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a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Spring / Summer 2001 Issue
Table of Contents
BC / Canadian News
U.S. /International News
BC Liberal Avalanche
by Joyce Arthur
On May 16, Gordon Campbell led his BC Liberal Party to a huge victory, winning 77 seats out of 79. Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan were the only NDP'ers who retained their seats, in spite of the fact that the NDP won almost 22% of the vote overall. MacPhail is currently the leader of the "unofficial opposition."
In this issue, we look at the Liberal Party's promises regarding abortion services, and our uneasy predictions and concerns about what a Liberal future holds for the pro-choice community and for women. We'll also look back on the commendable "choice" legacy of the NDP.
What Is the Liberal Position on Abortion?
The Liberal Party's position on reproductive choice has undergone some changes over the years, ostensibly towards a firmer pro-choice position. In the 1996 election, Campbell promised not to change the "status quo" in regards to abortion services, although he said he would allow a free vote for his MLA's on abortion-related issues.
This time around, Campbell continued his promise to maintain existing abortion services. His exact words: "A Gordon Campbell government is not changing policy on access to abortion services. They've been deemed to be medically necessary. They are not on our agenda. They are a federal responsibility." He also stated, "It would be inappropriate for there to be a provincial referendum on it - it is a federal responsibility."
Further, Campbell said he would not restore elected hospital boards, and that Liberal MLA's would not be allowed a free vote in the legislature on abortion issues, which would be a "matter of confidence in the government." (Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun, Dec. 12, 2000).
During the election campaign, Campbell repeated most of these promises, and his candidates also seemed to toe the party line. At a Burnaby all-candidates meeting attended by a Pro-CAN representative, all three Liberal candidates present pledged that their party would maintain full funding for abortion clinics, keep in place the recent legislation implemented by the NDP, and even enhance abortion services if there was a need in a particular community.
Please make a mental note of these promises, and let's make sure the new Liberal government keeps them!
Probably the greatest concern that the pro-choice community has is the integrity of the Liberals regarding their ability to keep these promises, especially since about half a dozen members of its caucus (maybe more) are anti-choice. Will Campbell be able to control these MLA's or will we start seeing dissension in the ranks, such as the introduction of private member bills to restrict abortion?
Second, we question the ability of the Liberals to maintain even current funding levels for health and social services, given their substantial tax cuts. Once the full extent of provincial finances are known, the Liberals may decide budget cuts are necessary, possibly massive ones. Which health services now deemed medically necessary by the province will be the first to be crossed off the list?
Third, while abortion services are quite accessible and protected in the Lower Mainland, other areas of BC are not nearly so lucky. Campbell's "hands-off" approach to abortion will not likely result in any enhancements to abortion services. Instead, it could lead to a deterioration in services, reduced safety for abortion providers, and a resulting decrease in the number of providers.
Anti-Choice Parties Get Little Support
The right-wing Unity party did poorly in the election, garnering only 3.3% of the popular vote, despite the media doing leader Chris Delaney a big favour by including him in the leaders' television debate. The Unity Party's promises included repealing the Access to Abortion Services Act, funding anti-choice counselling centres, and abolishing the Human Rights Commission, among other alarming measures.
Another, even more extreme right-wing party, received little media attention, but is worth a footnote. Gordon Watson, a leading anti-abortion activist, led his party of two candidates, called the "Party of Citizens Who Have Decided to Think for Themselves and Be Their Own Politicians". Watson received a paltry 112 votes in his Burnaby-Edmonds riding, while his cohort in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, Franklin Wayne Poley, fared even worse with only 30 votes.
Watson has a lengthy arrest record (including a criminal conviction for assault), has been a frequent picketer at Everywoman's Health Centre, and has initiated many frivolous lawsuits and complaints against providers and activists. As for his political leanings, he has stated in court he does not believe in democracy, and would prefer instead a Christian theocracy, in which legal abortion would be abolished.
What Does a Liberal Government Mean for Women?
One Liberal promise already broken is the promise to maintain a stand-alone Ministry of Women's Equality. In Campbell's new Cabinet, the ministry suffered the seeming indignity of being lumped together with a grab-bag of other "special interest" groups, in the new Ministry of Community, Aboriginal, and Women's Services.
Dubbed the "Ministry of Miscellaneous" by its suspicious detractors, the ministry is also responsible for municipal affairs, culture, housing, safety inspections, child care, arts council, the fire Commissioner, sports, and emergency preparedness, among other things.
The new Minister is a man, George Abbott. However, Lynn Stephens has been appointed Minister of State for Women's Equality. The 52% Coalition, an ad hoc organization of women's groups, including Pro-CAN, met with the Minister early in July to discuss the new ministry's role. Stephens explained that the decision to amalgamate the disparate responsibilities into one ministry is to integrate community services for better coordination and delivery. As minister of state, she assured us she has all the powers of a regular Cabinet minister, and has complete responsibility for the former Ministry of Women's Equality, which has been moved wholesale (as is for now, complete with its existing staff and budget) under the umbrella of the new ministry.
However, all government ministries and programs are undergoing a "core review" (due to be completed around the end of July) which will determine which, if any, programs or services should be cut, modified, or expanded. No funding cuts to women's services are planned "at this time" Stephens said; rather, some funding may be redistributed to make services more effective where necessary. The ministry's main priorities for women are health, poverty, and violence. She also said that access to abortion services are entrenched in the government.
The NDP Legacy
The Pro-Choice Action Network and the BC abortion provider community applauds the courage and commitment of the former NDP government in standing up for reproductive choice for women throughout their decade-long term in office. Some of the many supports and initiatives the NDP worked hard to put in place over the years include:
- full funding for abortions at clinics
- guaranteed access to abortion at many hospitals throughout BC
- passage of the Access to Abortion Services Act
- restructuring of regional health boards to prevent anti-choice activists from taking over
- coordination of the inter-ministerial Abortion Services Working Group to look at ways to improve access and protect providers
- $500,000 in security funding to protect providers from anti-choice harassment and violence
- prescription-free emergency contraception at pharmacies, and a public promotional campaign
- funding of mifepristone (RU-486) trials in BC
Just prior to the election, the NDP took steps to safeguard women’s reproductive rights over the long-term by entrenching and increasing these supports. On March 27, then-Deputy Premier Joy MacPhail introduced the following motion in the legislature, which was passed the next day:
"Be it resolved that this Assembly supports the following enhancement measures to help protect the right of BC women to make their own choices on reproduction:
- Increased financial support to school-based and community-based services which help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in British Columbia including, but not limited to, sex education, birth control, and counseling
- Enhanced access to emergency contraceptives across British Columbia
- Increased financial support to UBC medical school to expand physician training and support in providing abortions, counselling, and related services
- Increased financial support for additional nurse clinicians at BC Women's Hospital to increase their ability to offer counselling, outreach, and other services, and to assist regions who are providing amniocentesis services for the first time
- Requiring under provincial law that obligations for hospitals to be operated and managed to ensure access to abortion services can only be lifted by the Legislative Assembly
- Improving the availability of safer, less invasive medical abortions, including further financial support to investigate the efficacy and safety of mifepristone (commonly known as RU-486) through the national clinical trial currently being led out of Vancouver
- Calling on the British Columbia Medical Association to agree to an increase in fees paid to doctors who provide abortion services, which are currently lower than they were in 1982
- Helping ensure the ongoing security and safety of doctors and other health care providers through additional financial support for security assessments, education and training and security devices for homes and offices
- Providing additional financial support for law enforcement agencies to co-ordinate and gather intelligence to identify groups and individuals who are prepared to resort to criminal activity in support of their beliefs with respect to abortion issues
- Ensuring through provincial law that public bodies must not release abortion information, excepting abortion statistics at a global regional and provincial level and personal information, unless provided to the person about whom the information pertains; and
- Urging the federal government to strengthen the Criminal Code, including designating abortion service providers as a protected group under current hate provisions and making attempts to criminally harass or harm abortion service providers an aggravating circumstance in sentencing."
The 11-point motion was met with a barrage of media attention, most of it criticizing the NDP for making a "desperate" attempt to "inflame public opinion on the contentious issue of abortion" (Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun, March 24). The Liberals accused the NDP of raising the divisive abortion issue for political gain, to highlight supposed divisions in the Liberal caucus. But health providers, women, and the rest of the public deserved to know in detail where the Liberals stood on these issues that are so critical to so many.
