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a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Summer 1996 Issue
Table of Contents
The Parker Inquiry
Evidence the Media Ignored
In a recent public inquiry, Delta Police Constable Steven Parker received a five-day suspension without pay, for illicitly using the RCMP police system to look up licence plate numbers of staff from Everywoman's Health Centre and other individuals, back in 1993. The penalty was the maximum that could be given under the outdated Police Act, short of demanding Parker's resignation. Although resignation or dismissal was the penalty the pro-choice side had demanded, the inquiry's findings were still a partial victory because the inquiry board called Parker's actions "a very serious breach of public trust and his oath as a police officer." Inquiry chair Gail Martin stated in the Vancouver Sun (June 14) that Parker's case was extraordinary and that the Police Act should be amended to increase suspensions to a maximum of six months for extraordinary cases.
The public inquiry came about because the Delta Police Department did a flawed and biased investigation and gave Parker only a four-day suspension. This sentence was appealed to a public inquiry by complainants Marg Panton and Will Offley (former employee and former volunteer Security Coordinator, respectively, of Everywoman's Health Centre) and separately, by the clinic itself. Don Crane, legal counsel for the clinic, stated: "The inquiry confirmed that the internal investigation carried out by the Delta Police was flawed. It is an obvious conflict of interest when a police department investigates itself. The Department's interest in protecting its own reputation undermined its ability to aggressively seek out the truth."
Panton and Offley have asked for a further investigation, since they believe there is evidence to support an organized campaign by the anti-choice to track down staff, volunteers, and patients in order to harass them at their homes. Unfortunately, the inquiry board stated that there was "no evidence" to show that Parker had passed on any of the illicitly accessed information (consisting of names and addresses) to other parties. However, there are a number of reasons why we believe that Parker and his mother, Anita Parker (who allegedly wrote down the licence plate numbers and gave them to her son), were not telling the whole truth. We believe that the weight of circumstantial evidence presented at the inquiry discredited much of Mrs. Parker's testimony, as well as that of her son, and indicated that Parker probably had run other licence plate numbers, possibly at the request of others besides his mother. To support this, a number of telling points which came out at the inquiry are set out below.
1. Parker, who was then Treasurer of Campaign Life Coalition, claimed that he got five licence plate numbers from his mother, who was protesting outside the Everywoman's Health Centre. She collected the licence plate numbers because she was allegedly afraid for her safety. She said that the people inside the cars were acting aggressively, or watching or filming protesters. However, it turned out that one of the cars belonged to a man who was visiting friends in the area, and another belonged to a woman who was simply driving a friend to the clinic. This woman, Susan Doe (a pseudonym), was at the clinic on only one day, August 11, 1993. Unfortunately for Mrs. Parker, she had previously testified, very emphatically, that she was away in Ireland from mid-July to early September. She was never able to account for this discrepancy. It should also be noted that Susan Doe's critical testimony was only made possible because Will Offley located her with relative ease, after the bumbling Delta Police claimed she couldn't be found.
2. Parker claimed he accessed the police computer database (CPIC-Canadian Police Information Centre) only down to the first level, which provides just the person's name and address. However, if he had really been trying to find out whether these individuals posed a danger to his mother, as he claimed, he would have had to access further levels of CPIC to get the relevant information (such as whether the person had a criminal record). The fact that he claimed to access only the names and addresses of these people indicates to us that the purpose in obtaining the information was to locate these individuals, not to see whether they posed a threat. However, whether Parker may have actually probed deeper than he claimed can never be known—there is another system, PIRS (Personal Information Retrieval System) that contains more detailed intelligence information on individuals, but which has no provision for auditing access.
3. As part of his job, Parker regularly runs licence plate numbers and has in fact run thousands over the years. The nature of his job obviously made it very easy for him to slip in a few extra numbers that had nothing to do with police business. And Parker said himself at the inquiry that he didn't think he would get caught. Who's to say how many of those thousands of numbers actually belonged to clinic staff, volunteers, or patients? In addition, Parker refused to deny that he had run additional licence plate numbers, and would only say that he had no recollection of doing so. This seems to indicate to us that he may be protecting himself in the event that other instances are uncovered in the future. Sure enough, less than two weeks after the inquiry, another licence plate number of an Everywoman's staff member was found to have been checked by Parker. The Vancouver Police are conducting another investigation into this latest incident.
4. Anti-choice protesters have been scribbling down licence plate numbers around the clinic for years. A readily available anti-choice book called 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, by Joseph Scheidler, recommends finding a "friendly police officer" as a way of identifying the owners of vehicles. Gordon Watson, a virulent anti-choice activist, has testified in court (during his contempt of court trial in August, 1994) about paying someone "big bucks" for licence plate number information. A few staff members and clients from Everywoman's have received anti-choice telephone calls, mail, or literature at their homes, or have had their vehicles vandalized.
