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a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Autumn/Winter 2000 Issue
Table of Contents
BC / Canadian News
U.S. /International News
Dooms'Day' in Canada: Abortion Rights Threatened by Alliance
Stockwell Day (leader of the Canadian Alliance Party) tried to hide the fact that an Alliance government would take steps to destroy abortion rights in this country, says Pro-Choice West, a coalition of pro-choice groups across western Canada.
"Day's recent refusal to explain his party's platform for citizen-initiated referenda shows he has a clear agenda to dismantle abortion rights in Canada," said Joyce Arthur, a Vancouver spokesperson for Pro-Choice West. "He's told the public that abortion is not an issue for him, but meanwhile, he's been giving a wink and a nudge to anti-abortionist groups." For example, here are some Alliance answers to a questionnaire by Campaign Life Coalition, June, 2000:
- "I would like to see legal protection of all innocent human life in Canada."
"I believe that all human beings possess an inalienable right to life. I do not support abortion or euthanasia, and I would personally favour measures to protect human life in Canadian law."
"I would undertake measures that will allow Members of Parliament" to introduce anti-abortion legislation, and "would support any pro-life measures brought forward" by them.
"I would continue to initiate broad public discussion of the protection of innocent human life."
"I believe that this obligation [of MP's to vote as per their constituency's wishes] cannot bind legislators to vote in favour of measures which would abrogate inalienable human rights, such as the rights to life, liberty, and property."
In the questionnaire, Day also stated he supports cutting taxpayer funding of abortion, and committed himself to supporting "conscience clauses," allowing health care workers to opt out of providing reproductive health services. (www.lifesite.net/interim/2000/june/01alliance.html)
Melanie Anderson, a Calgary spokesperson for Pro-Choice West, says that Day has a proven record of trying to impose his personal religious values on the public. "Day spearheaded a failed initiative to defund abortion when he was a Cabinet minister in Alberta," said Anderson. "He also supported 'conscience clause' legislation to allow health care workers to refuse to provide reproductive health services." In 1992, Day told the Edmonton Journal that "women who become pregnant through rape or incest should not qualify for government-funded abortions unless their pregnancy is life-threatening."
Apart from abortion, Day advocated using the Charter of Rights' notwithstanding clause to overturn a court decision that recognized gay rights, and tried to cancel funding for a museum project on gay/lesbian history in Alberta. Day even appears to hold a profound disregard for secular, democratic government. As the administrator of a private fundamentalist Christian school in Bentley, Alberta, from 1978 to 1985, he refused to abide by the provincial curriculum and defended a narrow religious curriculum, which a government commission found held "a degree of insensitivity towards blacks, Jews and natives." The curriculum taught Biblical creationism as science and included Social Studies lessons warning students that democratic governments "represent the ultimate deification of man, which is the very essence of humanism and totally alien to God's word." Day told the Alberta Report in 1984 that "Standards of education are not set by government, but by God, the Bible, the home, and the school." And in 1998, he told a Christian newspaper that the Bible is "the infallible word of God and every word in it, cover to cover, is true."
This fall, when Day was campaigning for the top spot in Canada's secular, democratic government, he deliberately jettisoned most of his radical right-wing rhetoric. But have no doubt, his strong fundamentalist beliefs are still intact. "Based on his record and his strong anti-abortion beliefs, it would be naive to think he's going to shelve his moral views out of respect for Canada's pro-choice majority," said Anderson.
"Day claims he won't impose his views on the Canadian people, but in fact, he owes plenty of favours to right-wing anti-abortion groups, like Campaign Life Coalition, which helped elect him as Alliance leader," said Chris Melnick, a Winnipeg Pro-Choice West spokesperson.
Day's recent waffling on the issue of referendums simply cloaks his firm intent to use them as a tool once in power. Melnick said, "Human rights should never be decided by majority vote, and legal abortion is a fundamental human right. Not only can referendums trample on human and minority rights, they are a cowardly way for a politician to avoid leadership on contentious issues." The outcome of a referendum depends entirely on first, how much money special interest groups spend on it, and second, the clarity of the question asked. With an Alliance government, we can cynically guess how biased a referendum question on abortion would be, plus anti-abortion groups generally have far more fundraising power than pro-choice groups.
Barb McWatters, a Regina Pro-Choice West spokesperson, said, "Besides a referendum, there's many actions that Day and his anti-abortion government could take to restrict abortion." Day has already promised to eliminate national health care standards by removing the federal government's ability to monitor and enforce them. No federal penalties against provinces that violate the Canada Health Act, and no more health care cash from Ottawa - instead, provinces will be given the ability to collect their own taxes to pay for healthcare - taxes that used to be collected by the federal government. This would essentially allow provinces to do whatever they want - not only defund abortion, but privatize Medicare and create a two-tier health care system. Day claims he would make the provinces enter into binding agreements to uphold the Canada Health Act, but Day would have no power to make the provinces do any such thing.
There is a long list of other possible actions against abortion that Day could take as Prime Minister, such as:
- Appoint anti-abortion cabinet ministers, including Health Minister, Justice Minister, Solicitor General, and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.
Appoint anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Change the Criminal Code and the Constitution to give rights to fetuses.
Delist abortion as a medically necessary procedure, allowing provincial governments to opt out of funding abortion.
Support legislation and private member bills that would restrict access to abortion.
Use the Prime Minister's office as a bully pulpit for anti-choice propaganda.
Encourage anti-abortion terrorism and harassment against abortion providers and their staff through inaction and silence.
Invoke the Charter of Rights "notwithstanding" clause to override court decisions that "conflict with the intent of the government" (nothing less than dictatorship!).
Refuse to sanction research or support medical trials on abortion drugs or new abortion technologies, and discourage their testing and importation.
Ignore the attrition of qualified abortion providers by not requiring that abortion be taught at publicly funded medical schools.
Use Health Canada to promote anti-choice propaganda and misrepresentations about abortion to the public and to schools.
Enact conscience clauses to permit health care providers to opt out of providing reproductive health care.
Fund anti-choice pregnancy centres that mislead women, and support funding of abstinence-only based sex education programs in schools.
Refuse to allow international law to supersede Canadian law, including treaties that recognize women's reproductive rights.
Restrict funding of population and development programs that include family planning, sex education, and/or abortion.
Allow fundamentalist Christianity to govern Canadian policy by allowing free votes on moral issues by Alliance MP's; encouraging petitions and lobbying by fundamentalist voters; and by public expression and exercise of religious beliefs in the day-to-day work of government.
"Day's Alliance government would be a disaster for women's right to choose abortion," said McWatters. "Day's so-called 'agenda of respect' is Orwellian double-speak. He just needs the votes of moderates to help him get elected. But once he's on top, he will impose his reactionary views on the public and destroy public health care and abortion rights in this country."
(Thanks to Canadian Abortion Rights Action League for some of this information. See their website exposing Day's agenda, at www.caral.ca/pages/respectforwho.htm)
Pro-CAN Wins Decision
Against Offensive Anti-abortion Ad
by Joyce Arthur
In July, the Pro-Choice Action Network won a complaint it lodged against a false and defamatory anti-abortion ad published in two community newspapers in the Lower Mainland. In a unanimous decision, Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), a consumer watchdog agency that enforces the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, ruled that the ad "demeaned and disparaged" abortion providers under Section 14(c) of the Code.
The full-page ad was placed by the Burnaby Pro-Life Society and appeared in the Burnaby Now and Royal City Record newspapers on April 23, 2000. The ad claimed that abortion doctors and clinics were profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, and even killing live babies in order to harvest and sell their body parts. The ad included a "price list" for various fetal parts, and also stated: "Abortionists are paid by mothers or by governments on their behalf to kill their children and paid again by researchers for the body parts." The Burnaby Pro-Life Society exploited the ad's lies by soliciting donations to "stop this murderous practice." (See evidence refuting the ad in the Summer 2000 issue of Pro-Choice Press).
The Burnaby Pro-Life Society appealed the Advertising Standards Canada decision a few weeks later. The appeal was heard in Toronto, and Pro-CAN made a written submission. On Sept. 26, ASC issued a final unanimous decision, which we have been requested to keep confidential as per ASC policy. However, we are delighted with the appeal decision.
Although the decision does not levy any penalties against the advertiser, it does mean that the Burnaby Pro-Life Society cannot place the same ad again. Predictably, the Burnaby Pro-Life Society continues to stand by the ad's falsehoods, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence against the ad. At one point, a spokesperson for the Burnaby Pro-life Society confessed to complete ignorance about this evidence, but still insisted on defending the ad's falsehoods in spite of it. It is very disturbing to realize that the anti-choice are incapable of admitting error, and will continue spewing lies about abortion providers, no matter what the evidence.