Three of the 11 points in the motion required legislation to implement them. In early April, several members of the Liberal caucus voted against Bill 8 - allowing pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception; and/or Bill 21 - adding the Freedom of Information restrictions and removing the authority of hospital boards to stop providing abortion services:
- John van Dongen - Abbotsford (Bill 8/Bill 21)
- Rich Coleman - Fort Langley-Aldergrove (Bill 8)
- Judith Reid - Parksville-Qualicum (Bill 21)
- Kevin Krueger - Kamloops-North Thompson (Bill 21)
- Barry Penner - Chilliwack (Bill 21)
All of these MLA's were re-elected in May. No doubt other members of the new Liberal caucus may be anti-choice and so bear watching in the future. For example, Richard Neufeld (Peace River North) voted against the bubble zone legislation in 1995.
Please advise Pro-CAN of any evidence to show that other MLA's are anti-choice.
Besides the accusations of making political hay out of abortion, most of the media coverage of the NDP motion (much of it national) focused on two of the measures: protecting abortion providers under the Criminal Code's hate crime provisions, and amending the Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act to restrict the release of abortion-related information. Some background information on both measures follows below.
Why Extreme Anti-Choice Activity is Hate Crime
Pro-CAN has been lobbying for the inclusion of providers as a protected group under federal hate crime legislation for several years. While we have been successful at bringing more attention to the issue, the federal government did not want to make any changes, because they do not consider a person's occupation to be an intrinsic characteristic like skin colour or religion, and because they seem to fear making hate crime legislation too broad and inclusive.
However, we believe that abortion providers - and women too, of course - should be considered as identifiable groups protected under hate crime law for the following reasons:
- There are strong links between anti-abortion groups and racist groups. Their memberships often overlap. Known white supremacists have protested outside Everywoman's Health Centre. The Ku Klux Klan has demonstrated against abortion in Calgary and in several U.S. cities.
- The same methods used to target minority and ethnic groups (violence, harassment, destruction of property, slander, etc.) are used by many of the same people to target abortion providers and women seeking abortions.
- Anti-abortion groups and racist groups are often one and the same, for example, Human Life International and some militia groups in the U.S. Virtually all hate groups despise abortion, in the same breath as they despise blacks, Jews, feminists, and gays and lesbians. For example, as well as the segregation of blacks, the goals of the KKK are to outlaw abortion, homosexuality, and interracial marriages. Anti-abortionism is an integral part of the racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist agenda of the far right.
- Radical anti-abortionists (e.g., Human Life International) say that abortion is a Jewish conspiracy. Two of the Canadian doctors who have been shot are Jewish and the third has a common Jewish name. Dr. Henry Morgentaler is also Jewish, and has been subjected to anti-Semitic hate activities because of his provision of abortion services.
- The real agenda of anti-abortionists is not to save babies, but to punish women and keep them in a narrowly defined role of motherhood and subservience. This agenda is exactly the same as that of traditional racist groups - they want to keep ethnic groups segregated and in an inferior social position.
- Anti-abortion literature is often libelous in its treatment of abortion providers, who are called "child killers," "scum of the earth," and worse. Individual doctors are often singled out in vicious written attacks and inflammatory caricature - an incitement of hatred. The assassination of abortion providers is sometimes called for in writing - this should be considered advocating genocide, a clear violation of hate laws.
- Abortion providers and defenders are put in direct danger of violence through publication of personal information on anti-choice Internet sites, with promise of retribution (e.g., the Nuremberg Files). This should be considered incitement of hatred and violence.
- We can't ask providers to "change their behaviour" in order to avoid attack and harassment - i.e., by stopping doing abortions. Performing abortions is not like a "lifestyle choice." Abortion services must be considered a normal part of good quality health care for women. In other words, it is not just about protecting abortion providers as a group, it is about protecting women and their legal access to basic health care services.
- If providers are shot, or are discouraged from providing services due to harassment, the lack of access would nullify a woman's legal right to abortion. This amounts to a form of hate or discrimination against women. Providers must be supported and protected so they can continue providing vital medical services to women.
- Doctors take an oath to help their patients. As doctors, they cannot "choose" whether or not to provide health care services. It follows that all doctors are under the moral and legal obligation to either provide safe abortion services directly, or help their patients access such services when needed.
Freedom of Information Act Puts Providers at Risk
BC's privacy commissioner David Loukidelis wrote a letter to the NDP government, slamming it for "fiddling" with the Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act (FOI Act). The NDP's amendment means that abortion-related information (except for general statistics) is exempt from release under the FOI Act to protect the safety and privacy of abortion providers. Loukidelis was angry that he was not consulted over the change. He also claimed that the FOI Act as it stands "has proved more than capable of protecting such information."
Loukidelis has his head somewhere other than on top of his body. The safety and privacy of abortion providers in BC is definitely not protected under the current FOI Act. The legislation has caused ongoing distress for abortion providers ever since it was passed in 1992. In fact, normal use of the Act has caused the safety and privacy of providers and activists to be seriously compromised.
Two examples: In 1996, an anti-abortion activist filed a request for the accreditation records of Everywoman’s Health Centre. Although Everywoman’s is a fully accredited medical facility, with high standards of patient care, the applicant used the records (released to him over the objections of the clinic) to promote false and malicious allegations that medical practices at Everywoman’s were dangerous to women. The released information was deliberately used to try and harm the clinic and its staff, a result that the clinic foresaw but which the privacy commissioner discounted.
Second, a private letter written by the Pro-Choice Action Network in 1998 to then-Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh ended up in the hands of a radical anti-abortion group in Texas that collects and shares personal information about abortion providers and activists in order to target them for harassment or possibly violence. We encountered someone from this group with a copy of our letter in hand, trying to find out who wrote the letter. We later learned that our letter (along with other correspondence) had been released without our knowledge and consent by the Ministry of Attorney General, and was then openly published on a virulent anti-abortion web site based in Kelowna (www.interlife.org/clinic).
When information is released to the anti-choice about BC’s abortion provider community, it is made widely available to other anti-abortion individuals and groups, not only in BC, but across Canada and the United States. There is no control over how this information is disseminated and used. Any extremist can act on it (like suspected sniper James Kopp, for example). In fact, the release of virtually any type of abortion-related information, including statistics, can be used to harass and attack doctors. For example, if statistics about the number of abortions performed at a small regional hospital are released, they can be used as ammunition to identify and target specific staff and doctors at that hospital.
Why on earth should providers be expected to hand over details of their activities to violent terrorists who want them dead? The anti-abortion movement is at war over abortion. It is a terrorist movement. There have been at least 7 murders and 17 attempted murders of providers in the last eight years. A few of the tactics that have been known to be used against providers in BC once they have been identified by the anti-choice include: sending hate mail, making harassing calls, defaming them, picketing their offices and homes, informing neighbours that the person living next to them "murders babies," harassing their children at school, making death threats, stalking them, vandalizing their cars, running them off the road, and last but not least, stabbing and shooting them. In this atmosphere, even the attempt by anti-abortionists to obtain information under the FOI Act creates a chilling atmosphere of fear and intimidation for providers.
Many government ministries and publicly-funded agencies that collect or record any information relating to abortion receive regular and frequent requests for information from anti-abortion applicants. Mr. Loukidelis never sees most of these requests, so his claim that less than half a dozen have crossed his desk is misleading. And why doesn't he see them? Because records often don't exist in the first place. When it comes to abortion, most agencies have learned over the years to simply not put anything down on paper. Although this practice hampers government work and accountability, there appears to be no other choice.
Responding to requests for information has been a huge and ongoing drain on the resources of providers, a fact that the anti-abortion movement knowingly exploits as a direct form of harassment. Countless hours and legal resources have been spent by abortion providers and activists over the years preparing lengthy submissions that object to the release of specific information, and which set out in detail why such releases would jeopardize their safety and privacy. As a result, some agencies have slowly built a strong case against releasing abortion-related information to anti-abortionists, and requests are often refused when they are first received, a second reason why Mr. Loukidelis doesn't see them.
