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a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Spring 2000 Issue
Table of Contents
BC / Canadian News
U.S. /International News:
Coming Soon to a Pharmacy Near You!
On May 1, BC will become the first province to dispense the morning after pill over the counter. Hundreds of BC pharmacists are preparing to dispense the pills without a doctor's prescription. Pharmacists who want to dispense it must be certified by taking a course on how to properly inform and assess customers who request the pill.
The morning after pill, essentially four high-dose birth control pills followed by a repeat dose 12 hours later, must be taken within three days of unprotected intercourse. It is a discreet and safe form of emergency contraception that has been available for many years by prescription. However, with at least 15,000 abortions each year in BC out of 65,000 pregnancies, doctors and pharmacists hope that making the pill more easily available to women will help reduce the need for abortions, as well as harassment of doctors who perform them. Better availability of the pill would especially benefit teenagers, who are the majority of users of emergency contraception. Under the provincial Infants Act, teenagers do not need their parents' permission for contraceptive services.
"The harm and the threats against [abortion providers] highlights how emotional this issue is and made us realize how valuable such a program could be if pregnancies could be avoided in the first place," said Brenda Osmond, deputy registrar of the College of Pharmacists of BC.
Osmond said that various national organizations have been working with Health Canada to make the pills available across the country without a prescription. But the negotiations are taking so long, that the College and the BC Pharmacy Association decided to be "more progressive" by copying a program from Washington state. There, pharmacists took a one-day training program to learn how to assess women who need the pills, when to refer them to doctors, and to be alert for signs of physical and/or sexual abuse. Washington's successful program has met with virtually no resistance. In BC, at least 500 of the province's 3,000 pharmacists have signed up for the training and 200 have already completed it. Although the Ministry of Health has approved the program in principle, exactly how the pills will be delisted as prescription drugs hasn't been finalized. Pharmacists are planning a major public awareness campaign in May.
Anti-choice pharmacists are uncomfortable with dispensing the morning after pill, claiming it is a form of abortion. However, this is a misunderstanding of how emergency contraception works. The morning after pill will not affect viable pregnancies - it prevents conception or prevents implantation of the fertilized egg. As per scientific consensus, pregnancy does not begin until the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterine wall.
In fact, scientists estimate that about half of all fertilized eggs never implant and are naturally expelled by the uterus, usually without the woman ever knowing she had even conceived.
Furthermore, only rarely would an anti-choice pharmacist have to dispense the morning after pill. Not only must pharmacists opt to be certified before they can dispense it, the College of Pharmacists has a conscience clause allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs that would violate their moral beliefs. However, the College's overriding philosophy is that pharmacists must ensure continuity of care to the patient if there is any conflict with their beliefs. This means the objecting pharmacist must refer the patient to another reasonably accessible pharmacist who can dispense the drug in a timely manner. If this is not possible, then the objecting pharmacist must dispense the drug.
Emergency contraception is about 75-85% effective, and is very safe. It has some of the same minor side effects of ordinary birth control pills, the most common being nausea and vomiting, because of the large dose. However, the major side effects that are sometimes associated with birth control pills do not occur with the morning after pill, because of its very occasional use.
by Joyce Arthur
Lawsuits, criminal investigations, disciplinary hearings, and injunctions. Ever since their anti-abortion display comparing abortion with genocide was trashed by three pro-choice students in November, UBC's Lifeline club has been pursuing these legal remedies with great fervour, self-righteousness, and a trumpet blast of publicity. You would almost think the pro-choice students were guilty of shooting somebody. But in reality, we're talking about a petty act of vandalism, brought on by Lifeline's "let's shove-it-down-their-throats" display of hate propaganda against women.
Briefly, some background: The California-based Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) travels to university campuses and displays huge colour pictures of Holocaust victims, black lynching victims, and other disturbing victims of real genocide, juxtaposing them with pictures of aborted fetuses. Their stated goal is to make people think about abortion differently. Judging by their actions, however, their hidden goal seems to be to anger and offend people, then if any trouble ensues, threaten to file lawsuits, and use the publicity to make pro-choicers look bad. At the University of BC in September, GAP was prevented from coming onto campus by the university's conditions, in order to protect public safety. However, UBC's anti-abortion Lifeline club apparently got permission to put up a mini-GAP display in November, using smaller posters. There was no prior warning and no security. The display was quickly attacked by angry pro-choice students who felt betrayed by the university.
