Click on the news article you wish to review
»Letter to PM Harper April
»Opinion Statement for 14 May 2009
»Ottawa Morgentaler Clinic letter-writing campaign
»Pope Not Infallible on Condoms
»The Pope is WRONG on Condoms
»Excommunicating the Victims: 9-year-old incest victim’s story
»Letter to Fr Michael Czerny - a British Jesuit online journal
»CFC and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast
»June 12, 2007 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
»June 15, 2007 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
»North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network
»Late Term Abortions
»Abortion as a Moral Decision
»Abortion in Canada -
History, Law, and Access
»Abortion Is a "Medically Required" Service
and Cannot be Delisted
»Abortion Clinics Must be Fully Funded under the Canada
»CATHOLIC GROUP ENDORSES GAY MARRIAGE, URGES CHURCH TO
»Medical Students for choice
»Submission to Toronto Catholic District School Board
»NGO Report on how the Holy See's laws impact Canada's
Compliance with the Convention
»Pellizzari's Article on Emergency Contraception
»Letter to MPs Oct 2004
»Emergency Contraception: Clearing Up the Confusion
»Reproductive health care in Latin America: a Canadian physician reports
April 6, 2010
In a letter released today, Catholic leaders called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider the
government's decision to exclude family planning from the G8 initiative on maternal and child health.
The letter, signed by the president of Catholics for Choice Jon O'Brien and CFC Canada coordinator Rosemary Ganley,
demonstrates Catholic support for family planning services and notes that "Historically Canada has played
a leading role in the campaign to improve the reproductive health of women around the world".
It concludes, "Maternal mortality can be alleviated through wide access to comprehensive reproductive health
care services. It is a basic human right and a matter of social justice to provide women and men access to family
planning and abortion services and information to prevent unplanned and high risk pregnancies."
The letter is available on the website
David J Nolan
Director of Communications,
Catholics for Choice
1436 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Tel 1-202 986 6093
Catholics for Choice Canada
Tel 1 705 748 9756
Back to index
Opinion Statement for 14 May 2009
On May 14th, Ottawa will be the stage for a pro-life march, an action to countermark the 40 years since the adoption
of the Omnibus Bill which amended the laws on abortion and contraception. This march is part of a series of actions
that have taken place since the beginning of February 2009. On each day of Lent, demonstrators have organized vigils
at abortion clinics across Canada and the United States, the origin of the initiative four years ago. These vigils
are the work of anti-choice Canadian organizations who are on a crusade to maintain “good morality”, to respect
life in all its forms including the unborn, and to maintain the traditional family.
As pro-choice groups, the Fédération du Québec pour le Planning des Naissances, Canadians
For Choice, and Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, we are hardly against life, but in favor of women’s rights
to exercise a most fundamental choice, that is, whether or not to give birth. We cannot stand by silently while
these vigils take place.
The demonstrators in front of the clinics are anti-choice religious groups that, on the pretext of respecting life,
show no respect for women’s rights to choose either the privacy or the medical treatment that is their right in
confidence. These demonstrations intend to intimidate and pass moral judgment on the women seeking abortion services
by making them hostages at the entrances to the clinics, tormenting them at the very time and place they seek this
medically and legally recognized procedure. This, despite numerous laws, court decisions and injunctions that have
limited or banned such activities in front of the clinics in order to preserve confidentiality and the right to
privacy for women who face a personal choice that is important for their future.
These recent actions of the anti-choice movement reveal the demonstrators’ complete lack of respect for women.
We are reminded of the recent controversy involving a 9-year old Brazilian girl, pregnant with twins as a result
of being raped by her step-father. After having undergone an abortion, her mother and her medical team were all
excommunicated from the Catholic church. The religious leaders clearly demonstrated no understanding of the girl’s
Moreover, these anti-choice actions remind us once again of the “debate” surrounding women’s rights, most specifically,
the right for women to choose which is necessary for them, the right to equality and respect for their decisions,
the right for a risk-free pregnancy. A woman who chooses an abortion never takes the decision lightly. It is a
complex and difficult choice. This choice deserves our respect and support.
