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a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Winter 01/02 Issue
Table of Contents
U.S. /International News:
Anti-Choicers Fear New Terrorism Law
by Joyce Arthur
Anti-choice groups are justifiably afraid that Canada's new Anti-Terrorism Act may be extended to include them. The definition of terrorism in the law, enacted in November, would likely cover anti-abortion violence such as shooting and stabbing doctors, and bombing and burning clinics. Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), Canada's national anti-choice group, notes correctly that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has already labelled anti-abortion violence as "single issue terrorism" (see the CSIS report at www.csis-scrs-gc.ca/eng/comment/com74_e.html).
Slightly paraphrased, the law's definition of terrorism is: "An act or omission committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security." Plus, the act or omission must "intentionally cause death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of violence, endanger a person's life, cause a serious risk to the public's health or safety, cause substantial property damage, or cause serious interference with an essential service, facility or system."
Campaign Life Coalition spokesperson Karen Murawsky said, "The enforcement of this legislation could be dangerous and possibly used against us without cause." It could be used against them alright, but not “without cause.” CLC seems concerned that peaceful anti-abortion protests might be targeted under the law, but the law's definition excludes "advocacy, protest, dissent, or stoppage of work that is not intended to result in the conduct or harm referred to." Plus, Liberal MPs in Ottawa have specifically said that peaceful anti-abortion protests would be exempt.
What will be far more significant for mainstream anti-choice groups is the law's creation of a "terrorist entity" list. Groups and individuals suspected of being terrorists, or helping or funding terrorists, can be put on the list by federal law enforcement, and have their assets and revenue frozen while being investigated. So the key issue is not whether Canadian anti-choice groups are terrorists themselves, but whether they have associated with or helped any extremist anti-abortion groups or individuals. Let's take a look at some of the evidence.
Matthew Trewhella, of Missionaries to the Preborn (MTTP), is an advocate of armed citizen militias. MTTP is a Wisconsin group that holds aggressive clinic blockades, pickets doctors' homes, and provides financial aid to convicted anti-abortion terrorists. Trewhella once signed the Defensive Action "Justifiable Homicide" petition and refused to condemn doctor killers Michael Griffin and Paul Hill. In January 2001, Trewhella was the keynote speaker at the White Rose banquet, an annual event honouring violent anti-abortion terrorists. CANADA: In 1998, Trewhella and MTTP worked with Campaign Life Coalition and its president Jim Hughes to put on "Show the Truth" tours in 18 Ontario cities.
James Kopp, former member of the extremist Lambs of Christ, is also associated with the terrorist group Army of God. He is given special thanks in the dedication section of the Army of God Manual—a how-to primer for clinic violence—as the "Atomic Dog (you nuclear canine)." Kopp has been charged with the sniper murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian of New York in 1998. He has been arrested at several clinic blockades in the U.S., and is the inventor of specialized lock-and-block techniques used by protesters to chain themselves together at the doors of abortion facilities. CANADA: Kopp has been charged, or is the main suspect, in the shootings of three Canadian doctors since 1994. Some believe he must have had help from Canadians in carrying out the shootings, and it is thought that Kopp may have protested at Canadian clinics in the late 1980's or early '90's.
Joan Andrews-Bell of New Jersey, invaded and burglarized several U.S. clinics in the mid-1980’s. She spent five years in jail for her anti-abortion crimes and has been arrested over 200 times. She is also a former employer of James Kopp. CANADA: Andrews-Bell was arrested in 1999 at a Toronto clinic blockade. She was in Toronto to speak at Human Life International's conference, crossing the border in spite of her criminal record. In press interviews while in Toronto, she advocated the murder of doctors at clinics. Campaign Life Coalition once called Andrews-Bell "a shining example of what the pro-life movement is all about."
Joseph Scheidler, head of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, was convicted of 21 acts of extortion against American abortion clinics in 1998. He is permanently enjoined from protesting at clinics in the U.S. because of his extreme harassment of them. He is the author of the notorious anti-abortion book: Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion which advocates stalking, harassment, infiltration, and aggressive clinic protests. CANADA: Scheidler has been to Canada at least five times. He is a popular keynote speaker and trainer at anti-choice conferences across the country and has led protests outside abortion clinics and other Canadian venues.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a former abortion provider turned anti-choice, is a high-profile anti-abortion speaker and author from New York, who advocates the murder of doctors when they are "about to perform an abortion". He is the creator of the discredited film Silent Scream. Joan Andrews-Bell acted as his sponsor and godmother when he converted to Catholicism. CANADA: Nathanson spoke in BC in May 2000 at the Focus for Life dinner sponsored by the Pro-Life Society of BC and the Vancouver Catholic Archdiocese. Nathanson's presence helped raise about $100,000 for the two groups.
Mark Crutcher, President of Life Dynamics Inc. of Texas, uses sophisticated and deceptive tactics to collect and disseminate personal information on providers in order to target them for harassment and possibly violence. He uses 4,000 “Spies for Life” to gather information and infiltrate abortion clinics. Crutcher concocted the “baby parts racket” story, which involved Life Dynamics in illegal corporate espionage and the reported fabrication of evidence against providers (according to his spy Dean Alberty). CANADA: Crutcher has successfully exported his tactics to Canada. Many Canadian groups and individuals have used Life Dynamics' stock letters, postcards, and brochures to try and gather information on Canadian providers or intimidate them into stopping abortions. Crutcher spoke at a seminar of the Pro-Life Society of BC in 1991, and his tactics have been praised by Ted Gerk, a Kelowna anti-choice activist. Gerk is thanked in the Acknowledgements of Crutcher's anti-abortion book Lime 5.
Gregg Cunningham, of the Center for Bio-ethical Reform in California, is the litigious creator of the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), a display of large photos of aborted fetuses next to pictures of genocide victims. GAP is widely believed to be hate propaganda against women because it sends the message that women are Nazis. The display is also considered racist since it exploits minority groups like Jews and blacks. Largely because of that, it has triggered student violence at several campuses and one riot. CANADA: Cunningham tried to bring GAP to the University of BC, and threatened a lawsuit when UBC refused access. Since 1999, Cunningham has worked closely with UBC's anti-abortion club Lifeline, headed by Stephanie Gray. He sponsored Lifeline's numerous "mini-GAP" displays, accompanied members to at least one clinic protest in Vancouver, and has been grooming Gray for a leadership role. Gray is now the head of the newly formed Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform. Cunningham has also become a popular speaker at Canadian anti-choice events and conferences.