In the aftermath, Lifeline filed a civil lawsuit against the pro-choice students, tried to press criminal charges, and pushed for a university disciplinary hearing in hopes of getting the students expelled or suspended. The lawsuit and disciplinary hearing are still pending, but in March, the Crown decided not to press criminal charges, saying the incident was not serious enough, and that it was not "in the public interest" to lay charges. Outraged, Lifeline president Stephanie Gray complained to the media that the Crown was declaring "open season on pro-lifers". Gray should consider this: Since 1995, BC has had a bubble zone law to protect abortion clinic staff and patients from physical harassment, but only a handful of charges have been laid out of several hundred violations. As for the "open season" claim, what about the 7 murders and 16 attempted murders of doctors and clinic workers in North America, and the hundreds of bombs and arsons of clinics over the past 20 years?
Gray's insensitive comment reminded me of a two-page article in the January issue of the national anti-choice newspaper, The Interim. The article described every alleged incident of violence by pro-choicers against anti-choicers that had ever supposedly happened, anywhere. Now if I were to write up similar descriptions of just the proven incidents of violence by the anti-choice against abortion providers, just how long do you think my article would be? Right - not two pages, but two volumes, encyclopedia style. The Interim's article was nothing more than an excuse for anti-choice violence.
But I digress. In response to all this legal retaliation by Lifeline, the pro-choice students have launched their own counter-suit against UBC - on grounds that it dropped most of its public safety conditions and allowed a mini-GAP display with no security or advance notice. Erin Kaiser, one of the students who attacked the display, and founder of UBC Students for Choice, has also filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Commission alleging that the GAP display is discriminatory because it promotes hatred against women, as well as abortion providers.
On February 23, another mini-GAP display went up at UBC, but not before Lifeline went to court to get an injunction to stop a pro-choice counter rally, on the grounds that pro-choice students would again resort to "violence". (One might ask who's really trying to suppress freedom of speech here?) Lifeline failed to get the injunction because the judge said there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that violence would occur again. Erin Kaiser had expressed remorse to the judge, saying what she did was "absolutely the wrong thing", and vowed never to do it again. The one-day GAP display and counter rally went ahead peacefully.
One week later, anti-choice students at Simon Fraser University mounted a mini-GAP display of their own for a day. In response, pro-choice students and supporters stood nearby and quietly handed out leaflets that countered GAP and their anti-abortion message.
Meanwhile, the Genocide Awareness Project's sponsors (Center for Bio-ethical Reform, of California) are planning to take their display to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Toronto, and Western University in London, probably in the fall. This coincides with increased anti-choice activity at many Canadian campuses. The National Campus Life Network was established in 1997 and it supports and links together more than 20 university anti-choice groups across the country.
Who's Committing Genocide?
An Exposé of Anti-Choice Sexism
By Joyce Arthur
At the peaceful anti-GAP rally at UBC on Feb. 23 (see above story), I chatted briefly with Lifeline president Stephanie Gray. She asked me, in sincere puzzlement and curiosity, why I thought the display was "hate." I didn't take the time to explain it to her in detail then, so I'll explain it now.
For argument's sake, let's say GAP is right and that abortion is genocide (obviously, it's not, but that's another article).
But if it is, this begs the obvious question: who bears the responsibility for this genocide? Who should go on trial for crimes against humanity? The answer depends on how you view the nature and status of women in society.
Most people in our society (including myself) believe that women should not be limited by law or tradition to the sole role of bearing and raising children. They believe that women deserve equal opportunity and respect in the public sphere. They believe that women are autonomous beings with the brains and the right to make their own decisions about their lives. If one believes these things, then women bear full responsibility for the abortions they choose to have. If abortion is genocide, then women must be genocidal murderers. That is why, to people like myself, the display amounts to hatred against women.
But do the anti-choice, in fact, blame women for abortion? In general, no. In spite of all their rhetoric about abortion being murder, they rarely blame the "murderers" - instead they attack doctors and clinics, and dump their condemnation at the doors of Planned Parenthood, politicians, judges, evolution, atheism, and our "culture of death".
Partly, this is just practical - women are an impossibly large target after all - we're half the population. The anti-choice can't very well throw tens of millions of women into jail. But should you really let people off the hook for "committing genocide" just because there are too many of them? (We can't cop-out by comparing women to the German people during World War II, who stood by and did nothing while the Nazis built and ran the death camps. In the case of abortion, it's women themselves who are doing the "dirty deed".)
Does the anti-choice willingness to overlook women's responsibility for abortion perhaps stem from a deep compassion for women? No! The anti-choice aren't really interested in helping real women live real lives - their main goal is to outlaw abortion, and we know all too well the tragic toll of illegal abortion on women's lives, health, and rights. Ironically though, the anti-choice think that by stopping abortion, they would actually be helping women. How can this seeming contradiction be resolved? It's simple - the anti-choice truly believe that women are victims of abortion.