Contrary to Mr. Loukidelis' claims, there is no obligation for the government to inform the Privacy commissioner of proposed changes to the Act. Besides, these issues are certainly not new to the Privacy commissioner. Providers have been trying to get the FOI Act amended for years, with several unsuccessful attempts by various individuals and groups. But the serious safety concerns of providers have been consistently ignored or disputed by some of those in charge of administering or amending the Act.
Without specific clauses amending the FOI Act to protect abortion-related information, we will have to re-fight these battles with every new government and every new Privacy staff person that comes along. We will have to spend valuable time and resources explaining our safety and privacy concerns over and over and over again, when it should be obvious that living under the constant threat of terrorism is the only glaring reason we need.
Anti-abortion protester Mary Wagner was convicted of breach of probation on May 11 and sentenced to 18 months probation, stemming from her illegal presence in the bubble zone outside Everywoman's Health Centre on October 24, 2000. At the time, she was passively watching other protesters vandalize the clinic.
On June 15, Wagner was arrested again for being in the zone, along with her friend Glenn Reed, another frequent protester at Everywoman's. Both were reportedly praying in front of the doors and holding roses to give to patients. It was Reed's first arrest, so he was released shortly after, but Wagner remains in jail for violating her probation.
Toronto protester Alex Vernon was arrested Feb. 28 outside the Scott Clinic in Toronto, and charged with criminal harassment of a clinic employee. In May, he showed up in Vancouver, and appears to be now living at Gianna House, the anti-choice staging centre next door to Everywoman's owned by Cecilia von Dehn.
In February, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Kamloops anti-abortion protester Merle Terlesky, who was charged with uttering threats against staff at Everywoman's and violating the bubble zone on January 30. He was captured and arrested by the RCMP during an anti-choice meeting in Kamloops on Feb. 23, and will appear in court in November. The threat charges have since been dropped. Terlesky is a former communist and pro-choice activist who converted to fundamentalist Christianity after recovering from cancer several years ago. Terlesky now engages in persistent and mean-spirited taunting of providers and former colleagues in the pro-choice movement, via phone, email, and letter.
Anti-choice activist Bill Whatcott of Regina was arrested on May 14 for violating a University of Regina bylaw against distributing literature on university property. Whatcott had been placing anti-abortion leaflets on the windshields of cars in a campus parking lot. When Whatcott refused to retrieve the leaflets, he was charged. Whatcott, an anti-gay activist with the Christian Truth Activists, had earlier persuaded the mayor of Regina to declare a Heterosexual Family Pride Day on June 18, complete with a parade and a flag-raising ceremony. June 18 turned out to be Whatcott's court date, but he managed to attend court first, then rush off in time to attend his events. At court, the matter was adjourned until late in July. The parade and rally, supposedly to promote the traditional, heterosexual family, was attended by only two dozen people, and was solely an exercise in verbal gay-bashing and anti-abortion rhetoric.
Whatcott was arrested again on June 23 at an anti-abortion "Show the Truth" demonstration in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He refused to lower his large, graphic sign of an aborted fetus and was charged with causing a disturbance and displaying an obscene exhibit. Whatcott is previously from Toronto, and has been arrested for violating the injunction outside the Scott Clinic there. He also has a past criminal record for drug offences and other crimes committed before he "found God."
Toronto protester Linda Gibbons was arrested outside the Scott Clinic in Toronto on February 13 for violating the clinic's injunction. She was sentenced in April to six months in jail and two years probation. Gibbons is a frequent protester at Toronto clinics and has been arrested numerous times over the years.
Pro-CAN's Ad Complaint “Official”
Published by Advertising Standards Canada
Last July, the Pro-Choice Action Network won a complaint it lodged against a false and defamatory anti-abortion ad published in two community newspapers in the Lower Mainland in April 2000 (see the Autumn/Winter 2000 and Summer 2000 issues of Pro-Choice Press for more information).
Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), a watchdog agency that enforces the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, has recently published their 2000 Ad Complaints Report, in which our successful complaint is reported. Of a total of 1,143 complaints that ASC received in 2000 from across Canada, only 16% were eventually upheld. One of them was ours.
We continue to ask our readers to please monitor your local community newspapers and advise Pro-CAN if any anti-abortion ads are published.
The ASC report reads as follows (page 14):
Clause 14 [of Code]: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals
Advertiser: Burnaby Pro-Life Society
[Note: The other was a supporting complaint from the National Abortion Federation in Washington, DC]
Description: A not-for-profit organization solicited memberships and donations in a newspaper advertisement that documented what the advertiser alleged was a conspiracy by abortionists to sell parts of aborted fetuses for profit to medical researchers.
Complaint: The advertisement falsely and unfairly disparaged persons providing services to women seeking abortions in Canada.
Decision: Council unanimously agreed that, contrary to Clause 14(c), the advertisement demeaned and disparaged Canadian physicians and medical professionals engaged in providing services to persons seeking abortions. When the advertiser appealed, the case was re-heard in its entirety by an Appeal Panel made up of persons who did not participate in the original decision. The Panel arrived at the same conclusion and upheld the original decision of Council.
Sniper Kopp in Custody
Kopp Appeals France's Decision to Extradite
After 2½ years on the run, James Kopp, the anti-abortion protester charged with the brutal slaying of Dr. Barnett Slepian of New York in October 1998, was finally captured in France on March 29. He was arrested in the small town of Dinan in northwestern France, carrying false identity papers. Kopp, 46, was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List and was also wanted by Canadian authorities.
The big break in the case came when Kopp was tracked down by Irish police earlier in March after making a phone call to a friend in America while working at the Hume Street Hospital in Dublin. The FBI, who had been tracking Kopp's whereabouts for some time, had a tap on the friend's phone and immediately pinpointed his location.
But Kopp was tipped off, probably by a report about his whereabouts and activities in the Irish press on March 15. He fled to France, where he made contact with his American friend via email and asked for money to be sent. He was arrested after leaving a post office in Dinan with a package of $300 cash.
Two people alleged to have mailed the money were arrested in Brooklyn hours after Kopp's arrest, and charged with aiding and abetting him. They are Dennis Malvasi, convicted of bombing an abortion clinic in New York in the 1980's, and Loretta Marra, his wife.
In January, Malvasi addressed the White Rose Banquet, an annual meeting of anti-abortionist terrorists, at which he said, "I encourage you all to continue the noble work of supporting your local baby defender, from lock gluers to bombers, the Avon crowd, monkey wrench crews, arsonists and snipers."
Malvasi and Marra remain in jail after being denied bail in April. At their arraignment, they were charged with obstruction of justice and concealing a person from arrest. They pleaded innocent.
Malvasi had been questioned by the FBI shortly after Slepian's murder, and Marra was sought for questioning, but went into hiding. The FBI finally found her living under an assumed name with Malvasi, in a Brooklyn apartment. After getting court approval to listen to their phone conversations, hide listening devices in their apartment, and intercept their e-mails, agents found where Kopp was hiding, first in Ireland, then in France.
Officials believe that Kopp probably fled to Europe shortly after the Slepian slaying. His car was found abandoned at a New Jersey airport a few weeks after the murder. While in Europe, Kopp used at least nine aliases, moving from place to place in Ireland without ever arousing suspicion amongst the people he associated with. In Ireland, he lived in hostels, worked at temporary jobs arranged through employment agencies, and maintained a quiet, largely solitary existence. The FBI said he was able to obtain passports, drivers' licences, and other documents. Kopp was within the grasp of his police pursuers several times, only to slip away again. After he fled to France, the FBI learned that Kopp was to receive a package of money. This enabled them to finally pinpoint a location and approximate date for an arrest, working closely with the French police.
Even so, it was a suspicious post office clerk in Dinan who actually "captured" him. Kopp had come by several times in the previous week trying to cash a money order from America, but was refused by the clerk because his identification papers bore different names. A day or so after that, the post office received an alert from the FBI, stating that Kopp might be in France. The very next day, Kopp returned to the post office to collect his package of cash. After he left, the clerk flagged down a police officer on the street to follow Kopp. By chance, the officer ran into two plainsclothes officers from the national police force, who were apparently in Dinan to search for Kopp. They quickly followed him and tackled him, causing a startled Kopp to shout "La Police! La Police!" thinking at first he was being assaulted by civilians.