In our opinion, there is no doubt that the action of running licence plate numbers of abortion clinic staff and patients has a potentially violent effect. Of what use is this personal information except to locate, harass, stalk, and perhaps attack these individuals? Parker's case has made public the insidious nature of the anti-choice campaign of harassment and intimidation, actions which amount to a form of terrorism and should be treated as such. It must be said that anyone who passes illicitly accessed information to people in the anti-choice movement is playing with fire, because they have no control over how that information will be used.
Everywoman's Health Centre, together with BCCAC, will be monitoring the situation to ensure that the Board's recommendations are implemented. These include revising the Police Act to increase sanctions, ensuring that internal investigations are done outside the police jurisdiction in question, and upgrading the security of the police computer system. Further, we are beginning to study ways to improve security for the staff and patients of all abortion clinics in Vancouver, as well as for pro-choice activists and volunteers. Thirdly, on the advice of Offley and Panton, the clinics plan to make more frequent and ongoing use of Freedom of Information requests to check whether licence plate numbers of specific staff members, patients, or volunteers have been accessed. (This was how Parker was caught initially—Will Offley had filed eight FOI requests in late 1994.)
A Status Report on Task Force Recommendations, Part Two
by Judith Brook
See the Spring 1996 issue of Pro-Choice Press for Part One of this article.
In 1992, Elizabeth Cull, then BC Minister of Health, set up a Task Force on Access to Contraception and Abortion Services to identify impediments to access of these services, and to make recommendations to improve education and information on contraception and abortion, as well as ensure regional access.
The Task Force produced a report in 1994 containing their recommendations, entitled Realizing Choices. Part Two of this article continues the analysis of the priority recommendations to see how well they have been implemented.
Recommendation #E.1: that a provincial facility such as BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre become a central clearing house for the organization, evaluation, and distribution of educational materials and information about reproductive health and access to care for both consumers and providers.
Status: Not done. If the BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre has pursued this, it has been without any additional resources. The plan was for a clearing house for all reproductive health care information by calling one central phone number.
Recommendation #E.2: that the MOH provide funding for a province-wide toll-free telephone service staffed by appropriately-trained personnel to provide information about STDs, contraception, and abortion, as well as a range of common related health problems.
Status: Although MOH has not provided such a central phone number itself, it has restored core funding to Planned Parenthood, which has now established its own province-wide toll-free telephone information service. However, Planned Parenthood's information line, while valuable, is not the comprehensive, government-operated one that the Task Force envisioned.
Recommendation #F.1: that the Minister of Education conduct an evaluation of the "Learning for Living" program to date to ensure consistent standards of implementation.
Status: There has been an erosion of information available through schools and School Boards. Some areas have committees set up for assisting with the Learning for Living program and its information selection in schools. However, some rely on schools, and programs are not always providing full information in an unbiased manner.
Recommendation #G.1: that the MOH ask the Therapeutics Initiative at the UBC Faculty of Medicine to review the safety and effectiveness of low-dose oral contraceptives, including the Morning After Pill (MAP), with a view to asking the federal Health Protection Branch to change the licensing requirements to make such oral contraceptives available in pharmacies without prescription.
Status: Yes, MOH has requested this review. Therapeutics Initiative at the UBC Faculty of Medicine reported back that this is a complicated issue requiring time to study. The membership of the Committee at UBC will drive when, and if, this review occurs. The MAP is under-used and suffers limited access. If it were more widely available, unwanted pregnancies could be reduced by as much as 33%. Local progressive health regions (e.g., Vancouver Health Board) have produced publicity campaigns aimed towards both providers and users, to provide information on the MAP. Unfortunately, there is much anti-choice pressure applied against its use.
Recommendation #G.2: that the provincial government call on the Government of Canada to reconsider the licensing of Depo Provera for use as a contraceptive agent, and to expedite the application to the Health Protection Branch for evaluation of RU-486 for licensing purposes.
Status: Yes, the provincial government requested consideration of licensing (within six months of the release of the August 1994 Task Force report and recommendations). However, no action has occurred.
Recommendation #G.6: that as part of his annual report, the Provincial Health Officer develop a "Reproductive Report Card" for the province which follows, over time, a number of health status and health service indicators, with special attention to inequities within the province. Suggestions were made for items to be included in this report.
Status: The BC Coalition for Abortion Clinics has provided feedback to the Provincial Health Officer for inclusion in the 1995/96 report expected out later this year.
Recommendation # I.3: that the MOH ensure that emergency contraception (MAP) is made widely and easily available through Public Health Units, community and Planned Parenthood clinics, university and college Health Services, and physicians' offices with appropriate guidelines for use and follow-up contraceptive counselling.
Status: MOH has requested MAP to be more widely available. There has been no coordinated effort and no plan exists to provide additional information once MAP is readily available.