Here's where another view about the nature and status of women comes in - a view that seems to be held by most anti-choice people (perhaps unconsciously for many). They believe that women's natural, primary role is to have and raise children. They may even believe that women who want something more or different than having a family are somewhat deviant. They believe that women tend to be easily victimized by circumstances and led by people around them. They believe that women are not ultimately responsible for their actions because, like children, they need direction and moral guidance. If one believes these things, then women do not bear responsibility for their abortions, because they are misled into having them by the society and people around them (except for those "deviant" women, of course!). Society itself becomes the genocidal murderer, with abortion providers and pro-choice politicians becoming the scapegoats.
Obviously, people who hold such a patronizing and traditional view of women's nature would have difficulty empathizing with the horrible, gut recognition of others that the Genocide Awareness Project is hate propaganda against women. The Lifeline students are a case in point since they don't seem to understand what all the fuss is about. What makes this especially sad is that most of the Lifeline students are women themselves. Unfortunately, I can only conclude that these young women don't really believe in their hearts that women are entitled to, able to, or want to make important decisions about their lives.
One does occasionally see glimmers of an anti-choice conviction that women should be punished for having abortions. A few ultra-extremists are, in fact, quite willing to throw millions of women into jail, if necessary. Others, notably anti-choice counselling agencies, are known to instill tremendous guilt in women for "killing their baby." So on some level, some anti-choice elements seem to recognize that women are responsible for their abortions. However, since this isn't a major stumbling block for most of the anti-choice movement, it highlights something else besides their narrow view of women's nature: the anti-choice don't really believe that abortion is even murder, let alone genocide! If they did, surely they would be far angrier with everyone responsible. Indeed, anti-choice words often speak louder than their actions - Randall Terry (Operation Rescue founder) was even forced to spell it out to his followers: "If you believe it's murder, act like it's murder!" A few followed his advice, but most never did.
And if the anti-choice really believed abortion was genocide, and really believed their own proclamation that doctors are responsible, they wouldn't hero-worship a former abortion doctor like Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Now anti-choice, Dr. Nathanson gets paid to boast at "pro-life" dinner parties about the 70,000 abortions he performed at his New York clinic in the 1970's. But surely genocide is an almost unforgivable crime, regardless of the perpetrator's remorse and repentance. Would the Nuremberg Trials have let Adolf Eichmann off the hook if he had apologized for engineering the Final Solution?
In fact, the anti-choice are far too quick to forgive and forget. Their "abortion as genocide" campaign is just underhanded public relations bullshit. Based on a misogynist view of women, and profound disrespect for real victims of genocide, the GAP campaign is nothing less than a crime against human dignity and ethics.
Postscript: Anti-Choice Women Can't Take Responsibility for Their Abortions
The previous article helps explain a strange phenomenon that regularly plagues abortion clinics: Anti-choice women having abortions. Planned Parenthood of America estimates that about 15% of abortions are performed on conservative Christian women - many of them anti-choice.
For an upcoming article, I've collected many stories from abortion providers in North America that describe the antics and rationalizations of anti-choice women who need abortions. Some clinics have a policy of refusing to do abortions on anti-choice women for liability reasons. This is because these women tend to have great difficulty taking ownership of their abortions, and often place the "blame" on anyone but themselves, usually the doctor or clinic. This can result in repressed emotions that manifest themselves later in the form of lawsuits against the clinic. Sadly, these women have bought into the sexist (and neurotic) notion that they're not personally responsible for their actions.
Here's one example, in the clinic director's own words: "We saw a woman who, after four attempts and many hours of counselling both at the hospital and our clinic, finally, calmly and uneventfully, had her abortion. Four months later, she called me on Christmas Eve to tell me that she was not and never was pro-choice and that we failed to recognize that she was clinically depressed at the time of her abortion. The purpose of her call was to chastise me for not sending her off to the psych unit instead of the procedure room."
--- Joyce Arthur
New Abortion Statistics Released
Canada's abortion rate has been increasing since 1985, and the latest figures from Statistics Canada show that it is still increasing. Almost 115,000 abortions were performed in Canada in 1997, up from 111,700 in 1996, and 106,700 in 1995.
The number of abortions declined in 1997 in five provinces: Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and British Columbia.
Just under two-thirds of all therapeutic abortions in 1997 were performed in hospitals, and just over one-third in clinics. The number of clinic abortions has increased steadily since the 1988 Supreme Court decision that struck down the 1969 abortion law, while abortions in hospitals have been declining.
The Canadian rise in abortion rates counters a trend of decreasing abortion rates in the United States in recent years. There, the rate declined to 30.5 in 1997 from 31.4 in 1996, and the total number of legal induced abortions fell to their lowest level in two decades: 1,184,758. However, the rate of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 is actually lower in Canada, at 16.8, than in the United States, at 20. The reasons for this discrepancy are probably Canada's lower rate of unintended pregnancy and higher use of contraceptives, compared to the U.S.