We also tried to get the papers to publish a retraction. Just after the ad was published in April, we wrote to both newspapers demanding a retraction because the ad was false and defamatory, and we submitted a letter to the editor giving evidence refuting the ad. However, neither paper ever published this letter, or a retraction. In fact, the actions of the papers, in particular the Burnaby Now, were disgraceful. We later learned that the Burnaby Now editors discarded our entire correspondence because they alleged our letter was too long, at 600 words. But the Burnaby Now has frequently printed letters of about that length and sometimes longer. For example, it printed an anonymous 725-word letter on June 18 - ironically, a letter that corrects alleged fabrications made in a Burnaby Now article! (As for the Record, they gave our correspondence to their lawyer, and claimed to never print letters on the abortion issue from anyone.)
A second reason the Burnaby Now gave for not publishing our letter was that they had chosen to publish other letters representing our viewpoint from Burnaby residents. But our letter, written by me, should have carried more weight than that of an ordinary citizen, because I was writing as an informed spokesperson representing the cause and the group of persons defamed in the ad. Also, I was providing specific, factual information to refute the ad that no ordinary citizen would normally know or have access to, and which readers should have been made aware of.
On May 3, the Burnaby Now published a letter from a reader who thanked the paper for publishing the ad because "We need to know the truth." A large banner headline over the letter read "Tough message should be told." Taken together with the failure to publish our prior letter, we interpreted this as a deliberate slap in the face, as well as a violation of journalistic ethics.
We then called the Vancouver Sun and asked reporter Kim Bolan to do a story. When the story came out (May 12), the publisher of Burnaby Now, Brad Alden, called me and left a message in which he stated he would investigate the facts and let his readers know if the ad was false. He repeated this promise in the Vancouver Sun article and in a conversation with me a few days later, during which he requested the further evidence I had offered to send him. I immediately arranged to have comprehensive documentation Fed-Exed to the paper, courtesy of the National Abortion Federation in Washington, DC (including U.S. Congressional transcripts, a sworn affidavit from the "baby parts racket" informant recanting his claims, and other materials). Yet the Burnaby Now still did not print a retraction.
A few days later, the then-editor of the Burnaby Now, Barry Gerding, who was investigating the matter, informed me that he had called Mark Crutcher, President of Life Dynamics Inc., to get his side of the story. Life Dynamics is the radical anti-abortion group solely responsible for promoting the urban myth that abortion providers are profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood of America has called Crutcher "the most dangerous anti-choicer in America." Crutcher and Life Dynamics collect information on abortion providers and supporters, and use it to harass and target them, possibly exposing them to hatred and violence. In our opinion, calling Crutcher for information is like calling Charles Manson for information - no legitimate or credible information can possibly be obtained in this way. Not only did this action not represent a sincere attempt by the Burnaby Now to investigate the matter, I felt that the Burnaby Now had put my personal safety and privacy at risk by talking to Crutcher.
On May 31, the Burnaby Now printed a letter by anti-abortion leader Ted Gerk of Kelowna, supporting the claims in the ad and attacking me and my published letter of May 24 - a short letter that the paper did agree to print. The publication of Gerk's letter showed that the paper was apparently continuing to support the false ad, and was not acting appropriately to correct the situation. In fact, the paper stood by and turned this into a debate among its readers, instead of confirming the facts and printing a prompt retraction.
On June 3, I emailed a correspondence to the Burnaby Now, which reiterated our demand for a retraction, outlined our grievances against them, and which included a short letter to the editor to refute Gerk's errors. The paper did not publish a retraction or my letter, in effect, letting Gerk's errors stand without rebuttal, and demonstrating the paper's entrenched support of the false ad.
Meanwhile, in late May, we began an advertising boycott of both the Burnaby Now and Royal City Record by writing letters to a selection of advertisers from both papers, asking them to withhold their advertising support until the papers printed a retraction. In the letter, we stated, "it appears that the publishers...have let their personal beliefs against abortion completely overrule their objectivity."
The papers obtained a copy of our letter to their advertisers. But instead of printing a retraction, the papers chose to retain a lawyer and threaten us with a lawsuit for "defamation" because of the above statement, and for recovery of damages for "economic loss" over our boycott!
In response, we researched defamation law, and found that we probably should have given the advertisers more evidence as to why we thought the papers were anti-abortion, instead of just stating that as our opinion. So to correct our omission, and relying on legal advice from our lawyers, we wrote another letter to the same group of advertisers, explaining in detail why we thought the papers had an anti-abortion bias that had interfered with their journalistic integrity and their ethical obligations to their readers.
We described to the advertisers the actions of the papers to date, and also pointed out that the ad published by the papers was extremely offensive and in poor taste for a community newspaper. It is reasonable to believe that a newspaper serving a diverse public readership would not publish such a vulgar ad unless they had a hidden agenda.
In addition, the ad's claims were highly questionable and potentially defamatory on their face, to any reasonable person, even without the benefit of contrary evidence. There is no evidence that the papers made any effort to verify the ad's veracity before publication, which would be the expected action of any responsible, unbiased editor upon review of such a controversial ad.
We sent a copy of our second advertiser letter to the papers' lawyer, along with a private letter to the lawyer, carefully explaining to him why the papers did not have any grounds to sue us, and that in fact, it was the papers that had cause to worry about potential lawsuits and other liabilities over their publication of a false and defamatory ad that they were unwilling to correct. We never heard back from the papers' lawyer again.
In August, we also learned that the identical ad had appeared twice in both the Delta Optimist and the Surrey-North Delta-White Rock Now newspapers, once in December 1999 and again in February 2000. We promptly wrote letters to both papers explaining that the ad was false and defamatory, requesting that they never publish the ad again, and warning that further action would be taken against them if they did.
Although in the end, we were not successful in getting the Burnaby Now and Royal City Record to print retractions, we won an important victory with the Advertising Standards Canada decision. We also were successful in persuading a number of big unions to pull their Labour Day ads from the papers, ensuring the papers lost any profit they might have made from the anti-abortion ad. The papers were publicly embarrassed by publicity in the mainstream press, they lost credibility with many of their advertisers, not to mention some advertising revenue, and we forced them to spend money on a lawyer (an expensive one, we hope!).
We trust that the lessons learned by the papers will ensure that they never print another defamatory anti-abortion ad again.
We would like to ask all our readers and supporters to monitor these two papers, plus any other community newspaper they have access to, and please notify Pro-CAN if any anti-abortion advertising appears. Thank you!
Protesters Convicted, Sentenced
On August 8, Gordon Watson and Donald Spratt were found guilty of violating the Access to Abortion Services Act on December 17, 1998, specifically sections 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b), which prohibit sidewalk interference and protesting.
The decision was a complete vindication for the Act and for Everywoman's Health Centre.
Judge Frances Howard of the Provincial Court of BC ruled that the Act does not violate any rights of the fetus, because "the foetus is not a 'person' in law and has no rights under the Charter that are capable of being violated by the Act."
Second, she ruled that the Act was validly enacted under the Constitution Act by the province. (The accused had argued the bubble zone law was outside provincial jurisdiction and illegally expanded on the Criminal Code.)
Third, she ruled the Act was constitutional. Although she said the Act does violate sections 2(a) and (b) of the Charter of Rights (freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of expression), the limits imposed by the Act are reasonable limits that are demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society (S.1 of the Charter).
Fourth, she disallowed all the defences of the accused, including the defence of necessity and defences under S.27 and S.262 of the Criminal Code and S.8 of the Labour Relations Code (respectively, because abortion is lawful and not an offence that must be stopped; the fetus is not a person; and union regulations regarding legal picketing were irrelevant to the case at hand). The judge also dismissed Watson's claim to be a "guardian ad litem for unborn children" as having no legal or conceptual merit.
Fifth, the judge dismissed the defendants' arguments that Canada's laws are subject to the Supremacy of God clause in the Charter's preamble. She said their argument was "tantamount to having the court impose Christianity on the citizens of this country" and was a "plea for a state religion." She expressed "utter perplexity" at the "confidence that each accused has in the idea that any or all Judges in this country will inevitably interpret God's Law in the same way as do the accused."
The judge took great exception to Watson's hostility towards one of the witnesses, a clinic nurse. Watson had attempted to question her about the clinic's union, on grounds that he could legally picket the clinic under the Labour Relations Code. At one point, according to the judge, Watson "leaned forward, angrily jabbed his finger towards the witness and shouted loudly, '...the wages of sin is death and she is going to Hell!'" The judge added, "... the hostility in Watson's voice was unmistakable and frightening," bringing the Sheriff "immediately on his feet, ready to step forward if necessary." Watson's cross-examination was immediately terminated.