Recommendation #I.4: that the MOH write to the Minister of Education urging that condom machines be installed in all high schools in BC.
Status: Unclear if this request has been made, but we assume it has. Minister of Education has not mandated this installation and there has been no decisive action.
Recommendation #J.1: that hospitals designated in the Hospital Insurance Regulations Act to provide abortions be monitored by the Ministry of Health (MOH), and that those designated hospitals which are not meeting the needs for their catchment areas be directed by the Minister to rectify the situation.
Status: Yes, MOH is monitoring; however, there is no penalty system in place. The government should enforce the requirement to provide this service. For example, determine how many clients in a region are travelling outside their region to access this service, and penalize the hospital for that amount of money.
Recommendation #K.1: that the Province raise the issue of interprovincial insurance coverage for abortion services at the next Conference of Deputy Ministers of Health to review whether this policy violates the principles of the Canada Health Act.
Status: Yes, the issue has been raised but no changes have ensued.
Recommendation #K.2: that the MOH restore core funding for the provincial office of Planned Parenthood Association of BC to enable it to support its role as a provincial resource to regional and community health agencies in the provision of high quality reproductive health care.
Status: Yes, done.
Recommendation #K.3: that the MOH develop a consistent and uniform policy for the funding of free-standing abortion clinics that reflects the staff requirements to provide counselling and education services.
Status: This is work-in-progress but quite slow.
Recommendation #P.2: that the MOH provide incentives to Regional Health Boards to develop integrated Women's Health Programs in Community Health Centres where there is evidence of community support.
Status: This may be done in a few areas, but has not been implemented as an overall policy.
Recommendation #Q.1: that the Aboriginal Health Policy Branch work toward developing and implementing a reproductive health policy in consultation with First Nations, urban and rural Aboriginals, and Métis people in BC.
Status: Aboriginal Health Policy Branch is looking at these questions. There was already an Aboriginal network in place in 1994 when the Task Force was writing its report, and this network has now included more health-care issues within its mandate.
Recommendation #R.1: that the MOH allocate resources to enable people with disabilities to define their needs with respect to access to education on reproductive health and access to contraception and abortion services, and to develop recommendations to meet these needs.
Status: There has been no decisive action in this area.
NDP Responds to Women
Our Questions Answered in Detail
During the recent election campaign, the Women's Election Agenda Coalition, spearheaded by the Vancouver Status of Women, devised a questionnaire for party leaders and candidates. The document's 26 questions covered a range of issues, including welfare, health care, lesbian rights, job creation, funding of women's centres, and many others. The BCCAC was instrumental in helping to produce the questionnaire. We helped to gather and edit the questions that were submitted by numerous women's groups, desktop-published the 6-page document, and helped copy, fax, and distribute it to party leaders, the media, women's groups, and individuals all over the province. The BCCAC also contributed two questions related to abortion.
The questionnaire helped to put women's issues on the map. Andrea Imada, of the Women's Election Agenda Coalition, reported on the questionnaire's success in Kinesis (June, 1996): "Women's issues were on the news and on the agenda at the much-hyped televised leadership debate. The NDP spent money on political advertising that focused on women. Women called into talk-radio shows and asked questions at all-candidates' meetings. The Coalition received calls and feedback from women in other parts of the province about activities in their communities. . . . Women's equality had catapulted onto the election platform—and the focus of news reports, radio programs, and the leaders' debates clearly showed the questionnaire was instrumental in shaping the debate on women's issues."
In addition, the NDP, Liberal, PDA, and Green party leaders all responded in writing to the questionnaire. (Not surprisingly, we never heard from Social Credit or Reform!) The NDP response was by far the best and most comprehensive, followed by the Green Party's response. The Liberal and PDA responses were generally quite brief and in many cases, unsatisfying.
The two BCCAC questions on abortion and the responses from the NDP and Liberal parties are reproduced below. We want pro-choice supporters to know what the NDP has promised to women seeking abortion services, so we can all make sure they stick to their word. While the NDP's performance on the abortion issue has been quite good overall, we believe there's always room for improvement. It's also important to know where the official opposition stands on our issues, to give us a handle on the Liberal agenda in future years and future elections. Our impression is that, while the Liberals say they would support abortion rights and services, the brevity of their answers seems to indicate they haven't really given it much serious thought.
Question # 6: If elected, will your party commit to taking strong measures and allocating resources to protect women, abortion providers, and clinic staff from harassment by anti-choice individuals and organizations?
NDP Answer: Yes. New Democrats completely and unequivocally support a woman's right to choose, unlike Gordon Campbell's Liberals and Jack Weisgerber's Reform Party. The NDP government introduced the Access to Abortion Services Act which established protective zones around health care facilities and providers' homes, and we are committed to enforcing it. Women now have unimpeded, safe access to abortion, reproductive, and other health services all around the province. We have defended this legislation against court challenges, and will continue to do so.