The Kopp investigation was detailed by Supervisory Special FBI Agent John Culhane, Jr. at the National Abortion Federation conference in Chicago in April. Agent Culhane told the NAF attendees about the events leading up to Kopp's arrest in France and also discussed the efforts by anti-choice extremists Dennis Malvasi and Loretta Marra to assist Kopp. In response to a question from the audience, Culhane said that the FBI has no evidence that others were involved in helping Kopp besides Malvasi and Marra.
It could be many months before Kopp is finally extradited to the U.S. to face charges of second-degree murder and other counts in connection with Slepian's slaying. If he is convicted in the U.S. and sentenced to life in prison, he will probably never face charges in Canada. Kopp is charged with the 1995 shooting of Dr. Hugh Short at his home near Hamilton, Ontario. He is also a suspect in the November 1994 shooting of Dr. Garson Romalis in Vancouver, and the 1997 sniper attack on Winnipeg physician Dr. Jack Fainman. All three Canadian doctors provided abortions as part of their medical practice and all three survived the attempts on their lives.
In late June, a French court recommended extraditing Kopp to the U.S. based on assurances that the death penalty would be waived, which U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft has agreed to. However, Kopp has now appealed the extradition and claims to be innocent of the shooting of Dr. Slepian, saying to reporters as he was being escorted into court: "Who killed Dr. Slepian? That's the only question you should ask."
Life Dynamics Inc, a Texas anti-abortion group is reportedly fund-raising one million dollars for Kopp's defence, and has recently published on its website a report alleging FBI misconduct in the Kopp investigation. However, the report (www.ldi.org/breakingnews.cfm) consists mostly of speculation and guesswork.
Abortion File Stolen From Women's Centre
A file in a filing cabinet labelled "Abortion/Choice" was the only item stolen during a break-in at the Vernon and District Women's Centre on May 16. No culprit has been caught.
Debra Critchley, the centre's community action coordinator, believes the break-in may have been related to a recent anti-abortion "memorial service" held a few days previously, where anti-choice demonstrators placed over 500 wooden crosses in the ground in memory of aborted fetuses. "The concern is that this was a not-so-subtle message from the anti-choice movement."
Critchley said the contents of the file didn't contain any names or privileged information - just newspaper clippings and anti-abortion information taken off the Internet. However, she noted that the centre also received a suspicious, threatening fax just hours after the break-in, talking about purchasing life insurance. The headline of the fax was, "Watch Out! Watch your back or they'll rob you blind." She said RCMP did a trace on the fax and could say only that it came from outside B.C.
The Vernon and District Women's Centre frequently offers help to women seeking abortions.
1998 Abortion Statistics
Canadian women obtained 110,331 abortions in 1998, a 1.2% decrease from 111,709 a year earlier. The number of abortions declined in seven provinces and territories.
Two-thirds of all abortions were performed in hospitals and one-third in clinics. Women in their twenties accounted for half of all abortions in 1998. For more information, see the Statistics Canada website.
||Rate per 1,000 (1998)
|Prince Edward Island
 Revised figures for 1996 and 1997
 Female population aged 15 to 44
 Includes reported legal abortions on Canadian residents performed in the United States
GAP Strikes Again
and Again and Again
The anti-abortion Lifeline club at the University of BC has been continuing its repeated harassment of UBC students with its Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display, which compares large pictures of aborted fetuses to victims of genocide.
The GAP display appeared on campus in February and then twice in March (for a total of six times since November 1999). For the first March display, Lifeline disobeyed university administration and security by not notifying them in advance, a requirement designed to protect public safety and give pro-choice groups time to mount a counter-protest. In response to this underhanded attempt to stifle others' freedom of speech, UBC Students for Choice held large pro-choice banners a few inches from the GAP signs to completely block them from the view of passers-by.
At the second March display, Lifeline members decided to parade the images around campus to avoid having to get university permission, and to evade pro-choice protests. However, Students for Choice simply tagged alongside, managing to obscure the images with their pro-choice banners.
The Ubyssey student newspaper (March 10) described the effect as humorous and "circus-like", with the event looking like some kind of "bizarre parade." Lifeline's eventual solution to the blocking of its images was to hoist the display on top of the railings facing the main library. But the small student audience there was "suitably indifferent" to the display, according to the Ubyssey.
GAP's Tentacles Spread Out
Lifeline members also displayed GAP images in front of then-Premier Ujjal Dosanjh's constituency office in March to protest Dosanjh's complaints that some Liberal MP's were anti-abortion. In addition, Simon Fraser University also suffered through a GAP display on March 7, but the campus' Pro-Choice Coalition mobilized a large pro-choice contingent to counter GAP's hateful message that women who have abortions are just like Nazis.
GAP was created by a California organization, the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR). Although the group earlier had planned to bring GAP to other Canadian universities, including in Edmonton, Toronto, and London, anti-choice groups on these campuses refused to extend invitations, citing the GAP display as being too controversial.
However, in March, Gregg Cunningham, executive director of CBR, travelled to Edmonton to speak at a Catholic high school and Alberta Pro-Life's annual meeting to deliver his "abortion is genocide" message.
The visit came to the attention of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who urged Canadians not to buy into the views of "American extremists." He said, "For these people to equate the Holocaust with abortion is a complete distortion of facts and is a kind of propaganda that is completely repulsive." Morgentaler is a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi Germany.
Pulling the Plug on Hate-Mongers
A former employee of the Center for Bio-ethical Reform, Scott Klusendorf, has started his own anti-abortion group called Stand to Reason. Klusendorf is now a travelling speaker for the anti-choice cause, but he has not been getting a warm reception in Canada.
In late February, Klusendorf came to speak at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University at the invitation of Ottawa Youth for Life (OYL). According to an anti-choice source, OYL was accused of homophobia after the Carleton University Womyn's Centre found that Klusendorf's website had anti-gay resources and links to Christian organizations that condemn homosexuality. Officers from the Hate Crimes Unit questioned representatives of the group, and even called Klusendorf's California residence and spoke to his wife. Klusendorf himself was held and detained at the border for over an hour of interrogation, but was finally released and allowed to continue on to Ottawa.
In the middle of Klusendorf's presentation at the University of Ottawa, his graphic video depicting aborted fetuses was cut short by a pro-choice student who literally pulled the plug on the equipment. Rozanne Lépine, the coordinator of the U of O Women's Resource Centre, refused to relinquish the power cord until the police arrived.
Lépine described her act as "civil disobedience" and said it was necessary "because the video's contents were inappropriate in an open university space." She added, "These groups portray abortion as murder and with that they condemn women that have abortions as murderesses."
Visibly upset by Lépine's protest, Klusendorf involved himself in the negotiations to settle the dispute, which was finally resolved by moving the video presentation to a private, closed room.
Emergency Contraception Sells Well
An estimated 3,000 BC women have obtained emergency contraception from a pharmacy without a prescription, since December 2000. More than half the women requested the pills because their regular birth control method failed. The usage rate indicates that about 100 abortions have been prevented so far.
BC was the first province in Canada to make the pills available without a visit to a doctor. The program is proving the great need for convenient emergency contraception, especially since 55% of women's visits to pharmacies fall on weekends and weeknights, when doctors are not available.
About 1,200 pharmacists, over half of all community pharmacists in BC, have become certified to dispense the pills by taking a course in how to counsel women on how the medication work and possible side effects.
A new toll-free telephone line has been set up to give women a list of pharmacies in their region who provide the service: 1-888-NOT-2-LATE. There is also a website: www.NOT-2-LATE.com
About 12% of women who come to pharmacists seeking emergency contraception are referred to doctors, emergency departments, or STD clinics, when the pharmacists believe that medical attention is needed. This dispels one of the initial objections to the program, that women would be deprived of necessary medical attention by not seeing a doctor.
Because of the time involved in counselling customers, pharmacists are charging a $25 consultation fee, in addition to the cost of the pills- another $15 to $25. Although the Medical Services Plan offered to pay $15 for consultation, pharmacists say this isn't enough, so women are still paying the entire bill. In fact, it is cheaper for women to obtain emergency contraception by a doctor's prescription or at an emergency department.