Watson and Spratt were both sentenced on September 11 to one month in jail, which was later commuted to one month of electronic monitoring. They also received a recognizance order to stay away from all bubble zones for one year, including keeping away from a one-block radius around Everywoman's and the Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic; plus a $1000 fine to be paid if the recognizance order is violated. The judge decided on a jail sentence based on both of the defendants' prior records (contempt of court) and lack of remorse.
Watson said he will abide by all conditions. Spratt refused to sign the recognizance order - although he has "no intention" to violate it - and said he will refuse to pay the fine if he does violate it, since he follows a "higher law" and answers only to God.
Both Watson and Spratt have appealed the decision.
Abortion Clinic Vandalized
"How Should We Treat Our Neighbour?" - Vandalize Their Property!
On October 24 at 6 am, three anti-abortionists were arrested on charges of vandalizing Everywoman's Health Centre. The vandals painted over a full-length mural on the front of the building, with black paint. The professional mural was created in 1996 and depicts a meadow of multi-coloured wildflowers. On one side of the wall, the vandals stenciled the words, "Where have all the flowers gone?"
Arrested at the scene by police and taken into custody were Jennifer Ziemann, Tim Vincent, and Darren Holubowich. Mary Wagner was also arrested for violating the bubble zone. Before the accused were taken away by police, Cecilia von Dehn, Glenn Reed, and other local anti-choice activists stood inside the bubble zone and applauded their support of the vandals. Von Dehn owns the house next door to Everywoman's.
Previously, on Oct. 16, Wagner was given one day in jail and a six-month injunction to stay away from the clinic after she violated Everywoman's bubble zone in August. The judge told Wagner at the time that violating the injunction would result in an automatic 18-month jail term. (see next story).
The three vandals are members of the Just Neighbours group, an anti-choice group recently formed by local activist Lane Walker. Just Neighbours is the group responsible for sending letters to abortion providers in recent weeks asking them to stop performing abortions. The group professes non-violence. Just Neighbours said in their letter: "How should we treat our neighbours?" The answer is now clear - by vandalizing their property!
Cheryl Hamilton, the original mural artist, stated: "By destroying the mural, the vandals haven't hurt the clinic, they've hurt the neighbourhood. When the mural was being painted, we got a lot of positive support from neighbours. Through this selfish act, all the vandals have created is ugliness."
Just Neighbours also said in their letter that "…we have no reason to be angry with you [abortion providers], as we are reminded by Gandhi." Also, they claimed to want to heal wounds "through non-violent means with love."
"What unbelievable hypocrisy!" said Joyce Arthur, spokesperson for the clinic. "If vandalizing a beautiful mural is their idea of 'love' and 'non-violence', it means we're truly dealing with dangerous fanatics. This crime was an act of terrorism because it was designed to frighten doctors and clinic staff. You can't get any further removed from Gandhi's peaceful message than that."
The vandals were sentenced in early November. Vincent and Ziemann were given four months in jail and a $2,800 fine because they had previous convictions, and Holubowich was given a suspended sentence. All three also received two years probation.
Luckily, the clinic had applied anti-graffiti surfacing over the mural when it was created. Clinic staff were able to completely remove the black paint later the same day, and there was no damage to the mural. However, the clinic welcomes donations to help support the clinic's security costs. Please send to: Everywoman's Health Centre, 2005 E. 44 Ave., Vancouver, BC, V5P 1N1.
Martyr Mary, Quite Contrary
Mary Wagner was arrested on Aug. 29 for violating the Access to Abortion Services Act (bubble zone law) outside Everywoman's Health Centre. The police happened by at about 6:30 am and found Wagner kneeling directly in front of the clinic doors, praying, with a jar of roses carrying a Mother Teresa quote: "Life is precious: Do not destroy it." Wagner refused to leave and handed police a letter urging them to risk their jobs by not enforcing the law against her. Finally, the police physically picked her up and carried her to the police car.
In her quest to be a martyr, Wagner refused all legal counsel and represented herself at her trial on Oct. 16. She offered no defence, undertook no cross-examinations, and did not challenge any evidence raised against her. Judge Wallace Craig convicted Wagner on two counts - mischief under the Criminal Code, and sidewalk interference under the bubble zone law. A charge of protesting inside the bubble zone was thrown out by the judge, who was troubled by any restrictions against protest. He expressed respect for Wagner's dedication and devout religious beliefs.
However, the judge said he was bound by the laws in front of him. Declaring that she'd already spent enough time in jail, Craig sentenced Wagner to one day in jail on each of the two charges, and a 6-month order to stay out of the bubble zones. Wagner refused to sign the order, saying, "It would be a violation of my conscience to make such a promise." However, Wagner will still be bound by the order, and if she violates it, the judge told her she would receive an automatic 18-month jail sentence.
Although Judge Craig did not seem to like the bubble zone law, he also claimed to be pro-choice, implied he was not a Christian himself, and strongly urged Wagner to stop protesting at the clinic and express her beliefs more constructively, like her idol Mother Teresa. Obviously, neither the judge nor Wagner have read The Missionary Position, Christopher Hitchen's chilling exposé of Mother Teresa's dark side.
Wagner was also convicted in January 2000 of violating Everywoman's bubble zone. At that time, she was sentenced to 15 days in jail plus time served in custody. Since her latest conviction is her second offence, the pro-choice movement is very disappointed that she wasn't given a harsher sentence, as the Act allows. It became clear that Wagner does not feel in the least bound by Judge Craig’s injunction against her, because she was arrested in front of the clinic again only one week later (see previous story). What is needed for this newest violation is an objective judge who will remain unmoved by Wagner's youth and gender, diminutive and delicate appearance, and meek, soft-spoken manner - the latter of which is displayed in front of judges, but not abortion clinics.
Criminal Vigilante Group Forms
Anti-abortion activist Lane Walker of Vancouver recently founded a new group called "Just Neighbours," ostensibly advocating non-violence, love of one's opponents, and respect for neighbours.
However, the group, whose violently masochistic logo shows a defiantly upraised fist with a spike nailed through its wrist, has been carrying out acts of harassment and violence against doctors and clinics. In fact, Walker publicly announced the group’s intent to commit crimes. He told BC Report magazine that, "We are prepared if needs be to break the law, if the law is defending something that is clearly unjust."
Just Neighbours’ first act was to send letters to abortion providers in the Lower Mainland, asking them to stop performing abortions. Walker was hoping to challenge the Access to Abortion Services Act, but the Act does not prohibit harassing materials sent through the mail. At least two versions of the letter were sent. One letter used a quote from Gandhi, using it to speak to abortion providers: "I hope God will give me the courage and the sense to forgive them and to refrain from bringing them to law. I have no anger against them. I am only sorry for their ignorance and their narrowness. I know they sincerely believe that what they are doing today is right and proper. I have no reason therefore to be angry with them." The letter called abortion medical tools instruments of death on a par with war machines and bombs. A second letter claimed that Just Neighbours loved abortion providers "truly and honestly" and contained out-of-context quotes from pro-choice activists to support the premise that abortion is violent.
Just Neighbours' second act was to attack the Everywoman's Health Clinic by spray-painting over a large mural (see previous story). The right-wing press, always so quick to condemn what they claim is "pro-abortion violence," did not condemn this malicious crime, which they called an act of "civil disobedience."
Just Neighbours' third act occurred when Lane Walker turned himself into Vancouver police in late October and confessed to a February 25, 1990 break-in at Everywoman's Health Centre. No one had ever been arrested for this crime, in which someone broke through the clinic door with a crowbar and destroyed a vacuum aspirator and an ultrasound machine, equipment worth thousands of dollars. Walker was convicted and sentenced on Nov. 2 to one day in jail with no probation and ordered to pay $10,000 in damages. No jail time was given because the judge ruled Walker was no immediate threat to abortion clinic staff, and because the incident took place a long time ago. (Walker probably did not act alone during the break-in. A witness reported at the time that a Jeep, subsequently linked to prominent anti-choice activist Jim Demers of Nelson, was seen parked outside the clinic during the break-in. Demers refused to talk to police during the investigation, and the police simply let the matter slide. Demers has been arrested about ten times for blockading clinics in BC and Alberta, and once destroyed an aspirator at Kootenay Regional Hospital.)
Just Neighbours' members have also started a religious cult called the St. Chiara Community - they live together in a communal house in Vancouver's downtown eastside, with children present.
Of course, a group that defines itself with a violent image, operates a religious cult, sends harassing letters, carries out illegal acts, openly plans to carry out more, and was founded by a convicted criminal, cannot be trusted to act peacefully, or with "love" towards anyone. When a group of vigilantes pledges to commit crimes, and places itself above the law, its members risk becoming perverted and unrestrained in their beliefs and actions. This makes Just Neighbours a dangerous fomenting ground for criminals and extremists, which in turn poses a threat to the safety of abortion providers, as well as the general public.