In parallel with these actions, petitions have been distributed, especially by some Catholic school boards, to
propose a new law “to protect the foetus”. Once again, it is inconceivable to us that a number of Catholic primary
schools, all of whom receive funding from our Canadian taxes, would promote such archaic and disrespectful anti-woman
ideas. We mustn’t forget that access to abortion services has saved the lives of countless thousands of women worldwide.
We know that respect for life includes respect for women's lives and their reproductive rights.
For 20 years, women have continued the struggle to guarantee abortion rights in Canada. Many anti-choice threats,
coming from the conservative religious right-wing, constitute a relentless abortion-centered attack which no longer
has legitimate purpose in our society in 2009. Shouldn’t we be moving on to more important struggles?
Fédération du Québec pour le
planning des naissances
Nathalie Parent (French)
Canadians for Choice
Erin Leigh (English), Acting
Abortion Rights Coalition of
Patrice Powers (bilingual):
Joyce Arthur, Coordinator
Back to index
Ottawa Morgentaler Clinic letter-writing campaign
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) has been busy helping spread the word about the letter-writing campaign
on behalf of the clinic. The City of Ottawa gave a permit to the anti-choice forces allowing them to protest across
the street during their 40 Days for Life vigil, as well as have a parade in front of the clinic on Mother's Day.
Please write letters in support of the Morgentaler clinic, and the many women who will be subjected to harassment
by the protestors. Points to include in your letters are as follows, as well as the fax and phone numbers of the
contacts at the City and Police. Thank you for writing! (Also if you're in Ottawa, Planned Parenthood is hosting
a letter-writing evening on Monday April 6, 5-8pm, 251 rue Bank St., #201. For more info, email Melanie at email@example.com
or call 613-226-3234.)
Ottawa Morgentaler Clinic protests - Here are key points for letters to the City of Ottawa, Police, and newspapers:
- Clinic protests violate the fundamental right to access a necessary medical service in at atmosphere of
privacy and dignity.
- Protesters should not be allowed to interfere at the point of access to health services, especially at such a
vulnerable time when women need privacy. This amounts to intimidation of patients.
- Picketers outside clinics increase patients' stress and anxiety, which results in a higher risk of surgical complications,
or which delays surgery.
- Picketing outside abortion clinics is associated with a doubling of the rate of violence and vandalism against
- Women's right to access abortion outweighs protesters' right to freedom of speech in that particular place. [i.e.,
it's a justifiable limitation under Section 1 of the Charter] They are free to protest anywhere else.
- It is completely inappropriate for the City to give a permit for activities that other jurisdictions have prohibited
(i.e., the court injunctions against some protesters at some clinics in QC, ON, and AB, and BC's Access to Abortion
Services Act). The City is endorsing harmful and unconstitutional practices.
Addresses (we recommend sending to the City, with a copy to the Police):
|Patricia B, Permit Services
City of Ottawa
City Operations, Public Works
Traffic and Parking Operations Branch
100 Constellation Cres, 5th Floor West
Nepean, ON K2G 6J8
Tel 1-613-580-2424, ext 28164
|Superintendant K. Roberts
Ottawa Police Service
Central Patrol Division
P.O Box 9634, Station "T"
Ottawa, ON K1G 6H5
Back to index
For Immediate Release
March 18, 2009
Pope Not Infallible on Condoms
The Vatican has yet again been forced to revise statements made by Pope Benedict XVI as he embarked on a foreign
trip. En route to Cameroon on March 17, the pope claimed that condom use would "aggravate the problem"
A transcript of the pope's comments on the Vatican's Web site altered the comment to suggest that condoms "risked"
aggravating the problem.
Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, welcomed the change as a sign that the pope is not infallible on
this issue and is willing to acknowledge his mistakes.
