Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ireland's abortion debate teaching moment for Canadian politicians and doctors

(This appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of LifeCanada Journal)

It is very important that doctors and politicians speak out in defense of pre-born citizens. These professionals are uniquely able to do something the rest of us cannot do: save lives and enact laws. Both hold a lot of sway.

Unfortunately, I think many of them have given up the pro-life fight. I am hopeful though, that Ireland's recent abortion debate will spur them on again.

Up until recently, Ireland had been abortion free. Now the Irish government is changing this with its Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill. This bill allows abortions in cases where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman including suicide.

Following the ensuing abortion debate while visiting Ireland, I witnessed both politicians and doctors provide a strong and principled offensive against the bill. The doctors were especially vocal.

The reason for the bill was "an attempt to legislate for a 1992 Supreme Court judgement, known as “the X Case,” that interpreted the 1983 pro-life constitutional amendment as allowing abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of a woman...the bill allows for abortion in cases of threatened suicide if, in the “reasonable opinion” of two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, the threat of suicide can only be avoided by the destruction of unborn life." (1)

The ruling Fine Gael party had promised in the 2011 election not to introduce legislation to legalize abortion. This bill accomplished what the ruling party said they would not do.

One brave Teachta Dála (2) and Minister, Lucinda Creighton, was vocal in her defense of the unborn. She gave a powerful speech in the Irish Parliament highlighting the fact that in Ireland unborn children have full human rights: "I am entirely perplexed as to why the right to legal representation for the unborn is excluded from this legislation. It is the minimum protection required to be afforded to unborn children. It is important to remember, at every step of this legislative process, that the unborn child is a human being, a person and has full rights as such under our Constitution. This means that as a “constitutional person” an unborn baby has the exact same right to life as any other living “constitutional person”.

Creighton called what she was witnessing "groupthink": "If you do not succumb to the accepted view that abortion  is a "liberal issue", a "women's right issue", a cornerstone of the "progressive agenda", then you are deemed to be a backward, illiberal, Neanderthal fundamentalist who belongs to another era. The distinct irony of this prevailing view, is that it is so illiberal its intolerance of any other outlook." (3)

Standing behind her principles, she voted against the bill. For this, she was fired.

Four other Fine Gael members were also expelled for voting against the bill.

Another Fine Gael member also had reservations about the bill, but voted for it. Michelle Mulherin said: "I am now faced with either supporting the bill, or being booted out of the party, my party, and I am not going to allow myself to be booted out, so I am supporting the legislation." (3) At least, she gets points for honesty.

Five politicians were expelled from Parliament for voting against a bill that would introduce abortion into Ireland.

Remember what happened when our own MP Rona Ambrose voted against Canada's "groupthink", when she voted in favour of Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312? She was demonized by “abortion activists”.

MPs know when they defend the unborn they will be marginalized, scorned and ridiculed, not only by  "pro-choice" activists, but also by their own peers in Parliament. No wonder they shut up.

At the Irish health committee hearings, numerous perinatal psychiatrists were against the suicide clause. Three of them said that they had never seen a single case of suicidal intent during pregnancy. (4)

John Sheehan, a top perinatal psychiatrist said: "In practice, it would be impossible for any psychiatrist to accurately predict who will die. So it could lead to multiple false negatives."

Dr. Sean O'Domhnaill said: "The legislation would turn doctors into abortionists. Abortion has no role in modern medicine. Termination is a medieval response to crisis pregnancies."

Dr. Jacqueline Montwill said "The appropriate treatment for any suicidal patient is to ensure their safety either at home or at hospital, to offer psychological support and counseling and psychotropic medication."

Many Irish doctors also wrote letters to the editor. There were letters on both sides of the debate, but it was the pro-life doctors who wrote most convincingly against the bill.

One letter was signed by 56 Irish doctors. All of them had grave concerns about the suicide clause: "Many of us have practised in jurisdictions where such legislation was the first step towards what has become abortion on demand." They said there was no evidence in the "psychiatrist evidence heard by the Supreme Court in 1992" and in the "statements of the psychiatrists called before the Oireachtas Health Committee hearings in 2012" that supported the suicide clause. (This quote and the following quotes are all from letters to the editor as reported by the Irish Times - 5)

Another letter stated: "Recently more that 100 psychiatrists signed a statement saying that legislation, which would allow abortion for threat of suicide, has no basis in medical evidence."

Dr. Sam Coulter stated that the suicide clause "posed major ethical dilemmas for obstetricians and could lead to an increase in women seeking terminations."