Although initially, two brands of emergency contraception were available in Canada, Preven and Plan B, the distributor of Preven took their kit off the market in January, citing slow sales. However, Preven included an unnecessary pregnancy test and was initially more expensive than Plan B. It also had more side-effects and was slightly less effective.
BC's initiative in starting the successful program has led to other provinces working on similar initiatives. In Toronto, a pilot project began in early June, allowing women to obtain emergency contraception at selected pharmacies. The two-year research project is being funded by the Ontario Women's Health Council.
In Alberta, 68% of pharmacists voted in June to give out emergency contraception without a doctor's prescription, although at least 200 anti-choice pharmacists in Alberta want the right not to dispense it for religious reasons.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also been taking steps to make emergency contraception available through pharmacies.
Clinic Funding Still Up in Air
Prominent abortion provider Dr. Henry Morgentaler continues to argue with provincial and federal governments over funding of his clinics in Manitoba and New Brunswick. Letters, media coverage, and press conferences have so far fallen on mostly deaf ears in the government.
In Manitoba, after several months of negotiations between Morgentaler and Manitoba Health Minister Dave Chomiak, the province broke off negotiations, citing "irreconcilable differences." Without giving any specific reasons, Chomiak said, "[Morgentaler's] vision for what he wanted in a clinic and our vision for what we wanted in a clinic do not correspond."
Morgentaler had been trying to get the province to buy out his clinic and make it a public facility, with the government handling the bills and Morgentaler continuing to manage it. He also asked for interim funding for the clinic until negotiations were complete, which normally take many months.
Morgentaler was shocked and puzzled by the Health Minister's sudden withdrawal, which he claims can only be because Chomiak is personally anti-choice. In a statement to the press, Morgentaler said, "This government, in spite of an official NDP pro-choice policy, has been manipulated by an anti-choice Minister of Health to deny women their rights and to expose them to dangers to their health under the bogus pretext of fighting privatization. How heartless can you get?"
Morgentaler is now threatening to sue the government, saying "their dealings with me have been deceitful and dishonest." He cites broken promises, irresponsible attitudes, and discrimination, pointing out that the government is funding other private clinics, but not his abortion clinic. He is also asking the federal government to impose penalties on Manitoba for violating the Canada Health Act. Under the Act, provinces must fund medically necessary services, regardless of whether the facility is privately-owned or not.
Women in Manitoba face a desperate situation. There is only one hospital where abortions are performed, and at Morgentaler's Winnipeg clinic, doctors can only see ten patients a week. With funding, the clinic could do three times as many abortions, and ease the four-week waiting list at the hospital, which rises to six weeks in the summer. Every week of delay (after 8 weeks) increases the danger of complications by about 20%.
In New Brunswick, abortions are only paid for when performed in hospitals before the second trimester of pregnancy. The procedure must also be certified as "medically necessary'' by two physicians.
The province has refused outright to fund Morgentaler's Fredericton clinic, with the Health Minister arguing that it is not violating the Canada Health Act because abortions can be obtained at hospitals. But the federal government maintains that abortion is medically necessary, and all such services must be funded, regardless of the type of facility.
The real reason for New Brunswick's refusal to fund clinic abortions was articulated by NB Conservative MP Elsie Wayne, who said, "You know, the province of New Brunswick still will not pay Morgentaler, and I give [Premier] Bernard Lord full, full marks for that. ... [He] does not want to have Morgentaler there killing babies every day." Wayne made the comments at a news conference attended by eight other anti-choice MP's to promote the annual March For Life on Parliament Hill on May 11.
Currently, Quebec and Nova Scotia pay partial funding for clinics, while New Brunswick and Manitoba pay nothing. Although federal Health Minister Allan Rock wrote the offending provinces in January, in response to lobbying from Morgentaler, the provinces are still balking.
Morgentaler has written several more letters to Rock to remind him of the federal government's authority to withhold transfer payments to provinces in violation of the Act. Only Nova Scotia has been consistently penalized so far, to the tune of about $50,000 per year.
The lack of change in government policy results in continuing obstacles for women, ranging from confidentiality concerns, to inability to pay travel costs, to difficulty in obtaining accurate, unbiased information about the service. These barriers are multiplied for women living in rural areas.
Martha Jackman, a constitutional law professor at the University of Ottawa said, "There are huge discrepancies in the availability of reproductive services, including abortion, from province to province and, of course, within provinces. I can't think of another medically necessary service that is so inaccessible."
Medical Students for Choice Raise Awareness
Although abortion is one of the most common medical procedures per-formed, few medical students learn how to do it, according to an article published in The McGill Daily in February.
To alleviate this situation, Canada now has six chapters of Medical Students for Choice (MSFC): at UBC, University of Manitoba, Memorial University of Newfoundland, McMaster University, University of Western Ontario, and McGill University.
But the coordinator of the McGill chapter, "Rachel", says that abortion is not presented in depth and it's not mandatory. "It's something that's easily avoided and a little bit harder to seek out." The MSFC rep at Western described abortion education there as "not accessible to students."
However, Paul Fournier, an obstetrician and gynecologist who teaches at McGill, thinks that enough is being done to give students the opportunity to learn abortions. "Every student ... gets exposed to the subject of family planning and abortion with at least a one-hour session." He said that the surgical abortion technique should be learned during residency as an elective, and not in medical school, because there isn't room in the medical school curriculum. Also, few students are interested in learning the procedure, he said. Peter Mitchell, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alberta, concurred, saying that there is a high level of anti-choice sentiment among his first-year students. "There's no interest to do it. Why force them to?"
But a member of the MSFC chapter at UBC, "Stephanie", thinks that attitude is dangerous. She said that neglecting to teach students about abortion-related issues, such as counselling and post-operative care, puts women who choose to have abortions at risk. She believes that even doctors that are not abortion providers should be well-informed about how to treat abortion patients. "If they choose not to be part of the abortion, that's fine, but they're still responsible for the care," she said.
At UBC, thanks to the hard work of a pro-choice doctor/professor and the Medical Students for Choice chapter, abortion is discussed in a mandatory course for 1st and 2nd year medical students called "Doctor, Patient, and Society." Third and fourth year students receive a 1.5 hour seminar about abortion. Finally, Ob/Gyn residents are required to take a training program on induced abortion, but may be excused from participating in abortion procedures if they have religious or moral objections. However, such students must still learn how to treat intrauterine fetal demise and abortion complications.
Anti-Abortion Group in Calgary Public Schools
A Christian anti-abortion group has been lecturing on sex education in Calgary public schools for a decade, without parents being notified, and without being upfront about their anti-abortion, religious agenda.
The Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre preaches abstinence and advertises counselling services for pregnant girls. This centre is the same fake clinic that was recently exposed by W-5 as being deceptive and harmful to women (see Autumn/Winter 2000 issue of Pro-Choice Press).
Until recently, the Calgary Board of Education allowed teachers to invite guest lecturers without informing parents who would be speaking. In March, principals started notifying parents about "controversial" visitors. This led to a few notifications and some parents protested the lectures.
A group called Mad Moms Against Bad Sex Ed wants to make sure that schools teach the curriculum properly. One mother attended a guest lecture at her son's school and was appalled by what she found to be a fear-mongering, sexist approach, with inaccurate information. "You tell me why a fundamentalist Christian group is teaching sex education in Calgary schools without parents even knowing it," said Laura Wershler. The school board argued that it has no responsibility in the matter, leaving it up to teachers and principals, but said that outside groups may only be used to supplement the curriculum, not teach it.
The Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre estimates that it instructs 12,000 public school students a year in junior high and high schools in Calgary, and has lectured in 80% of the city's high schools since 1991. The care centre's lecturers are volunteers with no credentials.
Although the Alberta sexuality curriculum is supposed to cover birth control, abortion, and adoption, many Calgary students receive only the care centre's lecture on abstinence, in addition to its scare-mongering misinformation about abortion. A representative from the Calgary Regional Health Authority said her agency has had to re-teach lessons bungled by the care centre. "We essentially went in there to do what I would call 'damage control'," said Barb LeMarqaund, manager of sexual and reproductive health. She cited incorrect information on condom failure rates and sexually transmitted diseases.