Exner Caves to Pro-Choice Pressure
The Pro-Choice Action Network and UBC Students for Choice held a successful and peaceful counter-picket against Archbishop Adam Exner at his Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver on August 5, about the same time Exner had planned to lead a prayer vigil at Everywoman's Health Centre. BC's pro-choice movement denounced Exner's announced presence at an abortion clinic vigil only three short weeks after abortion provider Dr. Gary Romalis was stabbed.
"Exner's leadership at this event sends a strong message to the entire anti-abortion movement that it's perfectly acceptable to harass clinics and doctors and put them at further risk of violence," said Joyce Arthur, spokesperson for Pro-CAN. Arthur noted that Exner has been relatively silent in the face of anti-abortion violence. "I only recall him speaking out once," said Arthur. "In 1998, he condemned the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, but only because he was forced to defend the editor of BC Catholic, Paul Schratz, who stated that killing doctors who perform abortions 'might have some positive side effects.' "
Arthur said that Exner, a highly visible Catholic leader, should be taking a much more active role to counter anti-abortion violence. "Why doesn't he call for the excommunication of anti-abortion terrorists who are Catholic?" said Arthur. "Why doesn't he urge his flock to help stop the violent rhetoric about abortion that only incites hatred against doctors?"
Erin Kaiser of UBC Students for Choice says that Exner openly associates with anti-choice leaders who advocate the "justifiable homicide" of doctors. "Exner and his Archdiocese invited anti-abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson to Vancouver for an anti-choice fundraising dinner on May 15," explained Kaiser. "But in 1994, Nathanson publicly stated that it's OK to kill abortion doctors in the act of performing abortions. So why is Exner having dinner with and making money off an advocate of violence?"
When the counter-protest was almost over, the picketers learned that Exner had abruptly cancelled the vigil outside Everywoman's, conducting it instead at a nearby Catholic church. Subsequent media coverage revealed that it was almost certainly our advance press release that was responsible. BCTV cornered Exner on the 6 o'clock news, on which he claimed he cancelled the vigil because he wanted to be "sensitive to the community." (But why didn't he think of that at the planning stage!) He also alleged lamely that the "format" was more suited for a church than outside the clinic. However, Arthur speculated to the media that perhaps another reason Exner cancelled the vigil was because he belatedly realized that Jesus condemns hypocrites who pray in public at street corners, instead of in private (Matthew 6:5).
Exner also denied knowing anything about Nathanson's support of violence, telling BCTV that Nathanson made no mention of that at the dinner and if he had, Exner would have certainly spoken out against it - as if ignorance of someone's background is an excuse when you use that person to make $100,000.
Exner called it "insensitive" and an "insult" because a couple of the picketers dressed up as pregnant nuns. He missed the obvious point that a pregnant nun is a symbol of a woman who doesn't expect to get pregnant - and even nuns get raped. Besides, it's the Church that's insensitive and insulting for denying all women the right to their conscience.
In a subsequent radio interview, Exner reportedly even called for bubble zones around churches, as if a legitimate, peaceful protest across the street from Exner's cathedral (100 feet away) is any way comparable to the dangerous and direct harassment of patients and staff entering abortion clinics.
Emergency Contraception at Pharmacies on December 1
BC is the first province in Canada where women who want to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse will be able to buy emergency contraception at BC pharmacies without a prescription, starting December 1.
Premier Ujjal Dosanjh announced at a high-profile news conference on Oct. 26 that he will not wait for the federal government to de-list the treatment to make prescriptions unnecessary. "Too many women for too long have been denied the use of emergency contraception pills because they couldn't get them when they needed them," Dosanjh said. "This prevents women from having to wait that much longer for something that's already been proven to be medically safe and highly effective to become readily available."
Dosanjh said the government has made regulatory changes to the BC Pharmacy Act so pharmacists will be able to dispense the pills, commonly known as the "morning after" pill. These are ''interim measures'' until federal authorities de-list emergency contraception as a prescription drug, Dosanjh said.
"It's still a prescription drug," explained Brenda Osmond, deputy registrar of the College of Pharmacists of BC. "It's just that pharmacists have gained the authority to provide this prescription drug directly to women." The College, along with the BC Pharmacy Association, spearheaded the initiative. Since time is of the essence in taking the medication, the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions will be reduced if women can get the medication easily and quickly.
Emergency contraception pills work like a strong dose of oral contraceptives. When birth control fails during sex or isn't used, the pills prevent ovulation, the fertilization of an egg, or the implantation of the egg in the uterus. They don't interrupt an established pregnancy, and they work only if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. Two new brands of emergency contraception, Plan B and Preven, have recently become available in Canada, at a cost of about $8 to $15 per dose.
Joan Smallwood, (former) Minister of Women's Equality, said, ''The access question is crucial to women in this province," since the intimidation of abortion providers has ''severely restricted'' access to services, particularly in smaller communities. ''This will provide real choices to women in those small communities to be able to take control over their reproductive choices," Smallwood said.
In BC, pharmacists who want to become certified to dispense the pills must take a half-day course that equips them with medical information on the drug, and also focuses on confidentiality, counseling, and the need to provide referrals to doctors. About 800 of BC's 2500 pharmacists in community practice have already taken the training, with hundreds more signed up.
Emergency contraception been available without prescription in Europe for many years, as well as in Washington State for the last two years. Oregon, California, and Alaska are also planning on implementing pilot programs to make emergency contraception available through pharmacies.
BC is the first province to give pharmacists this authority, but others, including Ontario, are planning similar programs. Within a week of BC's announcement, the Ontario Medical Association's governing board passed a resolution in favour of over-the-counter sales of the pill and began to lobby the province to implement the idea. The Ontario government had previously agreed to fund a pilot project in Toronto.
Emergency contraception was supposed to be available through pharmacists in BC by May 1 of this year, but legislative obstacles and doctor disputes delayed the initiative. Some doctors were concerned about the usurping of their duties and worried that women's health would not be protected adequately by pharmacists. Perhaps because of this, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons did not add its name as a supporter of the initiative when it was announced.
The Pro-Choice Action Network would like to thank Premier Dosanjh, the government of BC, the College of Pharmacists of BC, the BC Pharmacy Association, and other health organizations and professionals who worked very hard on this important project. And congratulations go to the women of BC, who have been empowered with better options and choices to help control their bodies and their lives.
GAP Returns to UBC
Threat of Lawsuit Stifles Free Speech, Hurts Women
An Oct. 25 pro-choice protest against the Genocide Awareness Project’s anti-abortion display at UBC was thwarted due to lawsuit threats by Lifeline, UBC’s anti-abortion club.
The California-based Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) travels to university campuses and displays large colour billboards of actual genocide victims, including corpses of Jews in Nazi death camps and lynched blacks hanging from trees, as well as other inexplicable grotesque images of animal experimentation and cancerous breasts. These images are then juxtaposed with pictures of aborted fetuses to create a demented and revolting art exhibit, of sorts. The intent is to make people feel appalled by the "genocide" of abortion, but it more often results in people being appalled by GAP. The display is widely considered to be hate propaganda against women, and a racist insult to ethnic minorities whose peoples have been real victims of genocide. At UBC, the campus anti-abortion club Lifeline, has sponsored three "mini-GAP" displays since Nov. 1999, using smaller pictures. (See additional GAP articles on our website, and see GAP's grotesque pictures for yourself on their website.)
UBC Students for Choice had planned to create a ten-foot buffer zone in front of the latest mini-GAP display using large banners saying "It's your choice." The purpose was fourfold: 1) to allow anyone to go inside the buffer zone to view the display if they chose to; 2) to defend everyone’s free speech rights and right to protest; 3) to protect students passing by who might be traumatized or upset by having the display forced upon them; and 4) to prevent violence or vandalism (such as the incident in November 1999 when three pro-choice UBC students trashed a GAP display that was erected without any advance notice or security). In other words, Students for Choice was attempting to compensate for the irresponsibility of both Lifeline and the UBC administration, who should have taken these protective actions instead.
However, Lifeline got wind of the buffer zone plans, and their lawyer, Craig Jones, President of the BC Civil Liberties Association, sent a threatening letter to UBC Students for Choice and to the Pro-Choice Action Network (even though we were not involved in the counter-protest). Jones said Lifeline would sue if the display couldn't be viewed from a distance, and stated "Such ‘shrouding’ [of the display] would in our view constitute an unlawful interference with our clients’ contractual, common law and constitutional rights. Should it occur on the 25th or at any other time, we will seek instructions to commence legal proceedings for damages, including exemplary and punitive damages, against the individuals involved without further notice."