Dr. Ruth Foley said: "If the Bill is passed, and some doctors authorize terminations for women whose risk of suicide could have been managed by other treatments, how would anyone know about it? How would these doctors be held to account? If politicians have no satisfactory answer to this question, then passing this Bill in its present form including suicide is an irresponsible and reckless act."

There were some doctors who weren't against the change. But the most they could say in its defense were arguments like Dr. Holohan, who said : "We simply cannot say that the circumstances of a real and substantial risk to a woman's life could never occur as a consequence of suicidal ideation."

I think Canadian doctors and politicians can learn from the example and tenacity of these Irish doctors and politicians. They need to speak up more often, and more loudly.

Yes they will be marginalized, scorned and ridiculed by the strong and vocal pro-abortion lobby, as well as by their peers. My hope is that they will speak up anyway. The rest of us are not giving up the fight. Why should they?

2) TD stands for Teachta Dála, and is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament
5) Letters to the Editor in the Irish Times

Mr Harper: Who has the remote?

I like John Ivison's perspective on Mike Duffy and our Senate situation, and his speculation about why all those bright lights may have been recently shone on it.

Ivison compares this situation with the TV character Frank Underwood:
Frank “The Whip” Underwood was speaking from experience when he said: “Friends make the worst enemies.” Kevin Spacey’s menacing character in House of Cards is intent on bringing down all those on his own team who betrayed him when he was passed over for high office. 
The vindictiveness, if not the malevolence, bears a striking similarity to a certain former Conservative senator, who feels he has been thrown to the wolves by his former colleagues, in the interests of political expediency, while innocent of all transgressions. 
...Likewise, a National Post story that suggested Mr. Duffy’s lawyers will call Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a witness, if the case goes to court. 
The suggestion is that the course of events recalled by Mr. Duffy do not tally with the version put on the public record by the Prime Minister — a tantalizing prospect that would surely have repercussions on Mr. Harper’s grip on power were he to add to, or change, his story under oath.
And then Ivison moves on to this knockout punch:
I wouldn't be at all surprised if Harper's fear of the abortion debate did make him do something else that was controversial (like changing the may senate expenses are done) in order to change the channel.
Ah yes. The dreaded abortion debate. Mr. Harper sure does hate that topic. Yep. Wouldn't surprise me at all.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Washington State and access to information

I received this information below from someone who lives in Washington State, about the access to information situation there. It seems that Washington's situation is far more transparent and accountable to the people than ours is.

(Notice in particular the quote below in their state code. We need a clause like that in our FIPPA.)
Washington State is a lot like Canada when it comes to abortion, a near lawless wasteland. But the one good thing is the Public Records Law. I'd say we have the strongest of all 50 states. This preamble or "construction" is actually in the state code:
"The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. This chapter shall be liberally construed and its exemptions narrowly construed to promote this public policy and to assure that the public interest will be fully protected. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern."
Basically, if you ask for a document the state has, they have to give it to you, as long as they redact any personally identifying information. And they automatically get punished if they don't, so you really don't have to work very hard to get records. The onus is on them, not on the requestor. 
On abortion, it turns out that doctors report every abortion to the state Department of Health. This data is published in statistical form every year by the DOH. I have previously requested the raw data and received it, but the abortionists once up on a time got a law prohibiting the release of any information identifying the abortion clinic or abortionist, so that stuff was redacted/removed.
But if they want to hide it, I want to see it.
So it occurred to me that if they won't give me the clinic info, I could do an end-run around their restriction by requesting the data by clinic. Legal technicalities! So I asked for all abortion records where the facility is X. And then did that for a whole bunch of clinics. This worked on the first one (a non-profit hospital chain out here). So then I did a batch of requests including Planned Parenthood and the major free-standing abortion mills. Now when the state is about to release info it has that is about you, they must notify you. So all the abortion clinics were notified that this data was about to be released. It turns out they all got together to sue the government not to release the data (which is their legal right.) 
So that's where we're at. So legally the government and I are actually co-defendants, and most of the abortion clinics in the state are suing us to prevent release of records. It turns out that there is case law where the state Supreme Court has ruled on almost identical legal issues, so it should be cut and dry.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ontario's information commissioner has a good idea

Yesterday in the Ottawa Citizen, I detailed my case against the Ontario government regarding the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's decision to withhold abortion information from my Freedom of Information request.

Today there is a response by Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.

