The anti-Ted Gerk bill
The B.C. Liberals team up with the NDP to suppress abortion-related information
The Report Newsmagazine 04-30-2001 by Terry O’Neill
Of all the senior governments in Canada, Prince Edward Island’s is the only one not to have enacted freedom-of-information (FOI) legislation. But while Canada has, for the most part, officially embraced the idea of open and transparent government, the concept has been better in theory than in practice. In fact, the Canadian Association of Journalists maintains ” there are growing concerns about the accessibility of public information in Canada…And many fear the regulatory regime is getting more restrictive every day.”
Evidence of that can be found in British Columbia, where the province’s unpopular socialist government has, in one of its last acts, brought in a bill designed to prevent its opponents from digging up information about a controversial matter of wide concern–abortion.
“This draws an iron curtain across the subject of abortion,” complains Darrell Evans, executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), a non-partisan lobby group whose efforts led to the passage of B.C.’s FOI law a decade ago.
“It says, in effect, that abortion is no longer a proper subject for debate.
Those who want to criticize abortion are now at a severe knowledge disadvantage.”
The FOI changes came as part of a wide-ranging pro-abortion package the NDP introduced last month. Critics say the initiative is a cynical attempt to create an issue to take into the election, widely expected to be held in May.
Trailing the B.C. Liberals by 49 points (66% to 17% among decided voters, according to a Compas Research poll made public April 4), the NDP is clearly desperate to destabilize the Grit caucus (which is home to a half- dozen pro-lifers) and encourage its own feminist allies. For the record, the NDP’s Joy MacPhail says the FOI amendments are needed to ensure the safety and privacy of abortion providers and their patients.
The amendments make it illegal for any government agency to give the public anything but general statistical and policy information about abortion in B.C. If the policy had been in place in the early 1990s, for example, activist Gordon Watson would not have been able to dig up information showing that then attorney general Colin Gabelmann had sworn a false affidavit when he declared he had not been at a secret strategy meeting with pro-abortionists.
But it is probably pro-life researcher Ted Gerk, director of the B.C. Pro- Life Resource Centre in Kelowna, who is the NDP’s prime target. The 40- year- old father of 10 has dug up information about the number of abortions being performed at individual hospitals and the fact that the NDP government has established a secret body called the Abortion Services Working Group.
His most significant discovery came while investigating the death of a woman who had gone to Vancouver General Hospital for an abortion. While corresponding with the vital statistics branch, he learned that, between 1995 and 1998, 15 infants had survived attempted abortions but had died later.
“I was blown away,” he says. “It wasn’t what I was looking for.” But it was information that was highly embarrassing to pro-choicers who are content to perpetuate the myth that the victim of an abortion is not a living human being. Later, Mr. Gerk failed to discover what the gestational age of the abortion survivors was–a fact that could have shown that “late-term” or “partial-birth” abortions are being performed in B.C. on a regular basis.
There is, in fact, a good chance the babies were victims of “genetic terminations”–abortions performed because the parents fear the child may be handicapped. That term became widely known two years ago after this magazine broke the news that nurses at Foothills Hospital in Calgary were growing increasingly distressed at the fact some such babies survived the procedure for a short period and also that some appeared to have nothing wrong with them.
The controversy intensified when the Calgary Regional Health Authority (
CRHA) persuaded a court to prohibit the publication of any new information about the subject. Joanne Hatton, president of Alberta Pro-Life, is still fighting with the CRHA over the release of detailed information on genetic terminations. Ms. Hatton describes the delays as “absurd.”
“They don’t want this information out there,” she says. “It was much better for them when they could just do it and nobody knew about it.” Pro- lifers in B.C. maintain that is also the rationale behind the NDP’s legislation. Pro- lifers say that the less that is known about abortion, the more freely–and irresponsibly–abortion businesses can operate.
But one does not need to be an anti-abortionist to take issue with the new amendments. B.C. Freedom of Information Commissioner David Loukidelis sent a tersely written letter to Ms. MacPhail, pointing out that privacy concerns are already adequately addressed in the existing law and that the government did not seek input from either the Legislature’s special committee on FOI or the FOI office itself. FIPA’s Mr. Evans adds, “Every time you limit the scope of the FOI, you limit what citizens can know. So, gradually over the years, you have this attrition that goes on. And it’s very hard to reverse.”
It is not anything the Liberals seem likely to reverse. Only four B.C. Liberals voted against the bill. “I’m just shocked that the Liberals voted in favour of it,” says Mr. Gerk. “They should have known better.”
What the politicians don’t want the public to know
o What is the role of the Abortion Services Working Group? Is it proper for a representative of the Ministry of the Attorney General to participate in a group that has radical activists as members?
o What is the rate of repeat abortions in B.C.? Is abortion being used as birth control?
o What is the rate of medical complications following abortions?
o How many of B.C.’s 15,000 annual abortions result in the death of the woman? What are the ages of women having abortions in B.C.?
o What are the gestational ages of babies being aborted?
o How many babies are born alive following an attempted abortion? How many then die?
Questions posed by: B.C. Pro-Life Resource Centre
Photo cap: FOI campaigner Evans: ‘This draws an iron curtain across the subject of abortion.’