Margaret Somerville

What is there to hide?

Margaret Somerville
By Margaret Somerville
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“‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised that, for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

Two current abortion-in-the-public-square situations in Canada show abortion is much more than a pro-life versus pro-choice conflict, it’s a pro-democracy versus anti-democracy one.

The furor over Stephen Woodward’s private member’s motion in Parliament to discuss whether the unborn child is a human being has been front and centre in the media. Politicians, including the prime minister, and pro-choice advocates have attacked the motion by insisting either there’s nothing to discuss or debate must be silenced. But these are anti-democratic stances taken in our primary democratic institution, in relation to a foundational societal value — that of respect for human life.

Likewise, a recent change in Ontario law to restrict access to abortion information manifests the same clash between pro-democracy values (pro- freedom of speech, pro-transparency, pro-accountability, and so on) and anti-democracy values (denial of these rights). Contrary to strong contemporary trends in the opposite direction, this change moves Ontario from an earned trust position (“Trust me, because I’ll show you that I can be trusted by keeping you fully informed”) to a blind trust position (“Trust me, because I know what’s best for you and will decide for you, so you don’t need information.”)

Effective January 1,  section 65 the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) was amended to exclude records relating to the provision of abortion services. This means “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.”

All information relating to abortion held by government institutions or departments in Ontario is now secret. We know doctors billed for over 44,000 abortions in Ontario in 2010, but this type of information will in future be hidden from the public.

This change has ethical implications. It might also raise legal issues. For instance, a right to freedom of speech is seriously curtailed if one is prevented from obtaining the facts needed to form one’s opinion. And we often speak of such restrictions, when they are imposed in non-democratic countries, as a breach of human rights.

This amendment to section 65 was slipped in, it seems silently, as part of Bill 122, an act to increase the financial accountability of organizations in the broader public sector, hardly a title that would alert one to its presence.

Hansard does not record any debate in the Ontario legislature or at the committee hearings on Bill 122 on this change. There appear to be no media reports, which makes it unlikely most Ontarians were aware of it and could have expressed their views to their MLAs prior to its enactment.

FIPPA is meant to augment the transparency, openness and accountability of all levels of government for their decisions and actions, and our right, as Canadian citizens, to participate in democracy and democratic decision-making. My guess is that if the same approach were taken to information on breast cancer, people would be outraged.

The Ontario government might have enacted this law as a response to two kinds of fear: The fear that abortion information could trigger violence between its supporters and opponents, and the fear of political fallout if that happened and from the facts on abortion becoming known.

In the past, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has refused a request under FIPPA for information regarding OHIP records related to abortion, citing “danger to life and physical safety”, “danger to security of a building”, “endangering the safety of service providers”, and a danger of pro-life “violence”, if the information were released. On appeal, the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered the ministry to disclose the requested statistics.

A similar situation arose in British Columbia, with an initial denial of access to information on abortion being overridden, on appeal, by the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner. The BC legislature then stepped in to exempt abortion information from disclosure, although the exemption is narrower than Ontario’s.

In 1999, a nurse from Calgary’s Foothills General Hospital leaked confidential documents on terminations of pregnancy on genetic grounds to the Alberta Report. The Calgary Regional Health Authority won an injunction preventing the Report from using the information.

The Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the patients’ and doctors’ rights to privacy outweighed the public’s right to know what goes on in a hospital, which is correct with respect to personal, nominal information.

Apart from the fear politicians have that whatever they say regarding abortion will lose them votes, the Ontario MLAs might also be trying to pre-empt a pro-life argument that has become increasingly prevalent — that we shouldn’t use public health-care funds for abortion. That argument would be much less compelling if it can’t be shown that multimillions of taxpayer funding are being spent on it.

The government might also want to avoid de-funding abortion, because of the highly vocal outrage that would generate in the pro-choice lobby. Or perhaps, politically, they just want the issue of abortion to go away and hope that secrecy of information will help to achieve that outcome. But that’s not how democracy is supposed to work.

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor of Law and Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics & Law and is an international leader in the discussion of complex ethical questions in medicine. This article reprinted with permission from mercatornet.com.

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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