She says:
although information may be excluded from FIPPA, there is nothing precluding the government from voluntarily releasing non-identifiable statistical information. Those wishing to expand the types of information to be released may seek a change in the law.
I agree. A change in the law is exactly what is needed here.

This amendment to the Freedom of Information Act, brought about by the Broader Public Accountability Act, was a very very bad law. It is completely contrary to the spirit of both these laws. Just look at the names of these laws.

If the government had been up front about what they were doing, instead of being sneaky about it, they would have renamed FIPPA to the Suppression of Information Act and their new bill would have been called the Narrower Public Accountability Act. At least then we would have known what bus hit us.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Op-Ed: Ontario’s information isn’t free

Published in today's Ottawa Citizen

All of us living in Ontario are well aware of the numerous political fiascos attributed to the current Ontario government. There were the gas plants cancellations done for political gain, followed by the deletion of emails to hide what went on with those cancellations, to name but two.

There is another, perhaps more fundamental legacy this government will leave us, that for the most part has gone completely unnoticed. Yet it probably affects each and every one of us on a far more personal level than those mentioned above.
It involves our ability to know what our government is doing, and how much money they spend doing it. This situation, if allowed to continue, could prevent us from knowing how much the government spends on future debacles.
For the lay man and woman like myself, one of the few tools we have to participate in the democratic process is through access to information requests. Within certain parameters, like not being able to see any personal information, all citizens in a democracy like Canada can see government documents by doing Access to Information and Privacy requests for federal information or provincially in Ontario, by Freedom of Information requests.
As a pro-life blogger, I frequently do ATIPs and FOIs of various government departments and ministries. I find out myriad facts about abortion, then comment on my blog about what I have learned, becoming part of the new media.
In March 2012 I sent an FOI request to the Ontario Ministry of Health, looking for abortion statistics. I was surprised when my request was denied, since all my previous FOI requests had been granted. It is important to emphasize that I was asking for aggregate information only. I was not asking for any personal data like patients’ names, doctors’ names or even hospital names.
I asked for totals of abortions performed, and dollars billed by doctors for the “Medical management of non-viable fetus or intra-uterine fetal demise between 14 and 20 weeks gestation … broken down by hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ office.”
I learned that, between my latest request and my previous request, that the government had quietly slipped a clause into the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that would exclude abortion services from all future FOIs.
This in itself was troubling, but what was worse was that all my subsequent research indicated that there had been no debate in the legislature, no opposition party flag-raising, and no public consultations on the change.
The reason it was done has never been satisfactorily explained by the government, except to say the information was “highly sensitive.” My guess is that they felt the subject was just too controversial, so we should be prevented from knowing how many abortions are being performed and at what cost. Remember that abortions are paid for by taxpayers. Regardless of whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, shouldn’t all of us know how and where our tax dollars are being spent?
The whole thing seemed rather Orwellian to me.

I appealed the government’s decision to hide these statistics to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner. I lost the appeal and was left with two choices: I either drop the case or I could ask for a judicial review.
I chose the latter. This means I am taking the Ontario government to court.
I will ask the court to review, among other points, the following: did the IPC fail to consider and address my rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — in particular, my Charter right to freedom of expression? And was the effect of the IPC’s interpretation of the exclusion clause a violation of the principle of open government?
The implications of this change to FIPPA could have significant ramifications to taxpayers in the future. It raises the troubling question: if the government can at the stroke of a pen exclude abortion services from our scrutiny, what else might they exclude in the future? What about the costs of those cancelled gas plants? Maybe they would put in an exclusion clause for that next time. In fact, anything at all that the government decides is too controversial could be the subject of potential exclusion clauses.
I am hopeful that I win the case. It would be a win for all of us.
Here is what former Canadian information commissioner John Reid said about access to information:
After I had been confirmed as federal Information Commissioner, I met with the former Commissioner, John Grace, to get his advice. One thing he said struck me in particular; he said that in his seven years as Privacy Commissioner and eight years as Information Commissioner (a total of 15 years spent reviewing the records which government wanted to withhold from Canadians) he hadn’t seen a really good secret. My experience is much the same over the first year of my term. For the most part, officials love secrecy because it is a tool of power and control, not because the information they hold is particularly sensitive by nature.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Yes abortion is horrible and gruesome are you surprised?