Given the above, anti-choice groups in Canada have good reason to fear that the new Anti-Terrorism Act will target them. Already in the United States, pro-choice groups are hoping they can use their new anti-terrorist law, the Patriot Act, to treat extremist anti-abortion groups as domestic terrorists. In particular, they point to the Army of God, which has claimed responsibility for a large number of shootings, bombings, arsons, anthrax threats, and other attacks over the last 20 years. If the American government cracks down on anti-abortion terrorism under their Patriot Act, there is no reason for Canada not to follow suit under its Anti-Terrorism Act.
 Concern that Proposed Terrorism Law Could Target Pro-Lifers. Life-Site Daily News. Oct. 17/01. www.lifesite.net/ldn/2001/oct/011017.html
 The Anti-Terrorism Act has been widely criticized, however, by free speech advocates and civil libertarians, who say it erodes fundamental civil liberties and overrides the Charter of Rights.
Mergers Mean Less Access to Abortion Services
by Catherine Campbell
In the United States, Catholic hospitals have been merging with secular ones in financial trouble. The result? Less access to reproductive health services for thousands of Americans. Between 1990 and 2000, there were 159 such mergers or affiliations. These mergers have often left a Catholic hospital the only game in town. If you want an abortion, or if you’re a rape victim needing the emergency contraceptive pill, too bad. Chances are you won’t get it.
When a secular hospital merges with a Catholic one, about half of the time it is forced to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, established in 1994 by the National Council of Bishops. The Directives deem immoral such services as tubal ligations, vasectomies, contraceptive counselling, and of course, abortions. That means many formally secular hospitals that provided these services are no longer permitted to do so, and patients who relied on those services no longer have access to them. This is a sticky problem when there is no other hospital in town, and getting to the closest one costs time and money many disadvantaged women don’t have.
In 1998, the Catholic Church was the sole provider of emergency medical care in 91 communities in the United States, communities with only an estimated five percent Catholic population. If you’ve been raped and are sent to one of these hospitals, you most likely won’t have access to the emergency contraceptive pill ¾ you’ll be lucky if they even tell you about it. According to a recent study, 82% of Catholic hospitals refuse to dispense the emergency contraceptive pill, and 31% refuse to tell patients about it or where they can get it. Considering that there are 16,000 abortions a year in the United States resulting from sexual assault, not providing the emergency contraceptive pill is an interesting choice on the part of Catholic emergency health care facilities.
The scope of the Catholic Church’s involvement in health care in the United States is wide. Catholic health care facilities are the largest group of non-profit hospitals in the United States. The Catholic Church controls 621 hospitals and 282 health-related organizations, and serves 85 million patients. It also controls four out of ten of the largest health care systems in America. The recent mergers have only increased their strength and numbers while decreasing access to reproductive health services.
Think this couldn’t happen in Canada? It already has. In April of 1998, Toronto’s Wellesley Central Hospital was taken over by the Catholic hospital St. Michael’s. St. Michael’s promptly banned abortions, vasectomies, and restricted other birth control procedures at Wellesley. More mergers could be on the way as economic difficulties increase and provinces find it harder and harder to pay for health care.
Hospital mergers in Canada and the United States are exacerbating the problem of lack of access to abortion and other reproductive health care services. In Canada, abortions are deemed a medically necessary service, but access to abortions is decreasing. Some provincial health insurance programs refuse to pay for abortions unless they are performed in a hospital. This gets to be a problem when no hospital in the province will perform them. New Brunswick, PEI, Quebec, and Manitoba do not currently cover the full cost of abortions performed in free-standing clinics. Health Minister Alan Rock is threatening to withhold transfer payments to these provinces unless they start complying with the Canada Health Act and start to fully fund abortions, regardless of where they are performed.
It seems that your access to an abortion is entirely dependent on where you live and how much you can afford to pay. If you need an abortion and live on Prince Edward Island, get ready to do some travelling. No hospital on the Island performs abortions, and the Island has no abortion clinics. In Regina, you may be able to get an abortion, but you’ll have to wait a full three to five weeks. In Manitoba, you’ll also have to wait three to five weeks unless you can afford the extra money for an abortion at the province’s one abortion clinic. If you live in the Yukon, you’re fortunate. Your hospital abortion will be fully funded, you may get a travel grant if you have to travel, and you won’t have to wait.
This disparity in access to timely abortions is not fair, and we can only hope that access to services does not decrease. If Catholic hospitals continue to merge with secular ones, and if provinces continue to refuse to fully fund abortions in clinics, we can be sure it will.
For more information on Catholic hospital mergers, go to www.mergerwatch.org and www.cath4choice.org.
Pro-CAN Files New Ad Complaint
Misleading Ad Links Breast Cancer & Abortion
In October, the Pro-Choice Action Network launched a formal complaint to Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), over an inaccurate, scare-mongering anti-abortion ad. ASC is a federal watchdog agency that enforces the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.
The ad pretends it is a scientific fact that women who have abortions have a much greater risk of developing breast cancer. The ad was placed in the October 10 issue of the Surrey Now community newspaper (also known as "thenownewspaper.com"), by the Surrey-Delta Pro-Life Society, which used the claims in the ad to solicit memberships and donations for itself. The same ad also appeared in the October 29 issue of the BC Catholic.
The half-page ad is mostly text and appears factual and scientific to an uninformed layperson. It even claims that women who get breast cancer from abortion will experience an aggressive form of cancer that kills more rapidly. The ad concludes by stating that abortion will be responsible for 40,000 new cases of breast cancer in the U.S. every year by 2030.
This is the second complaint that Pro-CAN has made to Advertising Standards Canada over a misleading anti-abortion ad. The first one, made in April 2000, was for a newspaper ad placed by the Burnaby Pro-Life Society that promoted the myth of a "baby parts racket" in Canada. The ad alleged that abortion providers were profiting from fetal tissue sales, and even killing live born babies in order to sell their body parts. That ad complaint was successful and the decision was unanimously upheld on appeal by ASC. The advertiser has been prohibited from placing the same ad again.