The anti-abortion agenda is nothing new in Calgary schools. A Pro-Choice Action Network member who grew up in Calgary in the 1980's reports that students at her public school were required to watch The Silent Scream, a discredited anti-choice film showing an abortion being performed from the fetus' point of view.
Mifepristone Trials Going Well: Dr. Ellen Wiebe of Vancouver has successfully completed the first trial of mifepristone (formerly RU-486). Five centres across Canada tested the abortion pill in comparison with methotrexate, another abortion drug, on 1000 women. Results showed that mifepristone is slightly superior to methotrexate in effectiveness. Both drugs showed the same degree of side effects. The only major difference was that women using methotrexate took longer to abort and needed more misoprostol, a supplementary drug given with the abortion pills to induce uterine contractions. Mifepristone also had a higher level of acceptance with patients- 89% versus 83% for methotrexate. Three percent of methotrexate patients and 3.2% of mifepristone patients required or requested a surgical abortion. Dr. Wiebe is now halfway through a second trial of 1500 women using mifepristone only, to compare three different doses of misoprostol.
Legislation on New Reproductive Technologies Introduced: In May, 12 years after launching a royal commission on new reproductive technologies, the federal government introduced new draft legislation that would regulate assisted human reproduction. Previous legislation introduced in 1996 failed after protests from medical and legal experts who said the legislation was heavy-handed, simplistic, and dangerous. The main objectives of the new law are to ensure that Canadians using assisted human-reproduction techniques can do so without compromising their health, and to ensure that research related to assisted human reproduction is regulated. The law would ban cloning, the sale and purchase of human embryos, the fusion of genetic material to create human-animal hybrids, sex selection of children for non-medical reasons, and the creation of embryos solely for research. It would also prohibit paying women to act as surrogate mothers.
Clark Castigated by Catholics: In March, Calgary's Bishop Fred Henry condemned Conservative leader Joe Clark's "scandalous behaviour" after Clark said in public that he was both Roman Catholic and pro-choice. Henry suggested Clark be banned from Calgary's Catholic schools, but stopped short of threatening Clark with excommunication. The Tory leader "cannot ignore his church's moral teachings in his political positions", said Henry, who also warned that Clark might not receive a Catholic burial at his death. A large majority of Catholics in Canada are pro-choice.
John Hof Gets $25,000 from NDP government: Langley anti-abortion activist John Hof, the president of Campaign Life Coalition BC, has received a $25,000 settlement in a defamation lawsuit he filed against former NDP Women's Equality minister Joan Smallwood. She was quoted on CBC radio last July linking Hof to extremist anti-abortion groups that promote violence. Although Smallwood apologized to Hof two days later, he decided to file suit. Smallwood said, "The settlement was reached based on the best advice from legal counsel." Hof's legal costs of $3000 were also covered by the government. BC Report magazine said that Hof planned to use part of the award to help the UBC Lifeline club, which displays the offensive Genocide Awareness Project at UBC.
Bush Government a Disaster for Women
For the past six months, "President" Bush's right-wing bulldozers have been systematically destroying social and environmental justice in the United States and throughout the world. Below, we discuss some of his measures to restrict reproductive rights for women, which could have a negative impact on Canada because of our many close ties to the United States.
Key Anti-Abortion Appointments
Bush appointed two anti-abortionists to key positions in his administration: John Ashcroft as Attorney-General, and Tommy Thompson as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Ashcroft is a radical extremist who, when he was a Missouri senator, supported enacting a federal law and amending the Constitution to ban abortions even in cases of rape or incest. He also promoted bills in Congress that were so sweeping, they could have been used to ban common forms of contraception, including the pill and IUDs.
Bush has also made changes in government to make it easier for his right-wing nominated federal judges to be confirmed. He has eliminated the long-standing role of the American Bar Association (a liberal body) to screen and criticize nominations. Instead, a "recommending committee" controlled by the ultra-right wing Federalist Society has taken its place.
Global Gag Rule Will Raise Abortion Rates, Kill Women, and Increase AIDS
Bush's first act as "President" (appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court) was to reinstate the global "gag rule," first implemented by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and repealed by Bill Clinton in 1993.
The gag rule prohibits foreign organizations receiving U.S. family planning funds to use their own money for abortion services, counseling women clients about abortion, referrals to a legal abortion provider, or "abortion-related advocacy", a broad term that encompasses any type of public education, advertising, or lobbying. Bush claimed that "taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions," but that is already against U.S. law, and has been since 1973.
The gag rule prevents foreign family planning agencies from advocating for abortion law reform in their own countries. Since this restricts citizens' participation in the democratic process, and interferes in the doctor/patient relationship, the United States has effectively outlawed free speech outside its borders, a policy that would be highly illegal and unethical if applied to itself. (The gag rule does not apply to anti-abortion advocacy.)
Implementation of the gag rule is expected to lead to significant increases in HIV/AIDS infections, unwanted pregnancies, illegal abortions, deaths and injuries of women from botched abortions, and the births of millions of unwanted children in the poorest regions of the world.
The chilling effect of this policy will extend to not only abortion, but to all family planning and reproductive health services. Groups who refuse the U.S. funding and accompanying conditions will have to curtail or stop many essential health and family planning services for poor women.
Also, even though the policy allows groups to treat women for botched abortions, many groups will be so afraid of jeopardizing their funding, they will turn bleeding women away at the door, as happened when the gag rule was in effect prior to 1993. Another casualty of the gag rule is Nepal, where U.S.-funded family planning groups have been advocating reform of the country's draconian abortion law, under which women are routinely jailed for 20 years for having an abortion or a stillbirth.
Still another major casualty will be the war against AIDS. In southern Africa, 55% of new infections occur among women and the disease is spreading rapidly among the young. In many African countries, HIV/AIDS prevention and family planning assistance are integrated to maximize the prevention of HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy. The gag rule inevitably will undermine all these efforts.
Contraceptive use will also decline because the most common and effective way to teach women about birth control is right after an abortion. This has been dramatically demonstrated by a program in Turkey that makes family planning counselling and contraceptive services available immediately post-abortion, at the same sites where women have abortions. In one participating hospital, the proportion of clients who began using contraception after having an abortion rose from 65% in 1991 to 97% in only one year. The number of abortions performed at that hospital dropped from 4,100 in 1992 to 1,709 in 1998.
But now, in countries where legal abortions are widely performed in hospitals and health centres, such as in eastern Europe, the gag rule will diminish access to contraceptive services, thereby increasing repeat abortions.
The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, a U.S.-based pro-choice group that does extensive international work, filed a federal lawsuit in June against Bush for restricting their members' First Amendment rights. "As human rights advocates, we try to further reproductive rights,'' said Katherine Hall Martinez, a CRLP lawyer. "The gag rule is preventing us from keeping our mission.''
Ideology Trumps World Health in U.S. Politics
In May, professional health organizations were, for the first time, left off the list of the U.S. delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Disinvited were the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Nurses Association. Instead, seats were given to representatives of anti-choice political organizations, including the International Right to Life Federation, the conservative Family Research Council, and the National Law Center for Children and Families. The seat changes were announced by anti-abortion Tommy Thompson, the Secretary of Health & Human Services.
Also, at a recent preparatory meeting for a U.N. special session on children in September, the U.S. objected to a call for reproductive health services to be made accessible to those of appropriate age, according to Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition. This goal had previously been approved by the United States, but was now unacceptable because "health services" might include abortion. "The political ideology reflected here has no concern whatsoever for the lives, the health, and the rights of women," said Germain.
Fetal Personhood Bill Gives Rights to Zygotes
Bush is supporting a bill to make violence against fetuses a crime, effectively granting separate legal status to fetuses, while stopping short of an outright ban on abortions.
The proposed law, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, would make it an offence to harm a fetus at any point from conception, even if the attacker didn't know the woman was pregnant or the woman herself was not seriously hurt. The bill, which provides for long prison sentences, was passed by the House of Representatives in April. Bush said he will sign the bill into law if it is passed by the Senate later this year.
The bill is an obvious attack on women's right to abortion by awarding personhood to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. An alternative measure backed by pro-choice and women's groups was defeated. That measure would have extended the same additional criminal penalties for crimes against pregnant women, through establishing special compensation for the woman, not by designating the fetus as a separate victim.