Rick Dykstra and dead babies in dumpsters

by Jonathon van Maren

So: Member of Parliament Rick Dykstra didn’t get a cabinet position in Stephen Harper’s much-anticipated cabinet shuffle, Canada’s “top” abortion activist kindly gave us advice on how to get along with other pro-lifers, and tens of thousands of Canadians—and more by the day—are aware of what abortion is and Canada’s state of lawlessness on the matter.

We’re pleased to announce that the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform has now distributed over 175,000 postcards exposing the reality of abortion in Canada in five ridings—two ridings, those of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and cabinet minister Bal Gosal, have been completely covered. We’ve delivered all of these postcards by hand, showing Canadian voters what abortion in Canada looks like mailbox by mailbox, street by street, and subdivision by subdivision.

Member of Parliament Rick Dykstra actually affirmed in 2006 that he recognized that life begins at fertilization and that the law should protect the human rights of pre-born humans. He affirmed after his election that he didn’t really care that much because apparently the ideologies emanating from the cavernous skulls of Canada’s abortion warriors look better on the resume. However, during Harper’s cabinet shuffle, Mr. Dykstra did not get a cabinet position. This makes us very happy because we’re pretty sure that Mr. Dykstra decided to stop caring about human rights specifically to get a cabinet position, where he could be A Very Important Person™ and do very important things for the next generation, or at least those who survived his apathy. He sold out, and he got nothing. At least Judas Iscariot got thirty pieces of silver.

Mr. Dykstra, as I’ve mentioned before, claims to be “personally pro-life” in order to pretend his Christian beliefs are still near and dear to him, even though he apparently treats them like a very nice decoration—something to be seen, but not used. Staff members at his office, one of whom rushed out and assaulted one of our activists, have been claiming our pictures are fake. That is because the results of Mr. Dykstra’s morally repulsive position are so difficult to look at that all they can really do in response is claim that it didn’t actually happen. That, of course, and shoving those who pass out the postcards--apparently verbally flailing against truth isn't always sufficient, and sometimes violence is necessary. How very pro-choice of them.

Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada fluctuated between pretending to be happy that we were distributing postcards, accusing us of harassment, and oh-so-nicely informing us that if we stopped telling everybody what abortion looked like, other pro-lifers would like us better. Her concern was touching, and we felt warm and fuzzy, and we’re going to distribute around another 100,000 postcards before we’re done. It’s the thought that counts, I suppose.

Ms. Arthur says that we must be getting a torrent of negative responses from our postcard distribution. Actually, less than 1% of those who have received a postcard have contacted us, and all those who have get a phone call back if they desire. Yes, many of them angrily ask us why we’re distributing “horrible, gruesome images”—which is why many people are uncomfortable with this project. I’m confused here: Our job is to destroy the cultural cognitive dissonance between what we instinctively know about children in the womb and what we societally believe about abortion. People whose default position on abortion is apathy are describing the procedure as “horrible and gruesome,” and are having an emotional reaction to the issue. No, they might not be anti-abortion yet. No, they aren’t too happy that we’ve disturbed their bliss by showing them that abortion is, indeed, horrible and gruesome. But it’s a really good start. Our country has been in darkness on this issue for too long—and when someone throws the light on; your eyes will hurt at first. But when they adjust, you begin to see things you never saw before. Like the fact that abortion is horrible and gruesome.

This project is just a start. Because we’ll stop dropping postcards showing dead babies in mailboxes when Canadian abortionists stop dropping dead babies in dumpsters.

Reprinted with permission from Unmasking Choice

More on CCBR's Postcard campaign here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Abortion consent forms

Some time ago I contacted numerous abortion clinics/hospitals around the country. I asked them to provide me with copies of their abortion consent forms.

Five places responded to me with their consent forms.

Some would not provide their forms.

Some places never responded.

Here are the documents I did receive.

Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg
(I was told that “We use the same consent as we do for all surgeries and procedures in the region”.)

Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital BC
(I was told that they "use the standard consent form from BC Women's Service Clinic adapted for our site".)

Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region’s Women’s Health Centre
(I was told that "The consent used is the same consent used for Diagnostic and Treatment Procedures for both outpatient and ambulatory clinics in our region.  It is important to also note, that the Women’s Health Centre in Regina is a member of the National Abortion Federation (NAF).  The Women’s Health Centre follows the Clinical Policy Guidelines set forth from this organization to ensure that women’s needs are appropriately address and that they are fully aware and informed of what procedure they are consenting to have."

The Ottawa Hospital
(I was told that the "Ottawa Hospital does not have treatment specific forms".)

The Women's Health Clinic in Winnipeg posts their consent form on their website. Here it is.