Secretive suppression of Canadian abortion data ‘obstructs’ democracy: new report
OTTAWA, August 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Gaping holes in Canadian abortion data and the surreptitious passage of legislation in Ontario saying abortion data can no longer be obtained, even through a Freedom of Information request, is nothing other than the “obstruction” of democracy, according to a new report by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC).
“We’ve heard it from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada: access to information facilitates democracy,” states Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel with the EFC. “To block access to information is to purposefully obstruct Canadians from being able to fully participate in the democratic process; and permits politicians to carry on, without accountability to voters.”
The EFC’s new report, “Black Holes: Canada’s Missing Abortion Data,” details the abortion-data-blocking amendments to Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) that came into effect on January 1, 2012, and reports on the nation-wide trend of the suppression of reporting of data on Canadian abortion procedures.
In May pro-life activists discovered that the amendment to 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.
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Transcripts from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario appear to have no record of debate on the issue of restricting access to abortion data in the province.
EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel, Don Hutchinson, questions the tactics used by the Ontario Liberal government, as well as their motives.
“In response to recent questioning by the media, government spokespersons stated the amendment was necessary because abortion-related information is ‘highly sensitive’.
“What does ‘highly sensitive’ mean and what are its limits? Does the Government of Ontario think some topics are too difficult for the electorate to consider? Is knowing the number of abortions performed in the province more intrusive than knowing the number of mastectomies or prostate removals? Do they really think, as was suggested, the release of general statistical data might lead to someone getting hurt?”
The EFC report takes issue with the government’s claim that not releasing the data is in the best interests of the public, specifically that it might affect the availability of abortion because abortionists, or women seeking abortions, will be afraid of “attack, harassment, or threats.”
EFC observes that there have not been any instances of violence related to the abortion issue in the past decade. “Yes, in the past, extremists purporting to be part of the pro-choice or the pro-life camps have committed crimes in tragically misguided efforts to advance their cause,” states Hutchinson. “However, as this EFC report demonstrates, abortion-related violence was exceedingly rare in Canada, even when abortion data was released to the public and media. The actions of a few criminals should not be used as a justification for a blanket ban on statistical data.”
Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel with the EFC, points out that pro-lifers are only requesting access to “generalized data” anyway, rather than data about specific individuals or abortion facilities.
“In the words of Senior Adjudicator David Goodis, ‘to deny access to generalized, non-identifying statistics regarding an important public policy issue such as the provision of abortion services would have the effect of hindering citizens’ ability to participate meaningfully in the democratic process and undermine the government’s accountability to the public,’ ” said Sonier.
The suppression of abortion data extended to the entire country with the release on April 17th of the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) report on induced abortions committed in Canada for 2010, that appear to show a significant drop in abortions from the 2009 report.
According to the 2009 report, 93,755 children were aborted that year, with 30,268 abortions committed in Ontario and 27,139 in Quebec.
The 2010 report indicated that a total of only 64,641 abortions were carried out in Canada, with 28,765 committed in Ontario.
However, the 2010 report had no abortion data at all for the province of Quebec, and gaping holes in the data for all other provinces.
“If one adds in all of the mitigating factors in the CIHI statistics and totals up all of the under and unreported estimates, Canada’s abortion rate could be well over an astounding 150,000,” pro-life activist John Hof had told LifeSiteNews when the CIHI report was released. “Even when records were kept more diligently by Statistics Canada, we never went over 120,000. For them to now say Canada only had 64,641 abortions in 2010 is laughable to the extreme.”
The full text of the EFC report ” Black Holes: Canada’s Missing Abortion Data - A Brief Examination of Canada’s Abortion Data Collection Policies and an Analysis of Ontario’s New Legislation” is available here.
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