Abortions by Province, 1995 to 1997
Abortions in Canada, 1985 to 1997
||Number of Abortions
||Rate per 100 Live Births
The anti-choice were "appalled" at Canada's rising rates, and called on the prime minister to "bring in a law to protect children in their mothers' wombs," as per Campaign Life Coalition spokeswoman Karen Murawsky. The president of CLC, Jim Hughes, blamed the high abortion rates on low national birth rates and the "teaching of birth-control methods to young people." Hughes called for chastity teachers in the schools.
Canadian Abortion Rights Action League spokeswoman Cyndy Recker retorted: "Anybody that says that abortion needs to be illegal is totally anti-woman, anti-family, anti-child.'' Recker cited delayed childbearing as a major reason for the increase. She also said that most women in Canada who get abortions became pregnant due to the failure of birth control.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien is against imposing any limits to abortion and recently repeated his opposition to any abortion law at the Liberal party's biennial convention in March. He attacked Canadian Alliance leadership candidate Stockwell Day, who wants to restrict access to abortion.
Bonnie Johnson, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Canada, claimed that the figures represent a failure of public health policy. "Canada has no policies for reducing [abortion] and there's no strategy around unintended pregnancy in Canada. The federal government is doing nothing and the provinces are cutting back on services." Johnson said no woman would willingly use abortion as birth control, given the risk of complications, the cost, and inconvenience. She said the government, by ignoring the problem, is imposing major costs on the social services and health systems.
Of all provinces, Alberta had the biggest increase in abortions, from 1996 to 1997. Celia Posyniak of Calgary's Kensington Clinic, attributed this to the fact that Alberta clinics received funding in 1997. "Removal of any barrier to access will cause the rate to increase and the economic barrier is a big one." Posyniak also cited the large increase in immigration that began in Alberta in 1996. A rapidly growing population means more young women who need abortions.
So, reasons for the continuing increase in Canadian abortions are complex, but probably are due mostly to improved access and funding, delayed childbearing, low national birth rate, lack of access to birth control, and inadequate sex education. (Effective use of birth control and comprehensive sex education are known to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and thereby abortion, as per the experience in western Europe.)
The difference between Canada's rising rate and the U.S. declining rate can likely be attributed in part to the "newness" of Canada's lack of abortion laws - good access takes many years to achieve, and the U.S. has been at it since 1973, compared to 1988 for Canada. The recent decline of abortions in the U.S. is due in part to increased use of contraceptives, but also anti-abortion activity and legal restrictions on abortion, which result in declining access and more births of unwanted babies.
Table data - Statistics Canada, The Daily, April 7, 2000, http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/000407/d000407c.htm AND The Daily, Nov. 5, 1997, http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/971105/d971105.htm#ART2
HRDC Grant Money Goes to Anti-Choice Agency
During the recent scandal in Ottawa over the billion dollars in grants awarded by Jane Stewart's Human Resources Department, it came to light that one of the recipients was the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre. The anti-choice agency received $158,000 from Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), even though it engages in deceptive and dangerous practices, such as providing gross misinformation on abortion, using delaying tactics to push women into the second trimester, advocating against birth control, and refusing to refer for abortion, even when clients request it.
The Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition was dismayed that the federal government would support activities that conflict with Health Canada's promotion of good sexual health practices in Canada, and the fair and honest dissemination of medical information.
The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) said that the Pregnancy Care Centre explicitly works to dissuade women from exercising (or even knowing about) their constitutional right to safe, legal abortion. It is unconscionable for the HRDC to provide public funds to a group that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said CARAL, who urged Jane Stewart to reclaim the money granted to Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre, and deny any further applications for funding.
Parker Appeal Abandoned
In February, pro-choice activists Will Offley and Marg Panton walked away from their appeal of Delta Police Constable Steven Parker's light sentence. Parker had been given a 5-day suspension without pay for illegally running licence plate numbers of staff and patients at Everywoman's Health Centre in 1993 and 1994.
The BC Police Commission, which was hearing Offley and Panton's appeal, narrowed the frame of reference for the appeal, effectively preventing the two from calling witnesses or introducing evidence. Offley and Panton withdrew in protest, saying there was no point in going on. Panton told the Commission that their appeals have dragged on for years without any police body or commission agreeing to look at the key issues. "We still believe the original investigation was neither fair nor thorough, and possibly an obstruction of justice," Panton said.
Offley pointed out that it was possible to document an organized campaign by anti-abortionists to collect information on abortion providers and clients, but that the police never conducted an independent investigation to see if there was a link to a broader conspiracy. Furthermore, Offley said that this collection of information is taking place in the context of "outright assassination" of abortion providers, as well as systematic harassment and intimidation.