GAP and its sponsors are legendary for their bullying and intimidation tactics. They routinely threaten lawsuits whenever their ability to force the GAP display fully down the throats of students is hindered in any way, with loud rhetoric about their "free speech rights" being violated. Of course, free speech doesn't just mean the right to say whatever you want in public, it also means exercising responsibility in your delivery of it, and allowing the listener to choose not to see or hear it. Forcing your message onto a captive and largely unwilling audience is not free speech, it's tyranny.
Our lawyer advised that Lifeline had no grounds to sue anybody, provided students weren’t actually blocked from seeing the display (which was never the intent). Also, private groups and citizens cannot be sued under the Charter of Rights, which is solely the government’s obligation to abide by. This meant that Jones’ letter was pure bluff and bluster, or possibly, just outright stupidity.
However, on the day of the protest, UBC Security officials breached their verbal contract with Students for Choice, informing them they had to stay sixty feet away from the GAP display, instead of the ten feet that Security had previously permitted, or they would be arrested. Why? Because Jones had also sent a threatening letter to Brian Sullivan, Vice President of Student Affairs at UBC, and when Sullivan notified UBC Security, the boys in blue got spooked.
As a result, Students for Choice could not protect vulnerable students from seeing the display as they passed by. Once again, UBC counseling agencies were unable to deal with the volume of students seeking counseling, forcing some to go off-campus, if they could find help. UBC Students for Choice did their best to cope with the onslaught of outrage. They comforted students, reduced the risk of violence against the display by defusing anger, corrected GAP’s lies and misrepresentations, and referred students to counseling. The display is especially traumatic for women who have recently had abortions, often causing tremendous anxiety, guilt, and anger, because of the tacit message that women who have abortions are murderers comparable to Nazis. However, some Jewish students were also extremely offended at GAP’s self-serving exploitation of the Nazi Holocaust.
Sullivan (VP, Student Affairs), was even quoted on television praising the Students for Choice banners for helping warn people about what was ahead. Here was an admission by a university official that women need to be pre-warned about the GAP display. His statement also implied that Lifeline was negligent in not doing so themselves. Two days prior to the GAP display, Students for Choice had also taken responsibility for preparing students for the display by holding a pro-choice rally, since much of the risk of violence that the display engenders is caused by students taken by surprise and goaded into impulsive action.
To add insult to injury, Lifeline’s lawyer Craig Jones later sent a second letter "congratulating" Students for Choice on their "peaceful demonstration" at the GAP display. Jones said, "It was an excellent example of respectful democratic dialogue, and was precisely the kind of activity that we and our clients have consistently encouraged you to pursue. We are particularly pleased at reports that those participating had reconsidered and abandoned initially-announced plans to attempt to ‘shroud’ the display from free view."
Given this self-righteous claim of a "respectful democratic dialogue," it’s enlightening to note that a Students for Choice member was subjected to a death threat the day after the GAP display. The culprit may not have been directly involved with Lifeline, but Lifeline members demonstrated their democratic respect by videotaping and photographing pro-choice protesters, and then publicly displaying the pictures so any extremist could view them.
In the end, Lifeline’s bully tactics served to hurt women, ethnic minorities, and free speech. Their purpose in threatening a lawsuit was apparently to stifle pro-choice students’ free speech rights and right to counter-protest. And by preventing Students for Choice from adequately shielding the display from those who didn’t wish to see it, we believe that Lifeline showed a negligent disregard for the risk of violence, and a shocking lack of caring and compassion for women and minorities.
On the plus side, Students for Choice managed to obtain several hundred signed letters of complaint from students, to be turned over to university deans and UBC’s President. Jewish students have lodged a complaint with the Equity Office over the use of Holocaust imagery, and other students have made complaints about GAP’s hatefulness towards women.
Lifeline plans to inflict the GAP display onto students again in the new year, possibly using the huge posters.
Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw
A True Humanitarian
During a recent open house, the new Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic showed an award-winning documentary about its namesake: Doctor Woman: The Life and Times of Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw, featuring the pioneering doctor who founded the first birth control clinic in Canada.
Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw was born in 1881 and lived to be 100 years old. Her supportive father encouraged her to pursue a career in medicine, and she graduated in 1905 from the Women's Medical College in Toronto, one year after her father died in a tragic farm accident. When she returned to the family farm to try and run it herself, she encountered more sexism from the hired men who resented taking orders from her, than she had in three years of medical school. She soon fired them all, sold the farm, and moved her family to Toronto, where she finished her schooling. The Women's College had no authority to grant degrees, so Dr. Bagshaw also had to attend the University of Toronto to obtain her degree.
Very few internships at hospitals were available to women at the time, and Dr. Bagshaw ended up assisting another woman doctor in maternity work for no pay. Eventually, she obtained staff privileges at two hospitals. She also worked in dermatology for 10 years on a part-time basis, again for no pay.
Dr. Bagshaw spent most of her medical practice in obstetrics work in Hamilton, Ontario. Throughout the 1920's, she delivered countless babies, most of them home deliveries. In 1932, she founded Canada's first birth control clinic - an illegal one of course - and served as its Medical Director until 1966. The clinic dispensed information, pessaries, jellies, and condoms. Although she didn't advocate birth control early in her practice, she changed her mind after the Depression. "There was no welfare and no unemployment payments, and these people were just about half-starved because there was no work, and for them to go on having children was a detriment to the country," she said. "They couldn't afford children if they couldn't afford to eat. So the families came to the clinic and we gave them information." She did this courageously despite opposition from medical colleagues and local clergy. Her clinic finally became legal in 1969 when Trudeau's omnibus bill legalized abortion, contraception, and homosexuality.
Dr. Bagshaw never married, but at age 45, she adopted a seven-month old baby, John, through private channels. Her son grew up to become a doctor too, and had an office in the same building as his mother.
In 1973, Dr. Bagshaw was given the Order of Canada for the 30-plus years she had devoted to the practice of medicine. She also received many other honours and awards. Dr. Bagshaw retired in 1976 at age 95, the oldest practising physician in Canada and a true humanitarian. The National Film Board's documentary of Dr. Bagshaw, which relied on extensive interviews with her, was completed just before her 99th birthday. She died on January 5, 1982, aged 100.
Growing Pro-Choice Majority
In August, an Environics poll showed that 66% of Canadians agree with the statement, "Every woman who wants to have an abortion should be able to have one." 26% disagreed, 6% said it depends on the circumstances, and 2% had no response.
The poll also showed that 56% of Canadian Alliance members are pro-choice, meaning that Stockwell Day's anti-abortion agenda does not even have the support of his party. While Liberal, PC, and NDP support falls around the 66% average, Bloc Quebecois supporters are overwhelmingly pro-choice, with 87% in favour of the statement, and only 9% against. BC and Quebec have the most pro-choice supporters in Canada, with 72% and 73% supporting the statement, respectively.
The 66% pro-choice majority is the highest total since Environics began asking this question 15 years ago. A 1985 poll produced a 53% approval rate for the same statement, with 41% against.
However, public pro-choice support has been demonstrated to be even greater when a different question is asked. In 1992, an Environics poll found that 79% of Canadians believe "abortion is a medical decision that should rest with the woman in consultation with her physician." The same poll found 82% of British Columbians agreeing with that statement. And in 1988, the year Canada's abortion law was thrown out by the Supreme Court, a Gallup poll showed that 71% of Canadians believe abortion is a medical decision between a woman and her doctor. Another Environics poll in 1989 showed that 62% of Canadians disagreed with the then-Conservative government’s plan to put abortion back into the Criminal Code.
It appears, therefore, that pro-choice support in Canada has been very strong for many years, and has grown dramatically in the 12 years since abortion has been completely legal.
Kelowna Clinic Opens at Last
Congratulations to the women of Kelowna, and to everyone who worked so hard for many years to bring much-needed abortion services to Kelowna!
With little fanfare, a new abortion clinic opened in Kelowna on August 23. The city has not had any abortion services for 17 years. Located inside Kelowna General Hospital, the clinic is open one day a week. The clinic is modeled after the C.A.R.E. Program clinic, which is located inside BC Women's Hospital in Vancouver. This setup provides superior security and privacy for clinic staff and patients.
About 140 anti-choice protesters stood on the sidewalk in front of the hospital on opening day. Since the opening, however, weekly protests have become quite small and inconsequential and it is hoped they will remain so. Reportedly, the anti-choice opposition in Kelowna agreed to stay within certain protest guidelines after meeting with police and hospital security.
The Ministry of Health has decided against implementing a bubble zone for the Kelowna clinic. Currently, the Access to Abortion Services Act protects Everywoman's Health Centre, the Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic, and doctors' offices and homes.
Canada Health Act Violated
Abortion Services Don't Meet Basic Principles
by Joyce Arthur
Abortion is possibly the only essential medical service that does not meet the basic principles of the Canada Health Act. The five principles are public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility. Abortion services fail at least 4 out 5 of these tests.