Unfortunately, in late December, ASC declined to review the breast cancer/abortion ad any further. It said there are "serious and noteworthy considerations in dispute", but they are "complex" and "beyond the resources" and "expertise" of ASC to evaluate.
Joyce Arthur of the Pro-Choice Action Network has written an article, Abortion and Breast Cancer: A Forged Link. The article looks at the scientific evidence and refutes the claim that abortion leads to breast cancer. It is pending publication in The Humanist magazine and will be reprinted in the next issue of Pro-Choice Press. In the meantime, it can be read on our website at: www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/abclink.shtml
Battle for Abortion Funding
In October, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) protested the violation of the Canada Health Act by the four provinces that refuse to fully fund abortions in clinics—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Manitoba. CARAL submitted a brief and made an oral presentation to the Pre-Budget Finance Committee in Ottawa, titled "Equitable Funding of Abortion Care Under the Canada Health Act." Under the Act, "medically required" services, whether performed in hospitals or clinics, must be funded under provincial health plans. CARAL demanded that the federal government withhold transfer payments from the four provinces until they fund clinics.
Abortion is far less accessible than any other medically-required service in Canada. Two-thirds of abortions are performed in hospitals (which fund the procedure), but hospitals have longer waiting lists than clinics, offer women little privacy and no counseling, and pose a greater medical risk to women because of the use of general anesthesia. In addition, many hospitals impose onerous restrictions on women, such as abortion quotas, gestational limits, and a two-doctor approval process. But many women are forced to wait for an abortion at a hospital because they can't afford the $500+ fee at a clinic. In its presentation, CARAL noted that "the availability of abortion care in Canada depends on a woman's residence and the size of her pocketbook." CARAL also cited a decline in the number of hospitals performing abortions, and a sharp decrease in the number of abortion providers.
The presentation was apparently well-received by government MP's, with the exception of anti-choice MP Jason Kenney (Alliance), who tried to debate the abortion issue with CARAL. To emphasize that lack of abortion funding is a serious financial problem for women, CARAL's Executive Director Marilyn Wilson had pointed out that most women seeking abortions "...do so for socio-economic reasons. Sometimes it is a desire to complete their education and become financially independent. In many cases, couples with children wish to restrict their family size in order to provide adequate financial support." Kenney blasted this as a "significant admission" from CARAL, which had "now blown the cover off its argument that provinces must finance a procedure which is not done for medical reasons." Anti-choice groups and publications across the country have since been broadcasting that because abortion is a "choice," as now "confessed" by the pro-choice movement, it is obviously not a medically required procedure. (An anti-choice letter-writing campaign to the federal Minister of Health—now Anne McLellan—is underway.)
Such obtuse ignorance of the medical necessity of abortion is inexcusable. First, they abuse and misuse the word "choice". Childbirth is also a choice, but no-one would suggest making it an elective procedure. (In fact, every medical procedure is a choice—people have the right to opt out, even if it means choosing death instead.) Second, abortion is very time-sensitive, unlike elective procedures. Women can't wait months for an abortion, and even waiting weeks increases the medical risk of the procedure significantly. Third, abortion services are a critical component of public health programs, since women will otherwise risk their lives to obtain unsafe, illegal abortions. Fourth, and most importantly, abortion is unlike any other medical procedure—it is also a constitutional right guaranteed to women to protect their liberty, equality, and bodily security. As such, the government must ensure safe, timely, accessible, fully-funded abortion services.
A new federal proposal for resolving Medicare disputes with the provinces could help break the impasse over the refusal by the four provinces to pay for abortions at clinics. Former federal Health Minister Allan Rock sent a proposal in November to his provincial counterparts. The plan is to establish non-binding mechanisms to avoid or resolve disputes before Ottawa penalizes provinces financially for violating the principles of the Canada Health Act. Rock's proposal calls for a 90-day period during which Ottawa and any province involved in a dispute would exchange positions and information, and hopefully arrive at an agreement. If this effort failed, the two sides would call in an independent third party to assess the facts. New Brunswick's Health Minister Elvy Robichaud lauded Rock's proposal, hoping that it would "give them something to work with, whether we agree or disagree with it." However, since the New Brunswick government is steadfastly anti-choice, such optimism is probably not a good sign.
Indeed, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, whose clinics in the four provinces are forced to charge patients directly for services, is highly skeptical that the proposal will ever resolve the issue. Morgentaler said that Rock has abandoned his responsibility to uphold the Canada Health Act, since the proposal contains no provisions for binding arbitration or enforcement. "He wants only consultations; we've had consultations," said Morgentaler. "The provinces are discriminating blatantly against women, against women's needs for abortion by not paying for something which is definitely a required medical service." Morgentaler had written an open letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien in October complaining about Allan Rock's "dereliction of duty" in failing to enforce the Canada Health Act.
Quebec: In early October, the Quebec government pledged to spend $3.2 million to ensure that women in regions outside Montreal have greater access to abortions. The money will mainly serve to increase staffing levels at existing clinics and establish a new clinic in an underserved region. However, the Quebec government is still in violation of the Canada Health Act, because it pays only the physician's fee portion for abortion services. Women must pay about half the total cost out-of-pocket.
Alberta: The Alberta Pro-Life Society has been vociferously lobbying the Alberta government to drop abortion from the list of services covered by Medicare, which would mean a loss of funding for the two abortion clinics in Calgary and Edmonton. However, Premier Ralph Klein has flatly rejected any such move, saying, "The chances, I believe, are slim and none." When pressed by reporters as to whether the issue was still open to debate, Klein said, "No, it's not. Not at all. No. Full stop." Klein had earlier stated that "My position is that this is a matter between a woman, her doctor and her God. It is covered under the Canada Health Act."
The abortion funding issue arose in November after Klein announced his government will challenge federal health regulations in a bid to end blanket Medicare coverage for Albertans, because the province can no longer afford it. Klein said Alberta plans to lead a challenge of the "comprehensive" provision of the Canada Health Act in a bid to define just what comprehensive means. A previous campaign by anti-abortion groups to defund abortion in 1996 failed despite the support of some MP's, because Alberta doctors refused to play along after being asked to "define" medically necessary abortions.
