, both before as well as after birth.” (emphasis added)

However the reality in Australia today is that, regardless of Australia being a signatory to the above documents, there is effectively no legal protection given to the child before birth. If a woman wants to end her child’s life by abortion, so long as she has the money to pay for it, she can visit an abortion clinic and readily get it done. About 90 to 100 000 babies are killed by abortion in Australia each year.

Yet here in Queensland, if a person should assault a pregnant woman and subsequently her child dies, the assailant can be punished with life imprisonment – the same penalty that is given for killing a born person.

So we have a situation where a preborn child’s life is regarded as being as valuable as anyone else’s life – if the mother wants the child – but if the mother does not want the child, then somehow the child, apparently, loses all value and rights and can be killed by abortion.

But it is a well-recognised injustice for the value and rights of one human being to be made dependent upon the say-so of one or more other human beings. At other times and places sub-sections of humanity, such as those who are Jewish or who have dark-coloured skin, have been deemed by others to be less than fully human and so could be made subject to death and enslavement.

Those attitudes are now almost totally rejected in our society, yet, incongruously, we live with the greatest of discriminations being openly practised against another sub-section of humanity – the preborn children. (Not to mention the harm that abortion can do to women.)

Well, not everybody is prepared to just live with such double standards.

Yes, my husband and the others have been found to be breaking the law in their efforts to come to the defence of children who are scheduled to be aborted. It is clearly no small thing for them to defy the law and do so over and over again. Yet laws, which allow for the wholesale destruction of innocent human life, cannot be taken to be absolute.

As Martin Luther King Jr wrote in his famous letter from Birmingham jail, ” . . . there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Yes, if a child is about to be killed, all of us should try to save the child – even if we are sent to jail for doing so.


This article was originally published on MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons Licence.


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