Domestic violence groups also strongly oppose the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, pointing out that those promoting it are the same people who want to cut more than $20 million in funding for the Violence Against Women Act in next year's budget.
Medical Insurance for Fetuses
Tommy Thompson (Secretary of Health & Human Services), has drafted a policy that would allow states to define "an unborn child" as a person eligible for medical coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), under the guise of providing prenatal care for women.
Since the CHIP program could simply be expanded to include pregnant women, Thompson's unstated goal is obviously to establish a paper trail to give constitutional rights and personhood to fetuses. The proposal would ignore the rights and health needs of women by extending benefits directly to their fetuses. Meanwhile, 43 million people, mostly poor women and children, have no health insurance in the U.S.
Abortion Ship Docks in Ireland
The world's first floating abortion clinic, the Aurora, sailed into Dublin on June 14, hoping to provide abortions for a few of the 6,400 Irish women forced to travel to Britain each year for abortions.
Operated by the Dutch group Women on Waves, the Aurora is travelling to countries where abortion is illegal. Once there, it will pick up women needing abortions and take them twelve miles offshore, to international waters where the liberal Dutch abortion law will take effect. The boat is a 40-metre converted trawler, with a shipping container anchored to the deck that houses a fully-equipped operating theatre and a consultation room. The crew will perform surgical abortions and provide mifepristone (RU-486).
Unfortunately, the Aurora left The Netherlands without the necessary medical licence from Dutch authorities to perform abortions onboard ship. The boat also lacked an Irish permit to carry passengers out to sea. At the last minute, Women on Waves was forced to abandon their plans to offer mifepristone, and could only provide contraception and counselling. Dr Rebecca Gomperts, crew leader of the Aurora, apologized to women who had contacted the Women on Waves group, many of whom had cancelled their abortion appointments in England in order to visit the ship.
The crew was overwhelmed by over 300 requests for abortions, while Irish pregnancy advisory clinics said they were inundated with calls from women hoping to access the ship's services. The crew was able to provide information on birth control and abortion to many of the 500 women who contacted it for information.
"I cannot tell you how much my heart bleeds for these women. This is a terrible disaster," said Gomperts. "We will absolutely be back." But the group faces financial woes. The boat's rental cost is over $1,000 a day, and the group's initial funding of $117,000 is nearly gone.
The floating abortion clinic generated huge international media interest, and Women on Waves did achieve their goal of rekindling the abortion debate in Ireland. "We couldn't provide for the needs of Irish women, but this has highlighted the urgency of the need for change," said Brendan Young, press officer for the Irish chapter of Women on Waves. Local Catholic clergy were up in arms, and Irish anti-abortionists accused the crew of peddling "murder" on the high seas. One group launched a boat named "Operation Babe Watch" to monitor the Aurora.
The ship also visited Cork, Ireland the following week, then returned to the Netherlands to obtain the necessary permits. Women on Waves plans to come back to Ireland in the fall (earlier if possible), as well as circumnavigate the globe. They will focus on Latin America, Asia, and Africa, where abortion is widely banned.
Escaped Convict Threatens to Kill Providers
An escaped convict from Illinois, armed and dangerous, has recently made explicit death threats against abortion clinic workers.
Clayton Lee Waagner escaped from an Illinois prison in February, and his whereabouts are unknown. He had been awaiting sentencing after a conviction on federal weapons and stolen vehicle charges. At the time of his arrest in November 1999, he told police that he had been stalking abortion providers, but that he hadn't done it yet because he "lost his nerve." Waagner had in his possession a handwritten list of abortion clinics in Tennessee and Georgia.
He is on the Most Wanted Lists of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the United States Marshals Service. Waagner is also wanted by the FBI for allegedly robbing a bank at gunpoint in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area in May, and is a suspect in a July bank robbery in Erie, Pennsylvania.
On June 18, Waagner is believed to have posted an explicit death threat on the message board of a pro-violence, anti-choice website run by "Reverend" Donald Spitz of Pro-Life Virginia (www.armyofgod.com). The message contained a lengthy and detailed account of his escape and subsequent activities, leading police to accept the post as probably genuine.
In the post, Waagner said: "So the abortionist doesn't get the wrong idea, I don't plan on talking them to death. I'm going to kill as many of them as I can. ... I consider this a war and in war there are few rules. One of the rules that I'm changing from those that came before me is that I'm not targeting the abortion doctor. I have discovered the hard way just how difficult these "doctors" are to get to. They have the money to buy heavy protection and they use it well. No, I'm leaving the big guys alone. I'm going after every one else. Anyone who works at an abortion location or Planned Parenthood. ... It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I'm going to kill you."
Waagner claimed to have collected the home addresses of 42 clinic staff by stalking them. He said that "thanks to some very generous bank financing" - an apparent reference to the Harrisburg bank heist - he is ensconced in a "very secure safe house" and has assembled "the tools I would need to wage war." He asked his supporters to "Pray that every one I kill causes a hundred to quit."
Waagner's threat has galvanized abortion providers, clinic defenders, and law enforcement officials into a state of high alert, while Army of God leaders are egging Waagner on and calling on anti-abortionists to give him shelter. "Go Waagner, go!" cheered Army of God "chaplain" Rev. Michael Bray on the message board.
Within days after Waagner posted his message, the message board was shut down without explanation, but not before an alleged pro-choice person posted a death threat against Waagner's family. However, Waagner's post itself is still there.
According to research by the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Access Project, Spitz and other Army of God figures such as Neal Horsley and David Leach corresponded with Waagner while he was in prison, in what may have been a recruitment campaign. Horsley is the creator of the infamous Nuremberg Files website, which has a "hit list" of abortion providers and their personal information.
In a letter to David Leach, Waagner called for the formation of a "Combat Information Center," a website that would include detailed data on every abortion clinic in the country, the "type of intelligence that would be useful to a field warrior," he wrote. While many feel that the Nuremberg Files site already serves that purpose, Waagner thinks more comprehensive information is needed. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said: "There is clearly a network that is encouraging, and aiding and abetting Waagner and others."
The only two confirmed sightings of Waagner since his escape have been at a truck stop in Tennessee and the alleged bank robberies in Pennsylvania. However, numerous other sightings have been reported in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South and Mid-West.
Police consider Waagner to be highly intelligent, a skilled outdoorsman and survivalist, and an adept car thief with the means to move easily from place to place. A picture of Waagner can be viewed at www.usdoj.gov/marshals/wanted/waagner.html
Nuremberg Files Verdict Overturned
Extremists Can Continue Threatening Doctors
In March, a U.S. federal appeals court threw out a record $109 million verdict against anti-abortion activists, ruling that wanted posters and an Internet site calling abortion doctors "baby butchers" and criminals is protected free speech under the First Amendment.
The unanimous three-judge panel said the activists could be held liable only if the material authorized or directly threatened violence. The case was widely seen as a test of a recent Supreme Court ruling that said a threat must be explicit and likely to cause "imminent lawless action."
The case was an appeal of a 1999 ruling by an Oregon court, which ordered a dozen anti-abortion extremists to pay damages to Planned Parenthood and four doctors. The providers had sued under a federal racketeering law, as well as the 1994 federal FACE law (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act) that makes it illegal to incite violence against abortion doctors. After the jury's guilty verdict, the judge called the website and the wanted posters "blatant and illegal communication of true threats to kill."
But during the appeal, the 9th Circuit judges voiced a different opinion. "Political speech may not be punished just because it makes it more likely that someone will be harmed at some unknown time in the future by an unrelated third party," the judges concluded.
The doctors were portrayed in the Old West-style wanted posters as "baby butchers," and the "Nuremberg Files" website lists the names and addresses of abortion providers, declaring them guilty of crimes against humanity. The site features grayed-out and crossed-out names of doctors who have been injured or slain. The anti-abortionists maintained they were political protesters collecting data on doctors in hopes of one day putting them on trial like Nazi war criminals were at Nuremberg.
Pro-choice activists were devastated by the ruling. Planned Parenthood has asked the court to reconsider its decision, or it will petition the Supreme Court to review the ruling. In an unusual move, 43 members of Congress said they will ask the federal appeals court in San Francisco to revisit the ruling, saying that it undermines the legislative intent of the FACE Act. The American Medical Association (AMA), the Anti-Defamation League, and the Feminist Majority Foundation have also filed friend-of-the-court briefs seeking reversal of the unanimous decision.