British Columbia: The Kamloops Pro-Life Society made oral submissions in October to the Liberal government's travelling Finance Committee, as well as to the Health Committee, in an effort to get abortion defunded in BC. The unsuccessful submissions were jam-packed with basic factual errors, and abortion was not even mentioned in the committees' final reports. The BC pro-choice community doubts that the BC Liberal government will defund abortion, in spite of its severe cost-cutting, because the Liberals are probably too afraid to thrust the controversial abortion issue back into the media spotlight.
What Do They Say on Abortion?
The Canadian Alliance party's leadership race is getting underway, with a vote to take place in March. How do the candidates stack up on abortion?
Alliance MP Stephen Harper (from Calgary) joined the race in December, and immediately said that under him, the party would not focus on abortion. In an interview with the right-wing Report Magazine, Harper said, "I don't believe the party should have a position on abortion. I don't believe an Alliance government should sponsor legislation on abortion or a referendum on abortion. Even in a conservative party there are going to be wide differences of opinion on a question like that." He told mainstream media that he would make no effort to court social conservatives who might expect him to lead a campaign to outlaw abortion.
Also running in the Alliance leadership race are MPs Stockwell Day, Diane Ablonczy, and Grant Hill. Day, who resigned as the party's leader in December, has well-known anti-choice views, which the media used against him during the November 2000 federal election. Policy statements on his campaign website say that the Alliance Party has no official stance on abortion, but he himself is against abortion ad embryonic stem cell research, and he would permit a free vote in Parliament on "respect for life" issues.
Ablonczy considers herself to be personally "pro-life" but she supports embryonic stem cell research and would not involve the Alliance in the abortion issue. ”I don't think Canadians want their governments to start meddling in these personal choice issues. Canadians have a lot higher priorities right now,” she told Global National News.
Grant Hill claimed he would permit, but not promote, a national referendum on abortion. He told the National Post, "As a pro-life guy myself, a guy who dealt with abortion as a physician all my life, 25 years, I'm really compassionate toward the woman who has to make that tough decision. Because terminating a pregnancy is not a casual decision for anybody. It's a gut-wrenching decision. I've dealt with the after-effects, the depression, the awful feelings that come."
Abortion has also become an issue in Ontario's Progressive Conservative leadership race. (Premier Mike Harris resigned in October and a new leader will be elected by the party in March.) Of five candidates, only Jim Flaherty (Finance Minister) is anti-choice, but he stressed that Ontario is legally obligated to provide access to abortions and claimed he would not restrict access or funding. In his 14 months as Attorney General, Flaherty did nothing to weaken legal protection for abortion clinics. However, he refused to commit himself to maintaining Ontario's policy of making abortions more accessible than in other provinces.
Elizabeth Witmer (Environment Minister) is pro-choice, although she said in 1995 that she would support an abortion funding referendum. She says she has now changed her mind. Other candidates include Former Finance Minister Ernie Eves, Health Minister Tony Clement, and Labour Minister Chris Stockwell, who are all pro-choice.
Ontario — In October, Alex Vernon was cleared of charges stemming from his February 2001 arrest for criminal harassment of a staff member at the Scott Clinic in Toronto. However, the court ordered him to stay away from the staff member he allegedly threatened. Vernon had been staying in Vancouver until last fall and has now moved back to Toronto.
Father Tony Van Hee, a long-time anti-abortion picketer in front of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa (since Sept/89), was removed from his usual location in October and told to picket in a more distant spot, apparently as an anti-terrorism measure.
Saskatchewan — Activist Bill Whatcott lost a Charter challenge in a Regina municipal court in November and was ordered to pay a $90 littering fine for distributing graphic anti-abortion pamphlets in a University of Regina parking lot. Whatcott had fought the charge saying it violated his Charter rights to free speech. The judge ordered Whatcott to pay the fine by December 31st or spend four days in jail. Whatcott remained defiant and said he would opt for the "four-day holiday" since he couldn't pay in "good conscience”.
British Columbia — In September, protester Merle Terlesky of Kamloops was sentenced to one year of probation for violating the bubble zone outside Everywoman's Health Centre in Vancouver in January 2001. Additional charges of uttering threats were dropped. He was also issued a recognizance order to stay out of Everywoman's access zone for one year.
Merle Terlesky: A Profile
Merle Terlesky of Kamloops, an habitual anti-choice protester, suffered a public embarrassment in December when the editor of the Kamloops Daily News, Susan Duncan, published an editorial exposé on him. Terlesky attends almost every political event that takes place in Kamloops, and has "so many axes to grind, it's tough to keep up," said Duncan.
Terlesky's paid career apparently consists of a disability pension for a cured disease and a paper route. As the saying goes, idle hands are the devil's workshop—Terlesky spends almost all his time in rants against women's groups, gays and lesbians, aboriginals, pro-choice groups, and a litany of others. The Kamloops Women's Resource Centre got letters from Terlesky threatening to sue the Centre if it didn’t remove a link to an unflattering article about Promise Keepers (a right-wing men's group) from its website. He's also tried to get the Centre’s funding removed, apparently because it provides support for gays and lesbians. Duncan’s article describes how Terlesky attended CBC's CounterSpin program and before the doors were open to the event, he screamed at the native people in attendance to "Go to Afghanistan and join the Taliban." When a gay man was beaten and murdered in Stanley Park recently, he told the Province newspaper that the man was "engaging in inappropriate behaviour." Duncan noted, "When [Terlesky's] vehement and harsh comments are added up, it becomes quite clear that he only has love for his fellow human beings when they espouse an identical philosophy to his own".
Terlesky loves to brag about how he used to be a pro-choice activist until he became ill and converted to Christianity. He's even written a book about it, although rumour has it sales are slow. He claims he used to take women seeking abortions through the line of protesters outside clinics. Duncan says, "Pro-choice activists confirm Terlesky was part of their movement, but a very small cog in the wheel. They describe him as a 'loose cannon' who made them nervous because he was eager to cause trouble." He stays in touch with the pro-choice movement through taunting and mean-spirited emails and voicemails (of which the Pro-Choice Action Network is a frequent recipient).
Duncan's editorial effectively exposed Terlesky's agenda as one driven by anger, hatred, spite, and ego. "He likes to plant himself and his anger front and centre," she said. "Anytime Terlesky doesn't get his way, which is often, he complains and gripes to anyone he can. His letters, emails, and voice mails are demanding and vitriolic."