Liberal Answer: The BC Liberal party voted in the legislature to support the Access to Abortion Services Act. We will support the appeal of the recent court decision which struck down parts of the Access to Abortion Services Act.
Question # 7: If elected, will your party commit to maintaining funding for existing free-standing abortion clinics, to working with the women's health community on a plan to expand access to abortion services to all regions in BC, and allocating the necessary resources to ensure the implementation of such a plan?
NDP Answer: Yes. Previous governments refused to provide women equal access to abortion services across BC, despite the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that all women have the right to choose. They also stood by when the Vernon hospital board banned legal abortion services—even in cases of rape and incest. Under Social Credit (some of whose members now represent the Reform Party), hospital boards had a right to choose, while the women of BC did not.
In 1991, BC women did not have reproductive choice. But no longer. The New Democrat government guaranteed access for women to contraception and abortion services across BC.
Under the NDP, provincial funding has been provided to Everywoman's Health Centre and Elizabeth Bagshaw Centre. The NDP government sought the views of British Columbians through the Task Force on Access to Contraception and Abortion Services. Upon receipt of the Task Force Report, the NDP government introduced the Access to Abortion Services Act and we are committed to enforcing it.
Our government also introduced a reproductive health care strategy which included $750,000 in new money for reproductive health care services and education throughout the province—the funding is directed towards education and contraceptive services to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.
In addition to funding and regulations to improve women's access to contraception and abortion services, our New Democrat government introduced a province-wide 1-800 information line on contraception and sexuality.
A New Democrat government will continue to defend women's right to safe access to abortion, reproductive, and other health services around the province. New Democrats will ensure that the funding of abortions as a legitimate health procedure remains in place. We will not allow the other parties to turn back the clock on the progress we have made.
Liberal Answer: The BC Liberal Party have no plans to change the status quo.
Disempowering the Vatican
Holy See's U.N. Lobbying Hurts Women
The legitimacy of the Vatican's extraordinary status at the United Nations is being called into question. The Holy See delegation is the only religion permitted permanent observer status during United Nations proceedings. Not only does the Vatican have the unique privilege of sitting in on closed-door meetings of the U.N. Conference Committee, its delegation is allowed to participate in all the deliberations. And although the Vatican delegation does not have an official vote, it has opportunities to influence the proceedings through "insider" lobbying, including blocking actions, offering amendments, and filibustering to prevent consensus—all of which it does consistently.
At several major world conferences and summits held in the last few years, the Vatican has sent a delegation to interfere with the deliberations. For example, at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Vatican delegation used its influence to delete all references to family planning from the deliberations. At the Cairo conference on Population and Development in 1994, the Vatican tied up the proceedings with its objection to the inclusion of terms such as family planning, reproductive health, fertility regulation, and even safe motherhood. In March 1995, the Vatican sent a 15-member delegation to the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, where it promoted its own agenda and prevented conferees from adopting language disapproved of by the Vatican.
At the U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995, the Vatican issued a call for action to end abortion. On a more positive note, however, the Holy See's delegation soon reversed its position and announced that it would not fight for its anti-abortion views at the conference, citing its unwillingness to "sidetrack" the conference. However, together with Islamic countries, the Vatican successfully deleted from the Platform of Action references to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Nongovernmental organizations which oppose the Vatican's position on family planning and women's rights are unable to participate in official conference debates and are thus helpless to present counterarguments. When Catholic leaders attempt to impose their dogma on non-Catholics in a secular forum like the United Nations, it not only violates the Vatican's unique position of trust, it is morally wrong and reprehensible.
Sentiment continues to grow against the Holy See's unique and privileged status in the United Nations. Catholics for a Free Choice circulated a petition at the women's conference in Beijing, titled "A Call to the United Nations to Consider the U.N. Status of the Holy See." Over 1000 signatures were obtained within the first few days. Last year, a second petition to withdraw the Vatican's status was begun by an American research centre. Many thousands of signatures have been received so far, from over 40 countries. Copies of both these petitions are available from the BCCAC, or you can write to:
Catholics for a Free Choice, #301, 1436 U Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009, phone 202-986-6093.
Center for Research on Population and Security, P.O. Box 13067, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709, phone 919-933-7491, fax 919-933-0348.
Learning to Play it Safe
Abortion providers and activists in the Lower Mainland have a strong ally in the personal security business, someone whose knowledge and expertise has proved invaluable to the abortion services community over the last few years. The BCCAC recently interviewed Robert Burns, who has worked for CANPRO Investigative Services Inc. in Burnaby since its inception four years ago. The company offers security and investigation services for businesses, groups, and individuals. Over 90% of its 20 employees have backgrounds in police investigation or criminal investigation.
