Note: We would argue that the law was not an attempt to protect “health-care” workers, because no one was ever in danger due to the release of information through Freedom of Information. As this blog contends, the government was embarrassed on numerous occasions through the release of information. But, hey, we’re happy the MSM wrote about it.
The Daily Courier (Kelowna) Thu May 6 2010 Page: A1 / FRONT Section: News
Byline: Ron Seymour Source: The Daily Courier
Pro-life groups expect to hear next week if they can find out how many abortions are performed at Kelowna General Hospital.
The office of the provincial Information and Privacy Commission is supposed to decide May 13 whether the release of abortion statistics on a hospital-by-hospital basis is in the public interest.
“The government doesn’t ban the release of information on the number of any other procedures that are performed in hospitals. They shouldn’t be able to do it with abortion,” Ted Gerk, a member of Campaign Life Coalition B.C., said Wednesday. “What are they afraid of? The concept of open government is crucial in a democracy, and the government shouldn’t be able to make any single topic off limits for discussion.”
A 2001 B.C. law prevents disclosure of anything other than provincial abortion stats, or regional breakdowns if more than one facility in a health authority offers the procedure.
The law was intended to help protect the safety of health-care workers involved in the procedure. Several North American doctors who provided abortions, including a Vancouver physician, were shot in a series of attacks in the 1990s.
Pro-life groups have tried various strategies since 2001 to find out about the number of abortions performed at specific B.C. hospitals. One such attempt in 2005 was rejected by the privacy commissioner, who said it was contrary to provisions in the law.
Now, the pro-life groups are using a new strategy — asking the privacy commission to invoke a public interest override clause in the commission’s own enabling legislation.
Essentially, their argument is that release of hospital-by-hospital abortion statistics is in the public interest because it would help people know precisely where — and how often — the publicly funded procedure is being performed.
“If we’re going to have freedom of information, it has to be all information, not just some information the government chooses to give out,” Gerk said.
The privacy commission had scheduled an inquiry for later this month and June to consider the pro-life group’s public interest-based submission. But Kelowna General and Vancouver General hospitals have now filed applications asking that the hearings not go ahead.
“Interior Health respectfully requests that (the) inquiry not proceed as the commissioner has previously reviewed this matter, and there is no room for further interpretation under a mandatory prohibition to disclosure,” reads part of a letter to the commissioner by IH representative Patty Glaim.
The Commission has advised both the pro-life groups and the health authorities that a decision will be delivered May 13 on whether the previously-scheduled inquiry will proceed or be cancelled.
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