The editorial was prompted in part by Terlesky's tantrum over being ignored. Outraged that the Kamloops Daily News wasn't paying sufficient attention to him and his causes, he made a formal complaint to the BC Press Council. But Duncan observed that Terlesky "has managed to get himself in the paper so many times, the stack of stories totals about two inches".
Even fellow Christians and anti-choicers have issues with Terlesky. Duncan says, "Pro-life officials don't want Terlesky to be too vocal for their organization either because of his reputation for liking the limelight. When he called a press conference outside former MLA Cathy McGregor's office last May, he suggested it would be a protest. He was the only person to show up."
Besides Duncan's editorial, another unflattering portrait of Terlesky has emerged. In a Christian chatroom on the Internet in June 2001, Terlesky's postings frightened one anti-choice woman from California so much that she actually phoned the Everywoman's Health Centre in Vancouver to warn staff about him. Terlesky was repeatedly calling the staff at Everywoman's "femi-nazis," "baby-killers" and "murderers" and saying things like, "I hope they sweat and are terrified and quit. I hope they hire more police, more guards." After the woman said she was going to alert the clinic, Terlesky subjected her to vicious taunts, for example: "I hope you can live with your complicity, the blood will be on your hands." and "Say hi to the killers for me ... Get up early for that call". When the woman talked about her four children, Terlesky questioned her pro-life commitment by saying, "Why not kill 'em now?"
One chatroom participant accused Terlesky of being drunk because of his incoherence; yet another urged him to take time off from the chatroom because he feared that Terlesky had lost touch with reality. Also, several chatroom participants expressed shock and concern over what they perceived as Terlesky's veiled threats against abortion providers.
Some leaders in the pro-choice community believe that anti-choice protesters suffer disproportionately from psychiatric problems, compared to normal people. For example, Linda Gibbons, a protester from Toronto with a long arrest record, was hauled off for a psychiatric evaluation when she refused to speak after an arrest in 2000. Based on the account of Terlesky in the Kamloops Daily News and his postings in the Christian chatroom, the Canadian pro-choice community has concerns about his behaviour. Terlesky has visited several clinics across Canada, so caution is advised when clinics are faced with Terlesky or other problem protesters like him.
 Ranting at opponents won’t attract many allies to the cause. Susan Duncan, Kamloops Daily News, December 1, 2001.
 Excite.com's Bravenet forum (www.bravenet.com), Christian chat room. Publicly-posted transcript (lengthy) and emails available for verification. Contact Pro-Choice Action Network.
 Linda Gibbons Arrested, Tony Gosnach, The Interim, November 2000, www.lifesite.net/interim/2000/nov/01gibbonsarrest.html
1999 Abortion Statistics Exclude Ontario
Statistics Canada has released its Canadian abortion statistics for 1999, but data for Ontario is missing because of changes in reporting requirements there. Ontario normally accounts for about 40% of all abortions, so the new statistics give a very inaccurate picture of the number of abortions in Canada.
Excluding Ontario, Canada's abortion rate decreased overall by 3.2% in 1999. Every province showed a decrease except Manitoba and Newfoundland.
The total number of abortions was 65,627, with 31.8 abortions for every 100 live births, and 15.5 abortions for every 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44).
|Total (excluding Ontario)
|Total (including Ontario)
|Prince Edward Island
For more information, see www.statcan.ca/Daily/ English/020118/td020118.htm
National Sex-Ed Campaign Launched
A gynecologist from Kingston, Ontario is heading a national sex education campaign to curb the growing number of sexually transmitted infections among teens and young people. Launched in November, the campaign employs an interactive Web site, promotes over-the-counter emergency contraception, and distributes a newly published book written for teens called Sex Sense.
Dr. Robert Reid is an infertility specialist and past president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the organization spearheading the campaign. He said a sudden increase in sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia triggered the program. The sex-ed campaign will also target widespread ignorance about contraception methods, and lobby government officials to make emergency contraception available without prescription through pharmacies. (A very successful pilot project is already underway in Toronto.)
The Web site, www.sexualityandu.ca, has four modules tailored to: teenagers, adults who may be dating again after a long relationship, school teachers, and health professionals. It contains basic information on sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases, and contraception. "It's designed to make people think about sexual health choices and to make sexually intelligent decisions and to make the necessary behavioural decisions to implement those choices,'' said Dr. Reid.
Copies of the book Sex Sense can be ordered online at www.sexsensebook.com or by calling 1-877-519-7999 ($17.10 including shipping and handling).
New Reproductive Legislation Coming Soon — Ottawa hopes to pass legislation this year that would ban commercial surrogacy, sperm and egg sales, sex selection, and reproductive cloning. Some fear that the law will interfere with personal autonomy and prevent many people from having their own child, while others say the law is needed for ethical reasons and to keep women from being exploited. However, the law would allow limited research on human embryonic stem cells. Such cells hold the promise of curing a wide range of illnesses from Parkinson's disease to diabetes. Meanwhile, however, Quebec has banned completely any research using embryonic stem cells, and is considering outlawing human cloning by making an amendment to the provincial Civil Code.
Emergency Contraception a Big Seller — The "morning after pill" is selling briskly in 36 Toronto pharmacies that are participating in a pilot project to dispense the drug without a doctor's prescription. Over 500 women a month have obtained the pills since the project started in June, although women have to pay $15 to $20 for a consultation fee. Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. BC pharmacies have been successfully dispensing the pills since December 2000. About 4,600 prescriptions were issued by BC pharmacists in the first nine months of the program, avoiding 300 unwanted pregnancies and 150 abortions. Another province has now joined BC—the Quebec government authorized the sale of emergency contraception at pharmacies in December. Modelled after BC's program, pharmacists take a half-day certification course to learn how to counsel women before dispensing the pill. Both provinces charge a consultation fee to the patient, but the drugs themselves are free.
BC Couple Sue for Wrongful Birth — Pam and Murray Krangle of Maple Ridge BC appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada over compensation for a wrongful birth case, but lost. Their son Mervyn was born with severe Down syndrome, but Krangle's doctor didn't tell her about the genetic test that would have detected Down syndrome when she was pregnant. Krangle says she would have had an abortion. Lower courts had already found that the doctor, Stanley Morrill, was liable for the wrongful birth, but the BC Court of Appeal awarded damages amounting to about $1.5 million, while the BC Supreme Court sided with Morrill and awarded about $500,000. This is only enough to support Mervyn during his childhood years, but the Krangles wanted to continue supporting their son for the rest of his life. Dr. Merrill said the boy should go on welfare at age 19 and move to a group home. The Supreme Court sided with Merrill.