Burns' qualifications and experience are impressive and diverse: He has an academic background in law, criminal justice, criminology, and private security. He has trained with the Federal Protection System in the U.S. and recently attended a conference on Special Tactics and Security in Washington, DC. And, oh yeah—he holds several black belts in Japanese martial arts!
Through CANPRO, Burns conducted an investigation of abortion issues for the Attorney General in 1994. His job was threefold: to gather and analyze information on the problems and threats faced by the abortion services community; to enhance personal security of doctors, their families, and hospital and clinic staff; and to increase physical security for all facilities, including homes, offices, clinics, and hospitals.
During the investigation, Burns was surprised at how many people had been harassed and terrorized, and by the large number of people who had received threatening phone calls. Physical harassment started to increase significantly in BC in 1991 (plus there has been a dramatic increase in threatening phone calls after the Dr. Romalis shooting in 1994). Some of the harassment went beyond empty threats. Doctors had been chased from their offices to their cars. Workers had been kneed, shoved, and pushed at their offices and homes. Doctors had been picketed at their homes, with protesters' signs labelling them as murderers. Tactics such as these, and worse, are all U.S. imports. "The border doesn't exist for them," said Burns, and with the Romalis and Short shootings, the anti-choice have shown themselves to be on the "cutting edge of terrorist-type violence in Canada."
Burns also found that the entire issue was not being taken seriously by police and other authority figures. They seemed to feel that staying neutral was the answer, but as Burns noted, how can the police stay neutral when someone is breaking the law? The anti-choice movement is more organized than people generally think, and far more organized than the pro-choice movement. Again and again, he consulted with doctors, staff, and other individuals who were "extremely naive" about the real violent potential of the anti-choice movement, and who personally felt immune from any danger. Burns felt that this mentality was largely a result of providers being isolated, not organized, and not sharing information with each other.
Burns is a personal security specialist, a relatively uncommon niche, because most people in our society are more concerned about having their stereo stolen than they are of being shot by a terrorist. Personal security is all about protecting the safety of yourself, as well as your family, your staff, and anyone else close to you. Physical security, on the other hand, is the protection of your possessions, including your home and vehicle. When working within a terrorist atmosphere, personal security should always take precedence.
The abortion issue is a "group against group" situation, Burns explained. The anti-choice tend not to target particular individuals; instead, they prefer to shop around for the easiest mark. Any abortion doctor will do. If they can't access a doctor, any staff member will do. And so on. If you're a member of a group involved in providing or protecting abortion services, and you're its weakest link (security-wise), you may be at risk, regardless of your relative importance or profile in the group. But if you do have a high profile within your group, you risk attracting attention not only to yourself, but to others around you. Therefore, doctors who perform abortions have a serious responsibility to protect their family and staff, as well as themselves.
Since the A-G's investigation, Burns has provided numerous abortion providers and activists with threat assessments. This involves:
- collecting information on the history and nature of any threats or violence to date
- evaluating the person's activities, habits, and lifestyle to discover any risk factors
- examining the person's home, office, and vehicle to evaluate the degree of protection offered
- talking to family members, colleagues, and any other people who have information or insight into the nature of real or potential threats
In the rest of this article, we share with you some of Burns' valuable security advice.
Most people who are targeted by the anti-choice are surveilled or stalked prior to any attack. Be alert and become surveillance conscious. That means you should get in the habit of looking out for suspicious activity or persons around you. Although you can't stop going out in public, you can always pay attention to what's happening around you. Open spaces are what Burns calls the "kill zone," so keep moving and limit your exposure. Also, try to vary your habits—anything that might make it easy to monitor and target you. For example, don't frequent the same restaurant for lunch every day and don't always leave your house at the same time each day.
There are four critical steps to a planned attack. First, your would-be attacker must select and locate you. Second, he has to identify you by sight to make sure he's got the right person. Third, he must surveil you and plan his attack. And fourth, he must carry out the attack. If you make yourself a difficult target at each of these four steps, your would-be attacker is more likely to give up and look for an easier mark.
Security measures should be "layered." No single thing on its own will stop an intruder, and no amount of security may stop a truly determined attacker. But each security measure you implement represents one more obstacle that the attacker must solve, one more delay that consumes his valuable time. Professional, well-prepared assailants can gain access to you in a matter of moments. The longer it takes for them to reach you, and the more difficult it is, the greater risk they run of exposing themselves or leaving evidence.
There are two trains of thought for protecting yourself: hide in plain sight (i.e., make yourself difficult to find), or turn your home and office into Fort Knox. The ideal solution is probably a blend of both.
To hide in plain sight, get an unlisted phone number, a call display device, and a post office box. There's no reason to ever give your home address to anybody, other than to people you're inviting over. Get your address out of databases, including Pharmacare, ICBC, BC Telephone, your bank, cable company, credit card companies, and any others you can think of. If possible, get your name out of databases. If you live with someone else who is low risk, put everything in their name. Get in the habit of using your first initial to identify yourself, especially when signing anything. Put out your trash and recycling just before the trucks arrive, not the night before. Full trash cans and recycling boxes sitting around in your back alley are an open invitation for anyone who wants to find out more about you.
