Saturday, June 16, 2012

Access to abortion information denied in Ontario

(An edited version of this article appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of LifeCanada News)

You know, I wasn't born in a cabbage patch. So can someone please tell me what is going on in Ontario?

Recently the McGuinty government passed Bill 122, The Broader Public Sector Accountability Act.

One of the stated purposes of this act was to create:
“higher accountability standards for hospitals, Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and broader public sector organizations.” and to "Expand Freedom of Information legislation to cover hospitals".

This means that hospitals and other institutions now fall under Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FIPPA,). On the face of it, this should mean more accountability and access to information, right? Wrong.

You see, not only was Bill 122 passed into law, but a new clause was added to FIPPA with this amendment; a clause that specifically excludes abortion:
“(5.7) This Act does not apply to records relating to the provision of abortion services.”

The result of these changes is to actually decrease accountability and decrease access to information, since abortion services are now excluded whereas before they were included.

For instance, before this change occurred, a citizen of Ontario could ask for and receive information on abortion statistics. I have done several of these Freedom of Information requests.* In fact it was my latest FOI, which was refused, that alerted me to the change.

This will mean we will have no information about health complications for women and no information on gestational age. How will this be in the best interests of women's health? It seems the only ones who stand to benefit are those involved in the abortion industry, since now they can conduct their business completely shielded from the public--no other publicly funded 'medical service' receives such 'special' treatment. Abortion advocates continually claim that abortion is just like any other 'medical procedure'. If that is true, why the need to hide it?

It appears that there was no debate in the Legislature about this abortion exclusion clause. Nothing at all. It looks like nobody, including MPPs, were even aware of the change. There is no mention anywhere in any of the Hansard transcripts about this exclusion clause for abortion services.

Is it even remotely possible that this change could have happened without anybody noticing?

One must remember the kind of controversy the topic of abortion always creates in this country. Yet nary a word anywhere in the media, nothing from the Opposition benches, no debate on this exclusion clause, no communication to the public, nothing. So what happened?

Well, there are three possible answers, all of them disturbing.

First, either this was an honest mistake, and this clause was included in error. Since the result has been to ban all access to abortion information, resulting in the stated objective not being achieved (increased accountability), so a mistake, although unbelievable, is possible.

Second, maybe this was not a mistake, and it was an intentional tactic by Mr. McGuinty to secretively exclude abortion services from public scrutiny. Maybe he just slipped in the clause and nobody noticed. If this is what happened, where was the opposition when this was going on?

Mr. Hudak didn’t even vote on third reading of the bill. Where was he, and what were his members doing while this stealth maneuver was secretly going on? Were they all asleep in the cabbage patch?

Third, and this is the most troubling, is that Mr. Hudak whipped his MPs into being silent. Remember the provincial election when Mr. Hudak backtracked on his pro-life viewpoint?

"I may have signed a petition from my riding in that respect, but listen, let me be clear: we are not reopening this debate," said Hudak. "Just like the federal Parliament, we would not be reopening that issue."

So did Mr. Hudak tell his caucus to keep quiet--and they actually listened? Did he pull a Mr. Harper?

Regardless of the reason, whether it was intentional or a mistake, the solution is clear. The clause should be removed and the Act changed back. Mr. McGuinty should resign, and Mr. Hudak should resign as well.

It doesn't matter if you are pro-life or if you are pro-choice. All of Canada should shudder at this complete subversive use of the democratic process, no matter how it occurred. If this can happen in Canada’s largest province, it can happen in any other, or every other province in Canada.

This has already happened in BC, but the exemption for abortion is not as comprehensive as for Ontario. Which province will be next? In fact, has it already happened in other provinces? Would anybody even know?

* (e.g. Through FOI, I learned there were 77 selective fetal reduction abortions committed in 2010, and 2108 abortions for babies 14 weeks gestation and greater, and that there were a total of 44,091 tax-payer funded abortions in Ontario in 2010...53% more than CIHI reported)

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