Graphic Anti-Abortion Talk Upsets Junior High School Students — In October, horrified parents demanded a full probe after a couple gave a scandalous anti-abortion presentation to junior high school students in St. John's, Newfoundland. The couple, John and Gaetanne Hetherington of Longueuil, Quebec were paid a $300 honorarium. The school did not review the material prior to the presentation, or ask for parental permission for the children to attend the 90-minute session. Parents said the presenters told their children (aged 11 to 14) that when abortions occur, the fetus is turned in the womb so that the feet are delivered first. Physicians then reach in, cut the head from the neck, and suck the brain out. Some children placed their hands over their ears while others were reduced to tears by what they heard, a parent said. “My son was so horrified and gripped by this story that I don’t think he can get it out of his mind,” one mother said. Such an inflammatory presentation to young children can only be called child abuse. The presenters may have been referring to an abortion procedure called "intact D&X," but if so, their description was grossly inaccurate. Plus, this procedure is not even done in Canada. In the United States, it is used as a rare third-trimester abortion method in cases of severe fetal abnormality or to save the woman's life. The procedure is considered safer for the woman than other late-term abortion methods.
Lying Anti-abortion Group Plaster Posters on Campus — A University of Toronto anti-abortion group misnamed "Feminists for Choice" plastered the campus with anti-abortion posters in November. Robyn Malo says the basic thrust of her group's campaign is that access to abortion hasn't given women positions of equality, or led the public to respect motherhood. "The basic idea is that abortion has not rectified the situation," Malo said. But a representative from the campus women's centre, Sarah Ware, said the centre will launch an awareness campaign about abortion, because she is worried the posters could create a hostile climate for women considering abortion. "These kinds of things can be very hurtful and they use language that can be misleading," Ware said. (That’s an understatement!)
Anthrax Terrorist Apprehended
Clayton Lee Waagner, a self-proclaimed anti-abortion "warrior" who has been terrorizing American abortion providers since June 2001, was apprehended by law enforcement authorities on December 5 at a Kinko's copy shop in Springdale, Ohio, near Cincinnati. Waagner had been threatening to shoot 42 abortion support workers, and had claimed responsibility for 550 anthrax letter threats sent to abortion clinics in two waves, in October and November.
Waagner has been on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List since September. He escaped from an Illinois jail in February 2001. In late November, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft took the remarkable step of publicly denouncing those responsible for anthrax threats against abortion clinics as domestic terrorists, and naming Waagner as the main suspect. Ashcroft is strongly anti-abortion, and up to this point, had refused to publicly acknowledge terrorism against providers.
Pro-choice groups and abortion providers expressed praise for law enforcement and tremendous relief at Waagner’s capture. Claire Keyes, executive director of the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, said staffers were jubilant. "We are so relieved," she said. "He is the first person who really scared us." Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation sounded a note of caution, given that Waagner is not the only anti-abortion terrorist out there: "Although we are pleased that Waagner will no longer be able to carry out acts of terrorism, only when we stop the activities of domestic terrorist organizations like the Army of God can we truly put an end to the violence against women's reproductive health care providers."
Kinko's employees said that Waagner was logged onto a computer when a worker recognized him from the FBI's Most Wanted posters and called federal marshals and local police. The FBI had previously learned that Waagner was frequenting Kinko's to check his email and website, so they distributed wanted posters to every Kinko's in the country. The Kinko's employee will likely be eligible for the $100,000 reward being offered by the Justice Department for Waagner's capture.
Waagner was extradited to Illinois to be sentenced on firearms and stolen-car charges he was convicted of in 1999. He pled innocent to a new charge of escaping jail. On January 25, he was sentenced to 27 years in jail on the previous conviction, and an additional 37 months for jail-breaking, for a total of 30 years and 4 months.
At the time of his arrest, Waagner had on him (or in his car) $9,000 cash, computer equipment, a loaded gun, several fake ID's, white powdered insecticide, surveillance equipment, and a bulletproof vest. He was driving a stolen Mercedes-Benz. Police have no evidence at this time that Waagner had help in his campaign of terror—he denies it. However, the pro-choice community is suspicious because the first batch of anthrax letters were all mailed the same day in different states.
In a media interview ten days after his arrest, Waagner claimed he changed his mind about killing the 42 abortion support workers after September 11. "I was in shock. That morning it hit me. I couldn't do it," he said. Instead, Waagner decided to just continue frightening providers. He claimed that at the time of his arrest, he had been almost ready to fax bomb threats to every abortion clinic in the nation—about 900. The plan was to program computers to send messages by fax machine that looked as if they came from the FBI, and warned that each clinic contained a bomb planted by Waagner.
The Achilles heel that led to Waagner's capture seemed to be his desire for fame and publicity. "What bothered us was, he seemed to want to be the news and one-up himself,'' said Bruce Harmening, a federal marshals supervisor. "He became famous. Maybe that was his goal.'' Harmening and other authorities repeatedly called Waagner a "genius," seemingly in awe of his ability to outsmart his police pursuers time and time again. But Waagner brought too much attention on himself in various ways, culminating in him being spotlighted as a domestic terrorist by America's top law enforcement official. The final clincher was Waagner's penchant for reading about himself on the Internet. As an Arizona columnist noted in a sardonic look at Waagner's exploits, "Not too many geniuses on the lam have been captured at Kinko's answering fan mail."
Waagner's Criminal Escapades
Clayton Lee Waagner of Pennsylvania, 45, is a self-taught computer programmer and a ninth-grade dropout with a wife and nine children. His criminal exploits began in 1975, and include convictions for theft, burglary, aggravated burglary, attempted robbery, and several convictions for possession of weapons and possession of stolen goods.
