Access to Ontario abortion data secretly blocked, even with Freedom of Information request
OTTAWA, Ontario, May 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life activists in Ontario are outraged after the province quietly passed a bill saying abortion data can no longer be obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
An amendment to the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) was silently slipped in as part of a larger bill titled “An Act to increase the financial accountability of organizations in the broader public sector.”
Part VIII of the 2010 Bill 122 amended FIPPA so that the act “does not apply to records relating to the provision of abortion services”.
Bill 122 received Royal Assent in December 2010 and came into effect in January of this year.
Numerous transcripts from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario record no debate on the issue of restricting access to abortion data in the province.
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“It all happened under the radar,” wrote pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney earlier this month.
Maloney discovered the effects of the new law after recently asking the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to provide some abortion statistics. She was shocked when she received the following response from the Ministry’s office:
“Please be advised that effective January 1, 2012, section 65 of the Act ... was amended to exclude records relating to the provision of abortion services. The effect of section 65 (5.7) of the Act is that individuals no longer have a right to make access requests under Part II of FIPPA to an institution for records in the custody or under the control of that institution relating to the provision of abortion services.”
CFRA 580 conservative host Nick Vandergragt criticized the McGuinty government over the airwaves for stooping to the level of using an “act unrelated” to ban access to abortion data. “Why did he do that? Because he wants to hide that information,” he said.
LifeSiteNews contacted the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care asking why the provision was stuck into a large act seemingly through a backdoor without any debate, but received no reply.
Maloney called the government’s strategy a form of “despotic secrecy,” comparing it to something from the “world of Orwell.”
“[C]an you imagine what would have happened in Ontario if the exclusion clause instead excluded ‘breast cancer services’?,” wrote Maloney in an open letter to Tim Hudak, opposition leader and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
“This would mean that we would no longer know how many women get breast cancer, how many die from breast cancer, and whether or not our Ontario health care system was taking care of women who have breast cancer, and what the outcome was of their breast cancer treatment.”
“The outrage would be deafening,” she wrote.
Dr. Margaret Somerville, professor of law and director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, slammed the Ontario government for making secret “the facts on abortion” in an op-ed piece that appeared this week in the Calgary Herald.
“The government … just want[s] the issue of abortion to go away and hope[s] that secrecy of information will help to achieve that outcome.”
Somerville pointed out the irony of amending FIPPA, an act which is meant to “augment the transparency, openness and accountability of all levels of government,” adding that “we often speak of such restrictions, when they are imposed in non-democratic countries, as a breach of human rights.”
Maloney went a step further than Somerville, noting that the government’s move betrays the title of the Act since “this maneuver actually greatly decreased ‘financial accountability’ since all access to abortion related information in the province of Ontario is now prohibited.”
LifeSiteNews contacted Joyce Arthur, executive director of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, to get her comment on the newly revised law that curtails access to information on abortion, but received no reply.
“To be very clear, this issue is not a pro-life or a pro-choice issue,” wrote Maloney. “It is a pro-democracy issue…it doesn’t matter if you are pro-life or you are pro-choice. The result is that all access to abortion related information in the province of Ontario is now prohibited. It is comprehensive.”
Dalton McGuinty, Premier and leader of Liberal Party of Ontario
Room 281, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Ph: (416) 325-1941
E-Mail: [email protected]
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
4961 King St. E, Unit M1
Beamsville, ON L0R 1B0
Ph: (800) 665-3697
E-Mail: [email protected]
Contact list for all Ontario MPPs here.
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