The man who runs the Nuremberg Files website, Neal Horsley, was not a defendant in the original lawsuit, but his Internet provider removed the site after the Oregon verdict. Since 1999, Horsley has put up the site at almost a dozen different Internet hosts, but each time, the site has been taken down after complaints, mostly from providers listed on the site. An old version of the site is still mirrored on a site in The Netherlands by an extreme free speech advocate, but another mirror site in South Africa was recently taken down.
In May, Horsley put up a new site featuring "Webcam" still photos of patients and staff entering abortion clinics. He also plans to transmit live video footage from the entrances of abortion clinics.
An international uproar ensued in June when Horsley posted details about a pro-choice health worker in Scotland on the Nuremberg Files website. The UK Life League is reportedly working with Horsley to collect information on abortion providers in the United Kingdom. Horsley also claims to have groups in Canada and Australia collecting information for the site. Some Canadian providers are already listed on it.
Mifepristone Slow to Catch On
Since mifepristone (RU-486) was approved in the United States last September, the high cost of the drug and the reluctance of doctors and even many abortion clinics to offer it have slowed the availability of the drug.
Private physicians have shunned the costly medication because they must be trained to use it, and must have an ultrasound machine to determine the length of gestation. Most college health centres have refused to make the pills available to students. Although some surgical abortion clinics are offering mifepristone, an informal survey suggests that even existing abortion providers haven't fully accepted it. Of 53 clinics in California contacted by the Los Angeles Times, 43 percent said they do not use the drug.
"It is not turning out to be the social revolution many predicted," said Ronald Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. "It is happening slowly." But some advocates for the abortion pill believe it is too early to write it off and that it will eventually gain wider acceptance. Mifepristone has been available in the United States for less than a year, and they say it is unrealistic to expect physicians to embrace it immediately. Also, many women still lack information about the drug.
To promote awareness, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) has launched a $2 million advertising campaign. Ads will appear over the summer in more than a dozen major magazines. Executive director Vicki Saporta said that the group has been getting a large volume of inquiries about the drug on its hotline, which provides information on abortion options. "It was clear that women needed more information and we wanted to make sure they got it,'' Saporta said.
U.S/International News Bytes
Deadly Clinic Violence in Australia: On July 16, a security guard was gunned down inside an abortion clinic in Melbourne, Australia. Dead is Steven Rogers, 44. A gunman burst into the Fertility Control Clinic, threatening staff with a rifle, while an anti-choice prayer vigil was taking place outside. He shot the guard in the face before two men in the waiting room tackled the gunman, wrestling him to the ground and disarming him. The killer was arrested, but his identity remains unknown at press time because he refuses to identify himself. The pro-choice community is devastated and is looking at putting into place a bubble zone. The head of an anti-abortion group, Right to Life, distanced the anti-choice movement from the violence and blamed the clinic. "We would never condone this behaviour, but [the clinic] is a place of immense violence and it is little wonder that this has occurred," Margaret Tighe said.
Man Jailed for Internet Threat Against Doctor: A New Jersey anti-abortionist was sentenced to 30 months in jail in June for offering a $1.5 million bounty over the Internet to anyone who killed an abortion provider. Nicholas Morency also pled guilty to possessing child pornography. Morency created a website in 1999 suggesting an abortion provider he identified by name as a suitable target. He received several inquiries about the bounty, but reportedly did not have the means to pay. The site came down two days after it was reported to the FBI by the National Abortion Federation.
Woman Sentenced to 12 years for Using Cocaine During Pregnancy: Regina McKnight, a poor black woman from South Carolina, was found guilty of homicide and given a 12-year prison sentence for using crack cocaine during her pregnancy. Her infant was stillborn, but evidence was unclear as to whether her drug abuse contributed to its death. McKnight, 24, is a mother of three with no prior criminal record. Homeless for much of the past few years, she had never been in a drug treatment program. (South Carolina ranks near the bottom of all states when it comes to providing such programs and is the only state that prosecutes pregnant women for harm to their viable fetuses.) McKnight is the first woman in the U.S. to be convicted of homicide for killing a fetus through drug abuse, according to women's rights groups. The decision opens the door to future prosecutions of women for smoking, alcohol use, or other behaviors that could harm a fetus. Meanwhile, a U.S. federal court ruled in June that that pregnant immigrant women have no right to prenatal care under Medicaid.
Doctor Convicted and Sentenced for Extortion: Abortion provider and clinic owner Dr. James Pendergraft of Ocala, Florida, was sentenced in May to 46 months in prison and fined $25,000 in federal court for allegedly trying to get the county to compensate him as much as $100 million for refusing to let him open a clinic there. He was convicted in February of attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, and mail fraud. His real estate adviser, Michael Spielvogel of Orlando, was convicted on the same charges, plus making false statements and lying to the FBI. Pendergraft's supporters said the prosecution was politically motivated by abortion opponents in the conservative community.
Abortion Reform Around the World: In March, the Swiss Parliament voted to legalize abortion on demand up till 12 weeks. Previously, a woman had to obtain the consent of a second doctor stating that there was a great danger of severe and long lasting damage to her health if the pregnancy was carried to term. In France, the French National Assembly voted in November 2000 to extend the period of pregnancy during which abortions can be legally performed from 10 to 12 weeks. India's Supreme Court has ordered the government to enforce a ban on procedures to determine the sex of a fetus, in order to prevent the abortion of female fetuses. In Nepal, passage of a law to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, life endangerment, or with a husband's permission, has been delayed because it is combined with another contentious law that would give daughters the right to inherit property.
Pro-CAN Attends National Abortion Federation Conference
A representative from Pro-CAN attended the National Abortion Federation's (NAF) annual conference, held in Chicago on April 20–25. NAF is a professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada that works to keep abortion safe, legal, and accessible. Over 700 doctors, clinic staff, and activists attended the conference, which was well-protected by a high level of security. There were no protesters or other problems.
The keynote speaker at the conference was internationally-acclaimed author, Richard North Patterson, who discussed his most recent novel, Protect and Defend. The book is a political thriller that brings the issues of late-term abortion and parental consent into sharp and compassionate focus. Patterson spoke eloquently about the right to safe, legal abortion and commended the courage of abortion providers. Supervisory Special FBI Agent John Culhane, Jr. was also on hand to share details of the James Kopp investigation and capture.
Our Pro-CAN rep, Joyce Arthur, presented a session to Canadian providers about the anti-choice movement in Canada. About 60 people were in attendance, including Dr. Henry Morgentaler and many providers and clinic staff from BC. Joyce also co-hosted a networking luncheon for Canadian and American providers.
The conference workshops and presentations were divided into several topical categories, including administrative, legal, counselling, and medical (NAF is accredited to provide medical training to health professionals). Joyce attended many relevant sessions, mostly on legal and political aspects of abortion, as well as two sessions on media relations. Also, the conference was a great opportunity to meet and network with dozens of other activists and providers from Canada and the United States.
Annual General Meeting Report
The Pro-Choice Action Network held its Annual General Meeting on March 29, 2001. About 20 members attended. Reports given included:
- Yearly Activity Report and Future Directions
- Special Report on Genocide Awareness Project
- Treasurer's Report
- Membership Report
- Reports from the Clinics (Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic; Everywoman's Health Centre; and Wiebe Medical Clinic)
The main order of business was electing a new Board of Directors and reviewing and approving our draft constitution and bylaws. Ten new Board members were elected by acclamation. This is the first time that Pro-CAN has had a Board of Directors.
Our application for society status is now nearing final approval by the government, and we should have official registered society status by August. (We have not applied for charitable tax status, because of the political nature of many of our activities.)
Our Board of Directors has created a committee structure and four official committees:
- Outreach (public education)
- Security & Media
- Human Resources (hiring and volunteers)
- Fundraising & Special Events
Two ad hoc committees, Administration and Legal, will also help carry out the day to day activities of Pro-CAN. Volunteers are welcome and needed for most of the committees - to get involved, please call 736-2800 or email us. (Please note that all volunteers will be screened for security purposes.)
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