To meet the Comprehensiveness principle, provinces must pay for all insured health services provided by hospitals and medical practitioners. Abortions performed in hospitals are covered across Canada. But abortions performed in clinics are not. Quebec and Nova Scotia provide only partial funding to clinics, and New Brunswick and Manitoba pay nothing. In 1995, then-Health Minister Diane Marleau ordered these provinces to pay full fees for abortions at clinics; otherwise, she would reduce their federal transfer payments via penalties. It's now five years later and not one of the delinquent provinces has yet to pay in full for a clinic abortion, and only Nova Scotia has had transfer payments withheld (over $200,000 so far).
This lack of clinic funding causes direct harm to women, especially poor women, because compared to clinics, hospitals have longer waiting lists, and offer women little privacy and no counseling. Also, hospital abortions pose a greater medical risk to women due to the use of general anesthesia. A non-funded clinic abortion can cost between $400 and $900, a sum that is often out of reach for poor women, who are then forced to wait several weeks for a hospital abortion, or wait until they save enough for a clinic abortion. Dr. Henry Morgentaler has said: "Every week of delay increases the medical risks to women by 20 percent." This amounts to government-sponsored violence against women, with poor women being hurt the most.
The practice of not funding clinics violates not only the comprehensiveness principle of the Canada Health Act, but also the universality principle, which says that all residents of a province must be covered equally for insured services. Due to quotas, waiting lists, gestational limits, and other onerous restrictions at hospitals, large numbers of women are discriminated against because they are forced to go to a clinic and pay for a service that should be fully insured.
The public administration principle is possibly also violated by lack of clinic funding, because clinics are forced to privately administer the costs of an essential medical service, when it should be a non-profit public body doing this.
Portability allows people moving to another province to be covered for the first three months of their residency by the health care insurance of the province in which they used to live. This is called reciprocal billing. In 1995, then-Health Minister Diane Marleau declared abortion to be a medically necessary service, since women can't wait three months for an abortion. But some provinces, including New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and others, still exclude abortion from their reciprocal billing lists, because they have refused to consider it an essential medical service. This forces some women who have just moved from another province to pay in full for their abortions.
A federal committee called the Coordinating Committee for Reciprocal Billing is responsible for solving the reciprocal billing problem, but the Committee wants consensus from all provinces to develop one exclusions list for all of Canada. Very recently, a consensus to drop abortion from the excluded list has finally been reached, but New Brunswick is delaying implementation because of old provincial anti-abortion laws that the province says it must strike down first. Although portability for abortion services across Canada now seems attainable, a few provinces held up the Committee's progress for years because of their leaders' political and moral views on abortion. Even after an agreement is put in place, the portability principle will continue to be violated, because only abortions in hospitals will be covered under reciprocal billing, not clinic abortions. Lack of portability also violates the universality principle, since new residents are discriminated against and denied funding for a medically necessary service.
The accessibility principle is violated because abortion services vary widely from province to province and region to region. PEI refuses to provide any abortion services whatsoever, not even in hospitals. PEI will fund abortions for women who travel to another province, but most hospitals in the Maritimes won't do abortions on out-of-province women, forcing PEI women to travel to Ontario or Quebec, or pay for a clinic abortion in New Brunswick. In addition, many provincial governments, including Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, fought tooth and nail to keep abortion clinics out of their province. They failed, but there are still no clinics at all in Saskatchewan, PEI, or the territories.
In fact, two-thirds of abortions in Canada are still performed in hospitals, even though clinics are a better alternative for women. In spite of this monopoly, only about a third of hospitals in Canada actually perform abortions, mostly in big cities. As a result, women from rural and remote areas are often forced to travel long distances to find abortion services.
Allan Rock, Minister of Health, recently pledged to uphold the principles of the Canada Health Act and not permit a system of two-tier medicine; but two-tier medicine is defacto in place for abortion services. When the quality, cost, timing, and availability of an essential medical service depends solely on where you happen to live in Canada, women are not getting fair access and the Canada Health Act is clearly violated. Perhaps the greatest injustice is that these violations disproportionately affect poor women, rural women, and minorities.
The federal government must step in and compel the provinces to fund all abortion services equally, whether in a clinic or hospital, and must ensure that all provinces cover abortion under their reciprocal billing arrangements. Provincial governments must ensure that enough hospitals perform abortions in all areas of the province, and that fully funded clinics are opened wherever feasible.
W-Five Exposes Deception
at Fake Anti-Abortion "Clinics"
On November 5, the current affairs program W-Five broadcast the story of a young woman's experience with the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre. "Lee" wanted counseling and information on all unplanned pregnancy options. Through the agency's advertising, she was led to believe she could receive a referral for an abortion if that became her choice. She was deceived. By the time she found ethical and professional services, her emotional and physical health was seriously compromised.
Lee said the centre provided only negative advice on abortion. She was told that if she had an abortion, she could have trouble conceiving again, might experience an urge to mutilate herself, and was at risk for developing an eating disorder. An abortion would ruin her relationship with God and leave her guilt-ridden for life, she was told. She was even given a pamphlet written in the voice of a fetus thanking its mother for not aborting it.
Confused and anxious, Lee took more time to think about it and finally, 20 weeks pregnant, she made her own way to the Kensington abortion clinic in Calgary, after the Pregnancy Care Centre refused to refer her to someone who could help her. Unfortunately, it was now too late for Lee to arrange an abortion in Alberta. Planned Parenthood of Calgary scraped together money for a bus ticket to Ontario, where Lee finally obtained her abortion. Luckily, her abortion had no complications, but each week that an abortion is delayed increases the risk of complications by 20%.
The Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre is part of a chain, whose members belong to an American umbrella organization called Care Net, an anti-choice Christian ministry. In addition to nine Pregnancy Care Centres in Canada, there are about 100 other fraudulent counseling centres, including Crisis Pregnancy Centres and Birthright.
These fake clinics cause harm because they hide their anti-choice philosophy and knowingly jeopardize the health of young women by delaying their access to appropriate services. Untrained and unprofessional counselors foist their religious beliefs and judgments on women, at a time when women need compassion, not preaching. They also disseminate inaccurate and inflammatory information about the abortion procedure and its effects on women's health. For example, they show graphic images and videos that misrepresent abortion procedures, claim that contraception doesn't work, and tell women that abortion causes breast cancer, child abuse, and severe, long-lasting guilt. Ironically, given the zeal of anti-abortionists to pass parental consent laws for abortions in the U.S., some centres even tell pregnant teens not to tell their parents about the pregnancy, in case the parents advise abortion.
Such unethical counseling causes needless psychological and emotional suffering, with women reporting feelings of depression, low-self esteem, guilt, and anxiety after being "counseled". Bonnie Johnson, Executive Director for Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, said, "We've had many upset women come to us from these centres feeling pressured and confused about their pregnancy options. They still want to get answers to their questions in order to make a decision, but now they're also faced with the possibility of a late-term abortion."
A W-Five reporter visited the Pregnancy Care Centres in both Red Deer and Calgary wearing a hidden camera and posing as a woman with a crisis pregnancy. The reporter was told by a counselor that abortion "doesn't make you not pregnant, it makes you the mother of a dead baby." She was also told that one in 13 women who undergo an abortion suffer life-threatening complications. But the real figure is more like one in a thousand, said Andre Lalonde, vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Ninety-seven percent of patients go through an abortion without any side-effects, psychological or physical." He also said the centre's description of the surgical abortion process was "pure invention."
At a fake clinic in Toronto, Aid to Women, another W-Five undercover reporter learned that "counselors" at the clinic received no formal training. One counselor said that they deliberately misled patients who mistakenly thought the centre was affiliated with the Cabbagetown abortion clinic right next door. "Young women will walk in here and think they are in the abortuary, and we don't make them any wiser," he said.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) condemned the fraudulent centres and expressed concern that misinformation is being provided to pregnant Canadian women. In a Nov. 3 statement, the SOGC said it "believes that pregnant women should be provided with the information on all health care options available in Canada with integrity and compassion, thereby allowing them to make informed health care decisions."
W-Five's investigation also revealed that five of Care Net's nine member centres in Canada broke Care Net's own guidelines by advertising pregnancy testing and listing themselves in the Yellow Pages under Birth Control Information or Counseling Services. After being shown videotaped evidence of deception and inappropriate counseling at the Pregnancy Care Centres in Calgary and Red Deer, a Care Net official said they would alter their guidelines. Care Net also agreed to drop a number of Canadian clinics from its referral list, including Toronto’s Aid to Women.
However, the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre continues to deliver sexuality education programs in Calgary public schools using many of these same dishonest tactics, against objections from parents, community agencies, and the Calgary Regional Health Authority. The centre also received $300,000 from the HRDC to run a pre-employment program for women who had experienced an unplanned pregnancy. Part of the "curriculum" included reading a chapter from Dr. Laura's book Ten Stupid Things Women Do.