Panton and Offley had requested an investigation into whether Parker had used the RCMP computer to check more names than the dozen or so for which he was caught, but this request was ignored by the Commission. The activists had previously given the Commission a list of 165 names of providers and volunteers for cross-checking purposes.
In his initial investigation, Delta Police Inspector Phil Harden concluded that Parker had not checked any other licence plates associated with the clinic. However, Offley and Panton said it appeared that Harden made no attempt to cross-reference a list of clinic staff and volunteers with the 3000-plus licence plate searches that Parker ran as part of his job between January 1992 and October 1994. The Commission refused Offley's and Panton's request that Harden be called as a witness. The pair noted that even a simple cross-referencing of ob/gyns from the yellow pages, the BC Medical Association, or the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists would have revealed at least two more illegal licence plate searches by Parker. In addition, Parker's own lawyer, Ken Gillet, admitted that Parker might have searched the plates of additional abortion providers because he couldn't remember the exact number of times he looked plates up.
Parker had originally testified that he searched the licence plates to calm the fears of his mother, a now-deceased protester outside Everywoman's Health Centre, who claimed she was being harassed by pro-choice individuals. However, her testimony was discredited when it was discovered that she was out of the country when some of the cars that had their plates checked were at the clinic.
Supreme Court Judge Changes Abortion Views
Justice Louis Lebel, Canada's new Supreme Court judge, says his personal view on abortion has changed since he ordered Chantal Daigle of Quebec not to abort her 20-week-old fetus in 1989.
"Abortion is a very complex issue and I have grown to doubt very much the ability of the law to govern such a question," said LeBel, who became a Supreme Court judge in February, after a 15-year stint with the Quebec Court of Appeal.
LeBel says harsh abortion laws can drive women to risk their lives and health in an effort to end unwanted pregnancies. "How can you really apply such a law? There have been experiences in other countries that have tried to apply strict abortion laws and what has been the result? Disaster. Abortions in unsanitary conditions and so on and so on, but abortions anyway."
In his judgement in the Daigle case, Judge LeBel ruled that Daigle's ex-boyfriend, Jean-Guy Tremblay, was entitled to sue for an injunction based on "potential paternity," and that the fetus was a legal person and a human being whose right to life was protected by the Quebec Charter.
Two weeks later, the Supreme Court unanimously overruled the decision, but by then a desperate Ms. Daigle, already 22 weeks pregnant, had obtained an abortion in the United States.
"I really don't think I approached that from a moral point of view," explained LeBel, who is a practising Roman Catholic. "I tried to make a legal analysis of interests. Obviously, the Supreme Court of Canada disagreed with us, told us we were wrong in our interpretation of the Charter, but I really approached it from the legal standpoint."
If Parliament or the provinces were to pass new laws restricting abortion, and their constitutionality was later challenged in court, LeBel said he would "try to keep an open mind. I would examine everything and discuss with my colleagues, and we would try to come to as fair and sensitive a judgement as could be on such an issue."
Anti-Choice Groups Well-Funded
But Some Got Money Under False Pretences
It's hard to say how much public money inappropriately finds its way into the coffers of the anti-choice (see previous story on HRDC). But regardless of where they get their money, there is no doubt that many anti-abortion organizations are well-funded, especially in comparison to pro-choice organizations. And at least two national anti-choice groups have obtained much of their money unethically, by offering charitable receipts to potential donors, when in fact, they were engaged in political activities. Human Life International and Alliance for Life applied for and received charitable tax status as educational groups many years ago and over the years, collected millions of dollars in tax-deductible donations before finally having their charitable tax status revoked.
Michel Proulx, an official with Revenue Canada, told the Pro-Choice Action Network that Revenue Canada initially approves applications for charitable status without much checking - they accept the group's word that they are an educational group. It was only later that Revenue Canada's suspicions were aroused. For example, Human Life International (HLI) was first informed in 1993 that "their activities were not educational in the legal sense, nor beneficial to the community as a whole," recalled Proulx. He said HLI was engaging in activities designed to sway public opinion - in other words, political activities - and pointed out that if a group doesn't present all points of view on a topic, they cannot be called an educational group. (In fact, only churches can exclude other points of view and still retain their charitable tax status.)
A careful and protracted investigation by Revenue Canada resulted in the eventual loss of HLI's charitable status. When HLI appealed Revenue Canada's decision to a federal court in 1998, their appeal was unanimously dismissed.