Invest in a cell phone and keep it with you at all times—even when you're asleep, or out working in the yard or garage. Help will be only a phone call away, plus a cell phone allows you to move about while talking. Also, don't discuss highly secure information over any phone, and don't give out personal data to callers unless you know who they are.
Once you are well hidden, start enhancing personal security around your home and business. But don't worry about your belongings—get insurance, and let intruders take whatever they want. Your goal is to protect your personal safety and that of your family, not risk it, so don't play the hero.
There are three main areas to protect: your place of work, your vehicle, and your residence.
Workplace - If you're in the medical business, your security measures must strike a balance between easy public access and restrictive physical security measures. You may not want to go to the extreme of a "mantrap" (a separate, locked entry cubicle with a buzzer), but all staff should at least be fully aware of potential dangers and keep an ever-watchful eye for suspicious persons. If you're a tenant in a building, talk to the building manager and your neighbours and ask them to pay attention, too. If you're in a stand-alone clinic, glance out your windows frequently for suspicious persons or activity. If possible, hire a guard or use security volunteers at street level. Keep an open view of your entranceway and install a camera if necessary.
Watch for letter bombs (both at your office and at home). They look like ordinary letters, but may be a bit lumpy and have grease spots on the outside. Don't open them—just call the police.
Vehicle - Your car is the weakest link. 80% of terrorist attacks occur in and around vehicles. Consider installing a car alarm, which, besides its obvious benefits, can also be set off in transit if you need to attract attention to yourself. Your vehicle must also be dependable. Use the same reliable service person and join BCAA.
Always park as close as possible to your destination, and whenever possible, park in secure garages or parkades. This makes it harder for someone to tamper with your car. If you have a garage at home, park in it and close the door—that way, attackers can't tell if you're home or not. When away from home and returning to your car, try to stay surrounded by other people. Have someone walk you to your car if you're going to be exposed.
Quickly inspect your vehicle as you approach it and when you reach it. Never enter your car if it looks like it's been tampered with. Make sure no one is hiding inside and that the interior looks untouched. If your locks are gummed up, or if there is anything at all suspicious, don't stand around trying to fix it. Your attacker may be waiting for an opportunity to approach you. Walk immediately to a safe place, call police, and don't return to your car without help.
While driving, check your mirrors frequently and be alert for suspicious activity on the part of pedestrians or other drivers. Keep your windows closed and doors locked at all times. Air conditioning is a great feature, because you can keep your windows closed during the summer. Power locks and power windows are also ideal, because you can control all the doors and windows from the driver's seat. An automatic transmission is better than a standard, because there is less chance of stalling.
To make it harder to track you, don't use personalized licence plates. Also, it's extremely important to vary your travel routes—study a map and mark as many routes as possible, then use them. Know where safe havens are on all routes. These can include any place with people around, such as 7-11's, service stations, hospitals, police or fire stations, hotels, and so on. Try to stay on well-lit, well-travelled routes that you are familiar with. Once you've reached your destination, have all your belongings in hand and exit your vehicle quickly and efficiently.
"Your car is a 4000 pound monster—and it's on your side!" says Burns. If you have to, you can use it as a weapon. Remember too, that if something happens, you can still drive with a shattered window or a flat tire. Don't stop moving till you're safe, and don't stop for strangers or in isolated areas. If you're forced to stop for any reason, it's usually safer to stay in your car with your doors locked. Be wary of minor accidents that aren't your fault—assailants may rear-end you so you will stop and get out of your car. To lose someone, make right-hand turns, not left turns where you risk becoming boxed into traffic. When stopped in traffic, always leave enough distance between your car and the vehicle in front to allow you to turn out in an emergency.
Home - A dog is a superior security measure. It can serve as your first line of defence and become a major stumbling block to attackers. Get a dog that fits in with your lifestyle and that everyone in the family is comfortable with. You don't need a large, mean dog—a small or medium-sized one will do. Any dog has far better hearing and a better sense of smell than you do. And virtually all dogs bark. Most importantly, dogs have instinctive protective behaviour—whenever your dog is around you, it is automatically at work protecting you, even while you're relaxing or sleeping. A dog locked in a room or chained in a backyard can't offer as much protection, so it's important to keep your dog with you as much as possible. Travel with it and keep it in the house.
Good exterior lighting is one of the most overlooked security measures. Install it and always turn it on at night. If possible, install motion detector lights as well. Keep light fixtures out of easy reach. Intruders may drop by during the day to unscrew bulbs, then return at night to take advantage of the darkness. If a light stops working, check to see whether the bulb has been loosened before replacing it.