CTV news also reported that Valorie Day, wife of Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day, founded the Red Deer Pregnancy Care Centre in 1988 and went on to become its president.
The W-Five program was exceptionally pro-choice in the sense that no credibility was given to the anti-choice viewpoint at all. There was an unstated, unquestioned assumption that OF COURSE women are entitled to an abortion if they want one. The show made it clear that abortion is very safe, with no link to breast cancer, and very low rates of physical and psychological complications. W-Five deserves our thanks for exposing the dangerous and unethical practices of these centres, protecting women from them, and taking the pro-choice viewpoint for granted as a basic moral standard.
Assault Charges Against Feminists Thrown Out
A Small Claims Court judge has dismissed charges against two International Women's Day (IWD) organizers who allegedly assaulted two anti-choice women at an IWD organizing meeting in Nov. 1996.
Cecilia von Dehn and Peggy Holland, well-known anti-choice activists, were refused entry to the IWD meeting since the IWD has a pro-choice stance, and also because von Dehn brought a camera and tape recorder to the meeting. After being refused entry, Von Dehn remained outside the crowded meeting room and took pictures of attendees through a window. She also apparently tried to tape record the meeting through a crack in the door. The police were called, but did not come. Organizers voted to disband the meeting because many women, some of them immigrants from oppressive right-wing countries, were intimidated and frightened by von Dehn's behaviour. The last two organizers to leave the building confronted von Dehn in the hallway and tried to wrest the camera away from her. A minor scuffle ensued in which von Dehn, an ample woman, managed to retain her camera. She and Holland then called the police (who came quickly) and tried to press criminal charges. The pictures von Dehn took were made available to police, right-wing media, and probably violent anti-choice organizations.
Although her attempt to lay criminal charges proved unsuccessful, von Dehn persisted in bullying the feminists for four years until she finally got her day in court. This year, she sued the feminists in Small Claims Court for $10,000, the maximum allowable in that court. On November 2, all charges were dismissed, including a counter-claim the feminists had made.
The IWD Committee was forced to do extensive fundraising to cover their court costs, and even after a successful fundraising dance in November, find themselves still short of funds. If you would like to help, please send your donation to: IWD Committee, 1322 E. 62nd Ave., Vancouver, BC, V5X 2H5.
Canada News Bytes
Mifepristone in Canada - In Canada, the research trial of mifepristone continues. Dr. Ellen Wiebe of Vancouver began a study in July comparing mifepristone with methotrexate (another abortion drug), and has so far successfully treated about 400 women. Five medical centres across Canada are participating in the research trial, which will treat 1000 women seeking abortions over approximately one year. The long-term goal is to obtain formal Health Canada approval for the drug in Canada, but this will probably take several years.
No Leads on Romalis Stabbing - Police still have no leads in the July 11 stabbing of Dr. Garson Romalis outside his Vancouver medical office. A hooded attacker waited in the parkade of Dr. Romalis' office and when he arrived, rushed over to him, stabbed him once in the back, and fled on foot. Police released a composite sketch of the suspect, but no one has been arrested yet. Dr. Romalis has recovered well from his injury, but anti-choice harassment in Vancouver jumped after the stabbing, with two other doctors receiving death threats, and a general increase in anti-choice activity and protests.
Senator Threatened Over 1991 Abortion Vote - BC Senator Pat Carney recently published her autobiography, Trade Secrets - A Memoir, in which she claims that former Justice Minister Kim Campbell threatened her in January 1991 in an effort to save the Mulroney administration's doomed abortion bill. According to Carney, Campbell ordered her in "a voice that chilled me to the bone" to vote in the Senate for Bill C-43, which would have recriminalized abortion in Canada. "You've been warned," the senator quotes Campbell as saying. Carney wrote, "I sat frozen in my chair, aware from my own experience what immense powers cabinet ministers have to wreak havoc, should they choose to use them." Not only did Carney vote NO on Bill C-43, hers was the tie vote that killed the bill. The abortion defeat was a major loss of face for Campbell, who was humiliated in the next federal election.
Teen Pregnancy Declines - Canada's teenage pregnancy rate reached a 10-year low in 1997, Statistics Canada reported in October. The teenage pregnancy rate was 42.7 pregnancies for every 1,000 women aged 15 to 19. About 42,161 women aged 15 to 19 gave birth, had an abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth in 1997, down from the 1994 total of 46,753. The rate was at its highest in 1994, at 48.8 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage women. Although the teenage birth rate declined between 1994 and 1997, the abortion rate was stable, fluctuating only slightly between 21.1 and 22.0 abortions per 1,000 women 15 to 19. The Canadian teen pregnancy rate is about half that of the U.S.
Missing Girl Died From Forced Abortion - The mystery behind the disappearance of a 16-year old Thedford, Ontario farm girl in 1967 ended in September in a London court. Glenda Tedball died struggling while her mother and a farmhand performed an abortion on her. Edward Gratton, 67, was found guilty of "procuring an abortion," but he told the court that it was the girl’s mother, Norma Poore (now dead), who killed her. Tedball and Gratton became lovers, but when Tedball got pregnant and wanted to marry him, he refused. Poore suggested her daughter have an abortion. Although the girl was reluctant, Gratton and Poore took her to the basement, tied her to a cot, and gagged her. According to Gratton, Poore used a coathanger to perform the abortion, causing profuse bleeding and death. Poore buried her daughter's body underneath the basement, called police, and reported Tedball missing. A massive hunt by police and volunteers followed. However, recent excavations of the farmhouse have failed to find the body. Gratton received a conditional sentence and probation because he suffers from advanced Parkinson's disease and has limited mental capacity.
Mifepristone Approved in U.S.
In a major victory for American women, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the abortion pill mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) on September 28. Countless groups and individuals have fought for 12 years to bring the early-abortion method to the United States from Europe. Mifepristone has long been the victim of anti-choice politics. Since the mid-80’s, over 500,000 women have safely used the pill in Europe, and over 20 million in China.
Earlier in the year, the FDA had announced that approval of mifepristone would come with onerous restrictions on its use, which would completely negate the pill's potential to improve access to abortion. The proposed restrictions included allowing only existing abortion providers to provide the pill, and requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital, something which many doctors do not have. In the end, however, these restrictions were dropped from the final approval, in favour of more reasonable safeguards.
To ensure the pill is used accurately and safely, the FDA requires that women be given a brochure explaining who is eligible for the pill and the side effects to expect. Women must make three trips to the doctor to undergo the procedure. Doctors who provide mifepristone must be able to accurately determine the duration of a patient's pregnancy and detect an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, because mifepristone is ineffective on such pregnancies. Doctors must also provide surgical intervention in cases of incomplete abortion or severe bleeding, or alternatively, they must make advance arrangements with another doctor to provide this care.
The FDA has also restricted the use of mifepristone to within 49 days of the beginning of the woman's last menstrual period (7 weeks), although the pill is known to be effective up to 9 weeks. At the first visit, the woman takes three mifepristone pills. Two days later, she returns to the doctor to swallow a second drug, misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions to expel the embryo. She returns for a follow-up visit within two weeks to make sure the abortion is complete.
Most of the FDA restrictions will serve favourably to protect women's health, although the requirement for three visits to the doctor is probably excessive, since women are generally capable of taking the misoprostol at home, rather than at the doctor's office.
Health experts say mifepristone won't increase abortions, since that didn't occur in Europe. But FDA approval may encourage more doctors who don't offer surgical abortions to offer the pill, thus making it easier for women, particularly in rural areas, to get an abortion without traveling hundreds of miles or entering surgical clinics often staked out by protesters.
The National Abortion Federation, which accredits abortion providers, said 240 of its member clinics were already prepared to offer mifepristone, and it is training other physicians in how to use the pill. Shipments of the pill to health care providers began in late November.
New Contraceptive Patch Expected to Replace Pill
Researchers studying the world's first contraceptive patch predict it will quickly replace the pill as the most popular form of birth control.
The largest ever study of the Evra patch was carried out at various centres in North America and led by Canadian researchers. The study showed that the patch is more effective than standard birth control pills at suppressing ovulation. "It's going to give women much more choice in their contraception. It's more effective than the old ways of doing it and it's low maintenance, which is what women are after," said Dr. Roger Pierson of the University of Saskatchewan.
The Evra patch can be worn on a woman's arm, abdomen, or buttocks. It stays on well, even when wet and during heavy exercise. It must be replaced once a week, making it more forgiving that the Pill, which must be taken every day. The patch delivers a continuous dose of the same hormones contained in birth control pills, thereby avoiding the spikes and dips in hormonal levels that can occur with the Pill. The patch also bypasses the liver, which should reduce nausea and vomiting associated with the Pill. And unlike injectable contraceptives, fertility can be restored almost immediately after a woman stops using the patch.