The Pro-Choice Action Network has obtained several income tax returns filed by HLI and Alliance for Life. The latter group also had their charitable tax status revoked by Revenue Canada, for the same reasons as HLI. (Under Canadian law, charitable organizations are allowed to spend no more than 10% of their resources on political activities.) Both groups have since disbanded and largely stopped work in Canada, due directly to the loss of their charitable status.
HLI falsely claimed on its income tax returns that all of their work consisted of "research, publications, and national conferences." They neglected to mention their political agenda of abolishing the civil rights of women.
Alliance for Life's list of charitable activities read: "Maintained a toll-free help-line for pregnant women in need. Published pamphlets on life issues for the Canadian public. Aired TV ads in several provinces advertising the help-line." They also "forgot" to mention their political activities, although their returns stated that their mandate was "to educate the Canadian public on the issue of life from conception to natural death; to assist those in need because of untimely pregnancy". This mandate strongly hints at their political agenda of denying women their legal right to abortion and providing women with misinformation on abortion.
||Total Reciepted Donations
|Human Life International
|Alliance For Life
U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on "Partial Birth" Abortion Ban
A Nebraska law banning "partial birth" abortions (PBA's) was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 25 (Stenberg v. Carhart). A decision is expected in late June. The Nebraska law was first passed by the state, then rejected by a federal appeals court. Nebraska's Attorney General Don Stenberg then appealed to the Supreme Court, and in so doing, also asked the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973. The main plaintiff in the Supreme Court case is Dr. Leroy Carhart, a Nebraska abortion doctor.
Most American states over the years have tried to pass PBA bans. But a majority of the bans have either failed to pass in state legislatures, or were passed and later overturned by the courts. Most of the bans contained no exemptions to protect a woman's life and/or health. Also, all the bans have been vaguely worded and could be interpreted as applying to all abortions, since no gestational limits are specified. In fact, there is no such abortion method as "partial birth abortion," which is a non-medical term coined by the anti-choice. However, it is commonly assumed to refer to intact dilation and extraction (D&X), where a late-term fetus is extracted whole from the uterus feet-first, after having its braincase collapsed for easier delivery. Some doctors believe this method is often the safest one for the woman, especially in the third trimester. In the U.S. each year, about 650 intact D&X's are performed in the third trimester in cases of severe fetal abnormalities, or when the woman's life or health is endangered. A few thousand intact D&X's are performed in the second trimester, usually after 20 weeks gestation.
PBA bans are actually considered to be a strategy by the anti-choice to stop all abortions in the United States. When a PBA ban was imposed in Wisconsin in 1998, all abortion services stopped completely for six weeks until the ban was overturned, because doctors could not be sure that the ban was restricted to only one method of abortion.
Federally, the Republican-controlled House has voted three times over the last five years to ban PBA's. President Clinton vetoed the legislation the first two times and has promised to veto it again, because it does not provide adequate exceptions to protect the health of the mother.
A majority of the Supreme Court justices that heard the case on April 25th expressed skepticism on the constitutionality of the ban. So there is optimism the ban will be struck down, hopefully in its entirety. This would invalidate all existing state bans and prevent future bans. However, it's quite possible the court will issue a very narrow ruling, allowing revised bans to stand. For example, since Nebraska's law allows no exception for the health of the mother, the court may suggest that a ban that does contain such an exemption would be constitutional. Or, the court could rule that a ban that specifically names the intact D&X procedure would pass muster.
Fetal Tissue "Scandal" Implodes
Anti-Choice Left with Egg on Their Faces
On March 9, a U.S. Congressional committee hearing took place to investigate claims that aborted fetal tissue was being sold illegally for a profit. The hearing was supposed to be a triumph for anti-choice Republicans, but it turned into a debacle when their star witness, Lawrence Dean Alberty, admitted he had lied about his knowledge of illegal activity. He also confessed to being a paid spy for Life Dynamics Inc., a Texas anti-abortion group.
Last year, Alberty (using the pseudonym "Kelly") had alleged in a videotape that he had "first-hand knowledge of the illegal, for-profit sale of fetal tissue" and had witnessed nearly 40 late-term abortions. He had claimed that viable babies were sometimes aborted alive, then killed to harvest their organs.