Fenced yards are also a good security measure, and the fence doesn't even have to be high—it acts as a psychological obstacle. If someone jumps over your fence, your neighbours may notice, while they probably won't think twice about someone walking casually across your open lawn.
Consider installing interior motion detectors or an alarm system, which need not be expensive. If you can afford it, replace your exterior doors with solid core doors, made of either wood or steel. An intruder can kick in a hollow door within 30 seconds. Also install deadbolt locks, and keep doors locked at all times, even when you're out in the yard. Close curtains and blinds at night and position your room lights close to windows so you're not backlit. Blinds and curtains should be fire-retardant and heavy so they will help stop projectiles and reduce shadows of people inside. Windows next to doors should be made of shatterproof Lexan glass. Sliding windows and doors should have track locks and basement windows should be screwed shut from inside.
Finally, once you've installed alarms, security lighting, and other measures, don't circumvent them, use them!
Get to know your neighbours and ask them to watch out for suspicious strangers or activity—they don't need to know the details of your lifestyle to make excellent lookouts. Become familiar with your neighbour's vehicles, so you'll more easily notice ones that don't belong. Remember also that attackers may be surveilling your house, usually in their vehicles. In particular, be wary of vans, trucks, and vehicles with heavily tinted windows. Assailants may watch to see where people sleep, so try to make your bedroom less visible, or sleep in an area of the house that doesn't look like a bedroom from the outside.
Identify a "safe room" in your house and ensure that all family members know this will be the place to go in case of emergency. Also, devise an emergency plan, including an evacuation plan, and stage a drill now and then when everyone's home. Keep emergency equipment available in your home.
Remember—stay alert, stay low, stay safe!
"Genocidal Murderer" Idolized by "Pro-lifers"
In an article exposing hypocrisy in the anti-abortion movement, Andrew Merton, an English professor and political columnist from New Hampshire, reveals the fundamental lack of humanity inherent in anti-choice beliefs, as evidenced by some of the violent rhetoric of their leaders. He shows that significant elements of the "pro-life" movement have always advocated punishment, including the death penalty, for anyone even remotely connected with abortion—that is, not just abortion providers, but ordinary supporters of the pro-choice position.
Merton also points out that many anti-choicers equate legal abortion with the Nazi Holocaust, as if the lives of those who perished in World War II are equal in value to the potential lives of foetuses. However, Merton presents a compelling case to show that anti-choicers don't really believe that foetuses are equal in moral stature to those already born. He does this by shedding some revealing light on the strange case of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the anti-choicers' greatest heroes. The rest of this article is an excerpt from Merton's article, Violent Words, Telling Deeds:
Merton writes: In 1971 and '72, when New York was the only state where abortion at a woman's discretion was legal, Nathanson was director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health in New York City. Later, he changed his mind about abortion, and he became the hottest after-dinner speaker on the anti-abortion circuit. On June 26, 1980, in Anaheim, California, Nathanson regaled participants in the National Right to Life Committee's annual convention with tales of his bloody past. He ran, he bragged, "not just an abortion clinic, but the abortion clinic . . . established and fed by the Clergy Consultation Service, an organization of 1,200 Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis who . . . funnel[ed] through 60,000 young women in the space of 19 months."
The audience gasped—and rushed to buy copies of Nathanson's book, Aborting America, for the good doctor to autograph. Five years later, he was telling the same adoring audiences, "There are 75,000 abortions in my history." Yet even today, Nathanson the convert, the ultimate prodigal son, remains in high repute among the right-to-life faithful.
What's wrong with this picture?
Here, it is useful to invoke [the] Holocaust metaphor, which most anti-abortionists embrace. . . . [T]ry . . . to enter the heads of these people [and] imagine believing that the death of the foetus, the embryo, the zygote equals the death of a person. If we—and they—honestly believe such a thing, then there is only one conclusion we can draw about Dr. Nathanson: that he is guilty of genocide. For surely the deliberate killings of 75,000 people constitute genocide.
It is not often that a genocidal murderer has a change of heart, one that causes him to appear among groups who oppose him, who hate him, to explain that he was, after all, wrong to kill all those people. And it is difficult to imagine that if one did, he would be accorded the heroic stature of Nathanson amidst the anti-abortionists.
In 1960, a genocidal murderer did appear—not by choice—among those whom he had persecuted. His name was Adolf Eichmann, and he had committed and supervised many killings. He told an Israeli court that he was only following orders when he helped to engineer the Final Solution which sent six million Jews to their deaths. He was convicted and hanged. But let us say that, like Nathanson, he had taken responsibility for the slaughter he had perpetrated and, like Nathanson, had had a change of heart: "My dear Jews, I now realize that you are full-fledged human beings, possessing no less humanity than I myself. And I will devote the remainder of my days to convincing others that this is true."