The Evra patch should be available in Canada within two years.
World March of Women
10,000 women roared at the United Nations - and simultaneously at the world - on October 17 in New York City. It was the culmination of three years of relentless work and a World March that saw rallies and events in almost every corner of the planet. Five million signatures were collected from women and men around the world in just six months, underlining widespread support for a list of demands on women's equality.
Representatives from Morocco, Canada, Mozambique, India, and Peru brought the demands of the World March forward at the United Nations meeting. Among the many injustices against women that the representatives demanded must end were:
the marginalization of indigenous people who are not even represented in the UN
commodification of women's bodies
cancellation of all Third World debts
globalization, neo-liberal capitalism, and patriarchy.
crimes of patriarchy against women, including rape, incest, selective abortion, girl infanticide, genital mutilation, and sex trafficking
criminalization of homosexuality, still illegal in 50% of countries of the world
government inaction against authorities seeking to exercise control over women and girls
A World March of Women was also held in Vancouver on October 14 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The original march, called "Du Pain et des Roses" (Bread and Roses) took place in Quebec in 1995, when 850 women participated in a 10-day march to Quebec City to protest poverty and violence against women. The march was instrumental in bringing about changes to provincial policy, including a tuition freeze, increased bursaries for students, a 45 cent minimum wage increase, and a new law to regulate child support payments. The success of the Quebec march inspired a global campaign of protest against the oppression of women everywhere.
International News Bytes
Priest Attacks Clinic with Ax - On September 30, a Catholic priest crashed his car through the garage door of a building housing an abortion clinic in Rockford, Illinois and then began hacking through an interior locked door with an ax. The building landlord fired his shotgun in order to scare the priest and get him to stop the attack. When the priest threatened him with the ax, he fired a second shot. The priest surrendered. The clinic was closed at the time of the attack. Rev. John P. Earl was arrested at the clinic and charged with burglary and criminal damage to property. Earl is the parish priest of St. Patrick's Catholic church in Rochelle, Illinois, a job he still maintains, but with some "restrictions" now placed on him by the local diocese.
Nuremberg Files Website Case Appealed - A February 1999 federal court decision in Oregon is being appealed by the losing anti-choice defendants. The court had ruled that virulently anti-abortion "Wanted" posters and a website (the notorious "Nuremberg Files") constituted death threats against doctors who perform abortions. Legal experts expect the appeal to reach the Supreme Court. The issue will be whether the posters and website are actually threatening or whether they constitute protected free speech. The posters pictured doctors "guilty of crimes against humanity" for performing abortions, along with their personal information. The Nuremberg Files website listed the names of over 500 doctors and pro-choice supporters. Ever since the website was deemed illegal by the court, host Neil Horsley has been trying to find a server to host the site in the U.S., but the site has repeatedly been refused or taken down by Internet service providers. However, the site currently is mirrored on a Dutch website by an extreme freedom of speech activist.
Jury Indicts Sniper James Kopp - A U.S. federal grand jury indicted fugitive anti-abortion activist James Kopp in the 1998 sniper killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian, a New York abortion provider. The two-count indictment charges Kopp, one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted fugitives, with using deadly force to prevent Slepian from providing reproductive health service and using a firearm to commit a violent crime. The indictment supersedes a federal complaint filed in May 1999. Kopp is also wanted for the attempted murder of Dr. Hugh Short of Ancaster, Ontario in Nov. 1995, and is wanted for questioning in the sniper shootings of three other doctors since 1994, two in Canada, and one in New York. Kopp is still in hiding, and it is believed that anti-abortion supporters are helping him. In September, a man resembling James Kopp was spotted in Oakville, Ontario, purchasing gas for a white pickup truck with American plates. Police are treating it is an unconfirmed sighting.
Irish Referendum on Abortion - Ireland's anti-choice forces are mobilizing for another referendum to institute a total ban on abortion, even where the woman's life is in danger. In 1983, Ireland voted to amend its Constitution to read: "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right." In 1992, a judge allowed exceptions for cases where the pregnancy posed "a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother." The aim of the proposed referendum is to stop even these abortions. Currently, 11% of Irish pregnancies end in abortion, with over 6,000 women traveling to the UK every year to obtain abortions.
A Shred of Sanity in Mexico - A few weeks after the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, swept into power in Mexico in July, the party reopened a divisive debate over abortion. Abortion is illegal in Mexico with exceptions for rape victims and life endangerment in some states. One state tried to tighten its laws by outlawing abortion even for rape victims, after PAN officials and Catholic priests in Baja California pressured a 14-year-old rape victim seeking an abortion to bear a baby (doctors refused to perform the legal operation.) The state governor vetoed the anti-abortion bill. In another state, the legislature passed a law decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, life endangerment, birth defects, or when the mother has had an accident or has received unauthorized artificial insemination. About 800,000 illegal abortions take place in Mexico every year, many of them unsafe.
Canadian Anti-Choice Activists Barred From Mexico - In August, four members of Canadian evangelical churches who went to Mexico to join in anti-abortion protests were barred from returning to Mexico for five years by Mexican authorities. It is illegal in Mexico for foreigners to be involved in domestic politics. The activists joined a protest in Mexico City’s main square and also staged a rare demonstration outside a Mexico City hospital where they alleged abortions were performed. The government may fine Mexico’s National Pro-Life Committee, which invited the Canadian activists and six American activists, who were also prohibited from returning to Mexico for five years.
Thanks for Your Letters!
I'm one of the silent majority of Canadians who are passively pro-choice. I don't think I would ever actually have an abortion, but I believe other women have the right to have an abortion. I'm one of the people who believes this, but have never actually done any work for the pro-choice movement, and havenít talked about abortion because it's not "nice." After all, it's so controversial. And you know, my family and a lot of my friends are Catholic, so I wouldn't want to rock the boat.
In other words, I'm a wishy-washy fence sitter.
Two events knocked me off the fence:
- The election of Stockwell Day, whose anti-choice views are well-known, as leader of the Alliance party.
- The stabbing of Vancouver doctor Garson Romalis.
A few years ago, a friend of mine had an abortion so I started examining my beliefs on the issue, which at the time were largely informed by my Catholic upbringing. I decided that abortion is really a matter of personal conscience (hardly a startling revelation, I know).
I decided I couldn't condemn or otherwise judge a woman who had an abortion. And I decided that in the vast majority of circumstances, I could wholeheartedly support a woman's decision to have an abortion. What's more, I realized that while I had always thought that abortion was sort of wrong, I knew that if I was pregnant, I would absolutely want to have the choice to have an abortion.
The two recent events I mentioned have made me realize it's time to act on my beliefs. It's not enough to be passive. Because the logical extension of my belief in choice - I don't plan on having an abortion, but if I ever have to face that choice, I sure want a clean, sanitary place to have one, done by caring and competent medical staff - means that I better get off my duff and do something about making sure that places like that exist. I better do something so that the right to choose is not eroded by the shift in Canadian politics to the right, and anti-abortionists.
I may not agree with every single piece of pro-choice rhetoric (though I sure agree with a hell of a lot more of it than the anti-abortion rhetoric!), but it seems to me there is a lot more room in the pro-choice movement for a multiplicity of opinion than in the anti-abortion movement. The term "pro-choice" sort of implies that, doesn't it?
My donation to your organization is enclosed.
-- Sheila Keenan
(Editor's note: A version of Sheila's letter was published in the Vancouver Sun in July. Thanks for your support, Sheila!)
Douglas Todd claims that Stockwell Day's performance in this election campaign will "forc[e] Canadians to accept that politicians must be allowed to be influenced by their religion." (Vancouver Sun, Nov. 10/00). Separation of Church and State (SOCS) allows religions to be given advantages, such as tax-free property for their institutions, ability to issue tax deductible receipts to their donors, the right to refuse women as priests where other organizations would be condemned for sex discrimination if they tried this, and tremendous freedom to preach whatever they like to their followers.
To earn privileges, religions mustn't act politically, though they can contribute values of society. Canada doesn't need another VanderZalm, who wreaked havoc as BC Premier, pushing his religious views on society. Day is in violation of SOCS, so invites investigation of his religious views. Other equally religious candidates should escape such scrutiny because they don't threaten society with their religious views.
Day's opposition to choice on abortion is unacceptable to many, especially those who believe we must stop population explosion to save the environment. They believe abortion is a necessary back up to contraception and sterilization in giving every couple the necessary right to have as few children as they wish. Moralizers about sex must understand that it's immoral to inflict unwanted children on the planet, when population explosion is causing massive species extinction and is rendering the planet unfit for human habitation.
-- Ken McLean, Lower Mainland Sustainable Population Society, firstname.lastname@example.org
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