Friday April 30, 2010

BC Hospitals Refuse to Release Abortion Data

By Patrick B. Craine

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 29, 2010 ( – Two BC hospitals have refused to divulge information about abortions conducted at their facilities, following a freedom of information request from a major pro-life group.

“If abortion statistics are going to be hidden in British Columbia, they will be hidden everywhere,” said John Hof, head of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) BC, which requested abortion information from Vancouver General Hospital and Kelowna General Hospital over a year ago. “What better way to win an argument – ‘Oh, how can you prove that? There’s no counting of those numbers’.”

CLC has fought for years to gain access to abortion statistics in British Columbia, following the enactment of Bill 21 in 2001, which amended the province’s Freedom of Information Act to specifically exclude access to information about abortion.

After the hospitals refused their request last year, citing Bill 21, Hof and his colleague Ted Gerk initiated applications for the information through the BC Office of Information and Privacy. They are using a ‘public interest override’ in the privacy legislation, arguing that the release of the information is in the public interest and should not be withheld.

They began the process a year ago and were preparing for hearings in May and June, but this week, Hof said, they were “blindsided” by last minute petitions from the hospitals to cancel the proceedings. The hospitals appealed to section 56 of the Freedom of Information Act, claiming that it is “plain and obvious that the records sought by the Applicant will not be disclosed.”

“We believe it’s an orchestrated effort to litigate us out of the process,” said Hof.

Hof and Gerk had each made separate applications against the hospitals, to Vancouver and Kelowna respectively. But Hof said that “it’s not a coincidence that within three minutes both of these public bodies applied for an exemption.”

Hof also said they are “absolutely astounded” that these public bodies are using “such a steel-trap loophole to try and prevent information that the public really needs to know from getting out. They just don’t want anyone to know.”

“What are they hiding? Why don’t they want the information out?” he asked. “Taxpayers are paying for these abortions. Shouldn’t we know how many there are? From an accounting perspective, how do we know we’re not being overcharged and that people are billing for abortions that aren’t being done? If the type of obfuscation that is being applied on the abortion procedure were applied to other medical procedures, it would be unacceptable.”

Prior to the passage of Bill 21, pro-life researchers were able to expose the abortion bias of the BC government through Freedom of Information requests. For example, they were able to learn details about a special government committee called The Abortion Services Working Group, which enabled cabinet ministers to meet with abortion activists. They were also able to discover, while investigating the death of a woman following an abortion at Vancouver General Hospital, that 15 babies had survived abortion between 1995 and 1998, but then died later.

“The public needs to know that there is some accountability going on in the government for the number of abortions that are being done in BC,” said Hof. “Even Statistics Canada cannot report the number of abortions being done in British Columbia because the numbers are ‘too unreliable to report’. Well, we want some reliability put back in those numbers. Why should BC be the province that has no abortion statistics?”

“If they can put the abortion statistics away from public scrutiny, what’s to prevent them from putting anything away from public scrutiny?” Hof warned.

Hof’s warning was backed up by an April 10th op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, which described how the province’s formerly revered freedom of information process has fallen to shambles in recent years.

“Unfortunately, British Columbia’s once vaunted Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act has come to represent not a triumph of transparency but a legacy of betrayed promises, corrupted ideals, cynicism, sophistry and just plain rotten values on the part of the people we elected to govern us,” wrote Stephen Hume.

Hume said that, “Every shred of information gathered, analysed, held, traded or simply squatted upon by government belongs to the people of British Columbia.”

LifeSiteNews did not hear back from Vancouver General Hospital or Kelowna General Hospital by press time.

Contact Information:

Mr. Paul Fraser, QC

Office of Information and Privacy

Commissioner for British Columbia

PO Box 9038, Stn. Prov. Govt.

Victoria, BC V8W 9A4

Phone: (250) 387-5629

E-mail: [email protected]

See related coverage:

Statistics Canada’s “Scandalous” Failure to Report Accurate Abortion Numbers

B.C. Pro-Life Researcher Calls on Province to Release Abortion Info