Would the people of Israel, survivors of the Holocaust, have embraced him? Would he have become the most lionized after-dinner speaker at reunion dinners of the former inmates of Dachau, Treblinka, Auschwitz? Would veterans of the Jewish resistance have lined up to have him autograph copies of his book, perhaps titled The Case for Jewish Humanity? Not likely. More likely: his conversion would have been sadly acknowledged, accepted, but his conviction and sentence would have been carried out just as they were.
We cannot imagine the Jews—or survivors of any episode of genocide, anywhere—honoring those, however contrite, who have obliterated their friends, their loved ones, their culture. Thus, the case of Bernard Nathanson demonstrates that, deep down, the anti-abortion activists do not accord the unborn the same status as the born, and are simply using abortion as an excuse to wage war with their perceived enemies, the humanists. But if this conjecture is wrong—if, indeed, the anti-abortionists truly revere the unborn—then there remains only one other rationale for their enshrinement of Nathanson: that in the name of politics, they are willing, even eager, to embrace a man who, they all acknowledge, was the most prolific and efficient genocidal killer of his day.
 Andrew Merton. Violent Words, Telling Deeds. Conscience, the journal of Catholics for a Free Choice Vol. XVI, Nos. 1&2. Spring/Summer 1995. (Subscriptions: $10 U.S. per year - 1436 U Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009-3997.)
Pro-Lifer Arrested for Hiring Hit Man
George Crossley Jr., 55, an ordained Southern Baptist Minister from Deltona, Florida was arrested on charges of solicitation to commit murder. Crossley tried to hire an undercover police officer posing as a hit man to kill the estranged husband of a woman with whom Crossley was allegedly having an affair. Crossley is a prominent Christian preacher, talk show host, and political activist. He has protested outside of the Aware Women's Centre in Florida (an abortion clinic), and once called the director of that clinic a "whore of Babylon."
Update on the Appeal
Access To Abortion Services Act
The arguments for the Crown's appeal of the gutting of the Access to Abortion Services Act have now been heard (as of July 15), but a decision by the judge is still pending. We can't say with any certainty what the decision will be, but we are hopeful the judge will correct the injustice done by Judge Cronin when he struck down several key sections of the Act back in January.
West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) intervened in the case on behalf of a coalition of groups, including the BCCAC, Everywoman's Health Centre, Elizabeth Bagshaw Society, and the CARE Program from BC Women's Hospital. Unfortunately, because the Crown conceded during the original trial that the legislation did infringe Maurice Lewis' freedom of expression, the coalition was limited to arguing that the legislation is a reasonable limit that is "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society" as provided in Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The coalition argued that access to abortion services is an equality issue under the Charter, as only women can become pregnant and require abortions. Also, it submitted that limiting freedom of expression within a small geographic zone at specific sites is an appropriate way to secure safe access to abortion services. Anti-abortion activities occurring directly outside service providers' facilities compromise women's privacy and make them a captive audience. The Act therefore is constitutionally justified and necessary to ensure women's right to privacy, dignity, and equality when accessing a lawful medical service.
Intervening in support of Lewis was a group of anti-choice organizations, including the Respect Life Office of the Catholic Church's Archdiocese of Vancouver, The Pro-Life Society of BC, and Feminists for Life.
A report on the outcome of the appeal will be published in the next issue of Pro-Choice Press.
There's No Comparison...
The May 1996 issue of Chatelaine featured an article entitled Guns and money: the new abortion wars, by Deborah Jones. Our own Joy Thompson, long-standing spokesperson for BCCAC and former worker at Everywoman's Health Centre, was profiled sympathetically, for the most part. Joy came across as a serious and tireless fighter for abortion rights, a front-line activist who has helped many women seeking abortion services and understands intimately why legal abortion is needed. She has bravely risked the safety of herself and her family to defend the cause and help women.
However, to represent the anti-choice side, the author chose Wendy Barta, member of Feminists For Life and an agnostic with a liberal social conscience. This was certainly an odd choice, since Barta is a far cry from the typical anti-choicer. Pictured taking her dog for a walk, Barta came off as a nice, caring, but confused person, who became an anti-choicer out of a slippery slope belief that fertilized human eggs are equal to human beings. She claims to abhor violence against abortion providers, so her presence in an article that draws a battle line between abortion funding and anti-abortion violence becomes all the more bewildering. There's plenty of anti-choicers out there who support the violence—Jones should have profiled one of them for a truly fair article.
Jones' article seems to pit government funding of abortion against anti-choice violence, as if the two are somehow comparable. The article's introduction even has the gall to call abortion funding a "weapon of choice." Also, anti-choicers who commit or condone violence are called a "fringe" group by Jones, as if they constitute only a tiny sub-set of anti-choicers. One can only wonder what Jones was attempting to convey in her article. Either she believes that killing doctors and funding abortions are both major evils, or, killing doctors and funding abortions are both minor evils. We haven't been able to figure out which yet.
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