Alberty is a former employee of tissue donation companies Anatomic Gift Foundation, and Opening Lines, which collect tissue from hospitals and clinics and distribute it to researchers. He began to suspect that Opening Lines was selling the fetal tissue at a profit. (Under U.S. law, fetal tissue can be donated but not sold. Reasonable costs can be recovered for staff, facility, and transportation costs.) Alberty says he contacted the FBI to investigate, but he received "no help." Then he contacted the Texas anti-abortion group Life Dynamics Inc., to help publicize his story. In a videotape produced by the group, Alberty was disguised as a woman and made claims that he witnessed profiteering from fetal tissue sales.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) in Washington DC, played a pivotal role in exposing the information produced by Life Dynamics and Dean Alberty as nothing more than inflammatory anti-choice propaganda. Working over several months with pro bono counsel Fay Clayton, NAF discovered the identity of "Kelly." Alberty had infiltrated NAF after becoming a paid spy for Life Dynamics, and was even paid to attend NAF meetings and turn over all documents from the meetings to Life Dynamics. NAF worked with Fay Clayton to subpoena all documentation relating to Alberty's employment with Life Dynamics. This turned out to include confidential patient records (stolen from clinics where Alberty had worked), tapes of NAF meetings, and receipts of 23 payments from Life Dynamics to Alberty totalling more than $20,000. According to his Congressional testimony, Alberty had also given documents to Life Dynamics that he stole from his employer, Opening Lines, describing procedures used in removing fetal organs, types of organs ordered, and names of researchers.
After establishing "Kelly's" identity and procuring this evidence against Alberty, NAF obtained a sworn affidavit from Alberty in which he recanted most of the charges he made on the Life Dynamics videotape. NAF produced the affidavit at the Congressional hearing as evidence. In the affidavit, Alberty stated that he had "no personal knowledge of any instances in which an employer of mine charged any fees or received any compensation for retrieving fetal tissue in violation of any of these laws." He added, "I am not a physician and am not qualified to make medical judgements about fetal viability." Alberty also stated in his affidavit that Life Dynamics may have changed some of his answers and even substituted someone else for some of the footage without his knowledge.
Questioned about the discrepancies, Alberty testified, "I would go by the affidavit. When I was under oath, I told the truth. Anything I said on a videotape not under oath is a different story." However, Alberty did continue to assert that some abortion providers "would use lengthier procedures when performing abortions if it meant keeping a fetus intact."
The day before the hearing, on March 8, the investigative news show 20/20 had broadcast a program about the fetal tissue controversy. The show featured both Alberty and a pathologist from Opening Lines, Dr. Miles Jones, who was recorded by a hidden camera. Jones discussed making thousands of dollars a week selling fetal parts, and made other comments that seemed to imply the existence of a profitable trade in fetal tissue, such as that "market forces" drive the cost of fetal body parts.
Jones was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing but did not appear and was held in contempt of Congress. A week later, Jones wrote letters to Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh denying that he trafficked in fetal tissue, saying that his secretly-recorded comments had been shown out of context and that "nothing could be further from the truth." Jones asked that Alberty be investigated for "corporate espionage" and called for the investigation of Life Dynamics as well. In a separate statement to the press, Jones implied that the allegations against him were racially motivated. Jones, who is black, said, "Oh to be in Salem or under the spreading Southern oak tree," apparently referring to witch hunts and lynchings. It is worth noting that 20/20 presented no actual evidence to prove that any of Dr. Jones' comments were accurate, such as real customers, for example.
However, Planned Parenthood Federation of American President Gloria Feldt called Jones' actions "inappropriate." She said, "Where there is wrongdoing, it should be prosecuted. People who are doing that kind of thing should be ... brought to justice." In a letter sent to 20/20, Feldt wrote, "Planned Parenthood supports research using fetal tissue in accordance with legal and ethical guidelines and are deeply concerned about the attempt by some to profit from the humanitarian contributions of courageous women."
We agree with Feldt, but must emphasize that no-one has been found guilty of anything yet, and that these allegations involve only a single individual, Dr. Miles Jones, at a single company, Opening Lines. This is hardly the "thriving industry" the anti-choice claims exists. Meanwhile, not a shred of evidence exists that any abortion doctor or clinic is knowingly involved in illegal profiteering from fetal tissue.
Oscars for Choice
by Catherine Lansdell
I watched the Academy Awards the other night, not out of curiosity to see who's with who, or who's wearing what (well, maybe just a little), but more importantly to see if anybody said anything political. Only two people did: Hilary Swank, winner in the best actor (female) category for her role in Boys Don't Cry, said something about accepting our differences and celebrating our diversity, apropos our sexual identities. Then John Irving, who won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for The Cider House Rules, based on his novel.
I checked the Sun newspaper, listened to CBC radio, and watched Entertainment Tonight the following day. None of these mediums mentioned the importance of John Irving's comments about his film, which has a pro-choice stance on the abortion issue. However, the Globe & Mail mentioned that while Irving thanked his producers for allowing him to make a film on the abortion subject - giving credit to Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League - anti-abortion protesters lined the streets outside the Shrine Auditorium.
We have to continually remind ourselves and others of the importance of public education around the subject of abortion. Recognizing this film and the message it gives us, as well as celebrating the work of Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice movement as a whole, are paramount in safeguarding every woman's right to choose. If you haven't already, go see The Cider House Rules - an important and moving film.