In May 1999, Waagner and a friend stole a car and guns and traveled through the mid-south, planning to rob coin dealers. After running out of money, they attempted to rob a convenience store. His friend was caught and Waagner escaped, but was caught by police in September 1999 in Illinois. He was with his wife and eight of his children in a stolen Winnebago. Police found four stolen handguns in the vehicle and a list of abortion clinics that Waagner said he had been surveilling for months. During his trial, Waagner testified that God had asked him to "be my warrior" and kill doctors who provide abortions. He was convicted on charges of firearms and auto theft, and was awaiting sentencing when he escaped from the Illinois jail in February 2001.
In June 2001, abortion clinics were put on alert after Waagner apparently posted an Internet message on a radical anti-abortion site, vowing to kill employees of abortion providers. He claimed to have stalked 42 of them to their homes. That same month, a federal grand jury charged Waagner with robbing a Pennsylvania bank in May. Waagner was also charged with another bank robbery in West Virginia in Nov., and is a suspect in several others. In September, Waagner abandoned his car on a Memphis, Tennessee interstate after being involved in an accident. Police found a pipe bomb and weapons in the wrecked car. Hours later, Waagner carjacked a van and its owner in Mississippi. He was later indicted by a grand jury for firearms violations, possessing a destructive device, and carjacking.
Starting on October 15, at least 280 clinics in the eastern U.S. received anthrax letters with white powder. All turned out to be hoaxes. The letters claimed to be from the Army of God, Virginia DARE chapter and said "You've been exposed to anthrax." The envelopes had pre-printed return addresses from the U.S. Marshall's Office or the Secret Service. The FBI labelled the threats as "acts of domestic terrorism" and started a national investigation.
On November 8, a second wave of anthrax threats hit. Over 270 clinics and some pro-choice groups were sent Federal Express envelopes containing white powder and threatening letters signed by the Army of God, Virginia Dare Cell. The envelopes fraudulently bore actual account numbers, staff names, and return addresses from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation (NAF). Fortunately, most clinics did not open the envelopes, and FedEx was able to intercept many of them before delivery. That same morning, Waagner called in hoax bomb threats to the national offices of Planned Parenthood and NAF, hoping to disrupt their response to the happening anthrax crisis.
Two weeks later, on the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, an armed Clayton Waagner visited anti-abortionist Neal Horsley (creator of the Nuremberg Files website) at his home in Georgia to claim responsibility for all of the anthrax letter threats. Waagner was upset that the police and media knew nothing of his involvement. Horsley taped parts of the one-hour interview and gave the tape to police. Waagner asked Horsley to post on his website an "escape clause" for the 42 abortion support workers he was stalking: Resign their jobs and provide documentation on Horsley's website, otherwise Waagner would kill them. Waagner refused to provide a list of the workers, claiming that the "Holy Spirit" would tell them if they were a target.
Waagner led a life of relative luxury during his 10-month spree, authorities say, spending money from bank robberies on fancy cars, posh hotels, expensive meals, and rounds of drinks at bars. He made fake IDs and badges for himself and told people he met that he was a bounty hunter, or a bail bondsman. Authorities estimate he roamed the country constantly, visiting numerous states and clocking over 100,000 miles in various stolen vehicles.
Arizona Abortion Provider Charged with Sexual Abuse
Anti-Choice Exploit Case to Target Providers
In a highly publicized case, Dr. Brian Finkel was arrested and charged in October with sixteen counts of sexual abuse and one count of sexual assault involving nine former patients at his abortion clinic in Phoenix. Although Finkel may prove to be liable, and the alleged crimes are certainly reprehensible, the case highlights how abortion doctors, guilty or not, have become political targets of the anti-choice movement.
The patients alleged that Finkel treated them or touched them inappropriately during their abortions, including singing silly songs, fondling their breasts, rubbing their clitorises, and staring between their legs. Finkel's attorney described his client's personality as "brash" and "eccentric," not "detached and clinical." He said, "I think the complaints are rooted in expectations and perceptions of women who go to the clinic expecting Marcus Welby and get Rodney Dangerfield instead."
However, after the initial charges were laid, the publicity caused an additional 70 women to came forward and make complaints against Finkel. The alleged assaults go back 17 years. They were never reported by clinic staff, although seven of Finkel's past and present employees said they knew what was going on. Staff members said they felt intimidated and feared losing their jobs. Apparently, medical professionals have no legal obligation to report crimes against adult patients receiving treatment.
Although there are a few bad doctors in every kind of practice and specialty, abortion providers are singled out far more than others when something goes wrong—particularly when the patient dies. Under the intense scrutiny of anti-abortionists—who are the self-appointed, self-righteous watchdogs of the abortion services community—hardly a single wrongdoing or death goes unnoticed, unpublicized, or unpunished. Finkel's arrest triggered a flood of anti-choice condemnation, since he has been their target for years. And the mainstream press is often quick to headline any negative story involving abortion providers. Abortion is newsworthy because it's a controversial issue, and the media have no shortage of material and sources from anti-abortion groups eager to expose doctors.
Few people know that almost 100,000 people die from medical error every year in the United States—an appalling statistic. However, of the 1.3 million abortions performed per year in the U.S., only one or two women end up dying—although more often from unforeseen complications than a doctor’s incompetence. Never-theless, abortion is the only medical procedure that has a well-organized political movement spending all its outraged energy trying to sue and criminally prosecute doctors who make mistakes.
Any death from abortion is tragic, no matter how rare. But the anti-abortion movement’s solution to the problem of "bad" abortion doctors (few as they are)—reveals a far greater cruelty—criminalize abortion and return women to the days when thousands of women died every year, not just one or two.
 Kohn LT, Corrigan JM, Donaldson MS, eds. 1999. To Err Is Human. Institute of Medicine, Wash., DC: National Academy Press.
Abortion Trial Travesty in Portugal
On January 18, a nurse in Portugal was sent to prison for performing illegal abortions in a back room of the nurse's house in a town north of Lisbon. The largest trial in Portugal's history—called a witchhunt by many—involved 42 people accused of either having abortions, or arranging or performing them.
The nurse, Maria do Ceu Ribeiro, was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail. Six of her assistants received a choice of fines or prison sentences of up to five months. Another nineteen people accused of forming an abortion network were acquitted due to lack of evidence. Seventeen women who had abortions were set free, but one of them, Sandra Cardoso, was ordered to pay a small fine or spend four months in prison. Her "crimes" were being poor, having a drunken abusive husband, and a two-year old child just diagnosed with diabetes and asthma.