Editor's Note: The Cider House Rules also won a second Oscar - co-star Michael Caine won for Best Supporting Actor. It also received five other nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Original Score, Film Editing, and Art Direction. Thanks to Hollywood and the Academy for not being cowed by anti-choice politics!
Thanks for Your Letters!
The following letter by Catherine Lansdell was submitted to the Vancouver Sun (but not printed) in response to Pro-CAN's guest editorial in the Sun (Feb. 24) about the Genocide Awareness Project. Luckily, Catherine had an additional letter on the subject that was printed in the Sun on March 6.
Judy Hecht and Joyce Arthur of the Pro-Choice Action Network are quite correct in their claim that UBC Lifeline members and the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) hide their misogyny under the loaded words "freedom of speech" while shirking the responsibility that that freedom (like all freedoms) goes hand in hand with.
GAP displays hate propaganda. The message is that women who have abortions and the doctors who perform them are morally the same as Nazis and Ku Klux Klanners - an incredibly twisted analogy. Then they cry that their right to freedom of speech has been violated when thoughtful feminists, confronted with GAP's intolerant and misogynistic rhetoric, tear it down.
Pro-choice is an umbrella answer to the abortion debate, because it is tolerant and inclusive of both sides of this debate: to have or not to have an abortion, to have or not to have a child - these are the rights that Pro-choice want all women to have over our sexual reproduction and our bodies. The freedom to choose if and when she will have a child forms a crucial part of a woman's inherent human right to self-determination. It is undemocratic when a society denies these rights to half its population, as GAP would like to do. Should we tolerate this kind of oppression? I don't think so.
--- Catherine Lansdell
The Alma Mater Society at UBC should charge the Lifeline society with dissemination of hate propaganda. Just as denying the Holocaust is a provable lie, so is calling abortion "murder" or a "war against the unborn", let alone "genocide".
A fetus is like a plant. One cannot "murder" a plant. Until three months, it has not even one differentiated brain stem cell. Until five months, it has no brain waves. Therefore, it has no capacity for thought or even sensation. This is not my opinion - this is scientifically provable, not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but even beyond a pretty unreasonable doubt. Therefore, to call abortion murder is a lie, a libel against a group rather than an individual.
Secondly, just as anti-Jewish hate literature exists in the context of murders, violence, and vandalism, so does "pro-life" literature. Many "pro-lifers", including Catholic church leaders, have stated that while they don't approve of murdering abortion doctors or bombing abortion clinics, they "understand" it, because abortion is "murder." Even without going that far towards endorsing murder, this rhetoric is a clear incitement of violence, since any society whose laws legalize murder on a mass scale would create a clear ethical imperative for people of conscience to take the law into their own hands and change the situation by any means necessary.
Finally, let us not forget that free speech in a democracy is there to protect a free marketplace of ideas, with a view to the best ideas gaining support. We do not need to protect libelous speech or hate literature to maintain the benefits of free speech. To hear Lifeline on the subject of free speech, you would think it was one of the Ten Commandments.
--- Christopher New
Announcements of Papal apologies for past wrongs in the Vancouver Sun (13 Mar, 2000) and CBC Television (12 March) included objections from Jews for lack of references to the role of Pius XII in making possible the Holocaust.
As regrettable as past sins are, those that continue and threaten our future are far worse. Availability of contraceptives and sterilisation is vital to stop population explosion, which is vital to stop global warming, which threatens human survival. Abortion is an essential backup to contraceptives and sterilisation in granting couples the right to have as few children as they wish, perhaps the most important human right for our survival. Catholic teaching condemns these voluntary methods of birth control and abortion, and the teaching is in place because Jean Paul II strongly discourages abortion and most birth control in order to preserve Papal infallibility. He should also apologise for Catholics encouraging and carrying out the killing of abortion providers. The infamous doctor killer James Kopp is a devout Catholic (Vancouver Sun, 8 June 1999).
The Christian right in the US is attacking Democratic Presidential Candidate Al Gore and Hillary Clinton for not disassociating themselves from people supportive of Catholics For a Free Choice (CFFC) in their campaign to remove the Vatican's special status at the United Nations. Like in Carter's time, politicians are still fighting for the Catholic vote.
Oppose the Vatican's efforts to keep its status as the only religion with almost state status at the UN. You don't have to oppose a religion to do this. You only have to side with Catholics For a Free Choice in their fight against the Vatican. The Vatican is counterattacking the CFFC now. Stand with the majority of Catholics who support the CFFC. Contact me for postcards in support of their campaign, or go to www.seechange.org
-- Ken McLean,
Lower Mainland Sustainable Population Society,
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