The illegal abortion clinic was known as one of the best and safest abortion clinics in Portugal, because Ribeiro had medical training, and was able to steal morphine and other necessary medical equipment from the hospital where she worked. She also wrote illegal prescriptions for the women's aftercare. Because she was forced to commit crimes in order to save women's lives, the court also convicted her on charges of forging documents, fraud, and narcotics trafficking.
Portugal has Europe's strictest anti-abortion laws next to Ireland, and has a powerful Roman Catholic Church. Abortions are only allowed in cases of rape, life endangerment, or fetal abnormality. Supporters of the women on trial compared the state's persecution of them to the witchhunts during the Catholic inquisition in Portugal four centuries ago. They said the trial has exposed how the country's outdated laws force tens of thousands of women into life-threatening operations every year in clandestine clinics often run by untrained, unscrupulous abortionists.
Duarte Vilar, head of Portugal's Family Planning Association, condemned the trial as "absolutely astonishing" and said it "lays bare the utter hypocrisy that surrounds the abortion issue in Portugal." An estimated 40,000 Portuguese women have illegal abortions every year. Rich women go to Spain, while poor women take their chances with backstreet practitioners. About 5,000 women show up at Portuguese hospitals each year with injuries caused by unsafe abortions.
The case sparked international protest. A petition backing the 17 women was circulated by a deputy in the European Parliament and was signed by hundreds of cultural and political figures from 42 countries. The document calls for "an end to the harsh punishment and criminalisation" of abortion.
Glimmers of Hope for Latin America
The situation in Portugal (see above story) is reminiscent of that in Latin America, one of the most Catholic areas in the world. Abortion is illegal in every country except Cuba and Guyana, but Latin American women have four million illegal, unsafe abortions every year. About six thousand women die every year, and hundreds of thousands are injured or left infertile. In September, emergency contraception was outlawed in Chile, even while Chilean women are routinely sent to prison for having abortions. Obviously, it is not abortion the Catholic Church is against, since the church doesn't give a damn about illegal abortion or its consequences—the church's main concern is to control women's lives and their fertility.
But progressive movements are underway to improve the situation in Latin America. The "Guanabara Letter" is a statement approved by 98 representatives of groups from 27 countries in the plenary session of "Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean, women's rights and the global situation", a meeting sponsored by the September 28th Campaign in Rio de Janeiro in December. The letter is an open call from Latin-American women, "demanding women's right to choose as an expression of liberty" and the "decriminalization of abortion as a matter of citizenship and of social justice."
In November, a conference was held in Mexico with the aim of establishing a "free exchange of ideas'' about the possible legalization of abortion in Latin America. The conference attracted 250 attendees from all over Latin America. Hundreds of anti-abortion protesters called on the Mexican President to revoke the visas of those invited and remove them from the country. One anti-abortion group accused conference organizers of mounting a legalization campaign across Latin America. However, a pro-choice spokesperson said most of the governments of Latin America are still decades away from changing their anti-abortion stances.
One positive action has been taken so far, however—the Colombian government approved the sale of emergency contraception in November, against the protests of the Catholic Church. Colombia also eased their law on abortion slightly in July, allowing judges to waive punishment for abortions performed for "extraordinary motives". Outraged that poor, desperate women would no longer be tossed in jail, Catholic bishops sued the government, but the law was upheld in court.
Contraceptive Patch Approved by FDA — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for sale the Ortho-Evra skin patch, a device that prevents pregnancy by gradually releasing the same hormones used in birth-control pills. Studies have found it to be as safe and effective as the Pill, and women use it in a very similar way. They apply a new patch once a week for three weeks on their abdomen, buttocks, or upper body (not breasts), then go patch-free for a week to allow a menstrual period. The patch is designed to stick to skin even during bathing or swimming. This is the fourth new contraceptive option to be approved by the FDA last year; the others include a monthly injection, a hormone-emitting IUD, and a hormone-emitting contraceptive ring slipped into the vagina once a month.
Anti-Abortion "Truth Trucks" Disrupt American Freeways — The Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR) in California has launched a fleet of large "Truth Trucks" with billboards of aborted fetuses. From June to November, the trucks criss-crossed the country, travelling along city freeways with the intent of forcing trapped motorists to view the grotesque images. Gregg Cunningham, Executive Director of CBR, said, "If you can put these pictures in their heads, the angrier they may get. Thereafter, every time they hear the word 'abortion,' instead of a comforting fiction, in their mind there comes this horrifying image." However, Cunningham knows that motorists are actually angered by the crass and shocking disrespect of CBR's method, not by abortion. CBR hires armed security guards to follow the trucks, and the truck drivers wear bullet-proof vests and carry video equipment in order to record and prosecute any attacks. There haven't been any assaults, but students once threw food at a truck, and at least one angry and distracted car driver had an accident. Police have done little to stop the tour, apparently because CBR has a First Amendment right to do it. (CBR is also responsible for the Genocide Awareness Project.)
White Supremacists Sentenced for California Clinic Arson — Two white supremacist brothers were sentenced to maximum prison terms in November and ordered to pay $1 million each for setting fires at three Sacramento synagogues and an abortion clinic, in July 1999. Benjamin Matthew Williams received 30 years in prison and his younger brother, James Tyler Williams, got 21 years and 3 months. The brothers also face a murder trial and possible death penalty in April for the 1999 slaying of a gay couple. The older brother has repeatedly professed anti-Semitic, anti-gay and white supremacist views, and said his upcoming murder case will be based on his belief that the Bible condemns homosexuality.
Ireland to Have Abortion Referendum — Even though Ireland has one of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the world, the Irish government is gearing up for a referendum that would further tighten the law to exclude threatened suicide as grounds for an abortion. Abortions are only allowed if the woman's life is in serious danger. Doctors for Choice, a newly-formed Irish group, has condemned the government's referendum, to be held probably in March. The groups says the exodus of over 7,000 Irish women to Britain every year for an abortion has very negative impacts on women's health. Many women are too afraid to speak to a doctor or get counselling before they go, and few receive aftercare when they return. Poor women can't afford to travel to Britain at all, but women who do are more likely to have delayed, riskier procedures under general rather than local anaesthetic. The aim of Doctors for Choice is to create a climate where comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion and contraception, are an integral and respected part of medicine in Ireland.
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