"The pope has admitted that he is unsure whether condoms can help alleviate the spread of HIV. Where there
is doubt there is freedom and Catholics can make up their own minds whether they use condoms or not. Indeed, the
vast majority of Catholics has already made this call and use condoms to protect themselves and their partners
against STIs, including HIV.
"We call on the pope to revisit the teaching on condoms with a view to lifting the ban at the earliest possible
moment. In his review, he should include experts who are unequivocal that condoms can help prevent the spread of
HIV, like UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations around the world.
"Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi noted that the pontiff was merely continuing the line taken by his
predecessors. In 1990, Pope John Paul II said using condoms was a sin in any circumstances.
"It took the church hierarchy 359 years to stop continuing the line taken by their predecessors on Galileo.
We hope that this error does not take so long to change."
Note to editors: This is not the first time that the pope has had to backtrack after making controversial comments
on a plane. During a May 2007 flight to Brazil, Benedict was asked if he supported the excommunication of Catholic
politicians who had voted to change the law in Mexico City to permit abortion. After the pope stated that the excommunication
was final, his spokesman initially suggested that he meant that the politicians had excommunicated themselves.
However, the final transcript was altered to change the meaning completely, making it appear as if the comments
were more general and did not refer to any specific incident, removing "Yes, this," so that the sentence
began, "Excommunication is..."
+1 (202) 986-6093
Back to index
For Immediate Release
March 17, 2009
The Pope Is Wrong on Condoms
Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued a response to Pope Benedict's statement on condom use.
"As the pope traveled to Africa, he chose this moment to make what appears to be his first unequivocal statement
opposing condom use. In an interview on the papal plane to Cameroon, the pope acknowledged the HIV/AIDS crisis
but claimed that the distribution of condoms would not resolve the problem. In fact, he said, condom use "increases
"The pope will find that few Catholics and even fewer medical personnel agree with his stance. Several bishops
in Africa, including especially Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg in South Africa, have been outspoken in their
support of the use of condoms. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that many people who work with Catholic relief
agencies distribute condoms to those at risk of infection.
"While condoms are not a panacea for the problem, they are a critical part of the campaign to reduce the impact
of the virus. Medical experts agree that the condom is a life-saving device: it is highly effective in preventing
HIV transmission if used correctly and consistently, and is the best current method of HIV prevention for those
who are sexually active and at risk.
"For the Catholic hierarchy to deny the role that condoms play in preventing the further spread of HIV is
irresponsible and dangerous. Not only that, the Catholic hierarchy has lobbied governments in the global north
against the inclusion of funding for condoms in development aid programs. The result is to deny the poorest of
the poor in the global south the chance of protecting themselves by using condoms.
"According to a recent poll commissioned by Catholics for Choice, which interviewed Catholics in Ghana, Ireland,
Mexico, the Philippines and the United States, support for condom use among Catholics is overwhelming. When asked
if "using condoms is prolife because it helps save lives by preventing the spread of AIDS," 90% of Catholics
in Mexico, 86% in Ireland, 79% in the US, 77% in the Philippines and 59% in Ghana agreed. Unfortunately, the Catholic
hierarchy's position holds the most sway in the countries least able to deal economically and medically with the
"Catholics the world over unequivocally state that using condoms is prolife and disagree with the Vatican's
ban on condoms. Now is not the time for the pope to be dismissing the importance of condom use. As he travels to
Africa, he will face the realities of the epidemic. Let us hope and pray that he reconsiders and reverses his position,
and in doing so, adopts the truly prolife position that ordinary Catholics have already embraced: using condoms
Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment
to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their
+1 (202) 986-6093
Back to index
Excommunicating the Victims
The Roman Catholic Church stooped to a new low just in time for International Women’s Day. On Wednesday, March
4, 2009, at 10:00 a.m., a nine-year-old girl who was pregnant with twins had an abortion in Pernambuco, a state
in the northeast of Brazil. The Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife was preparing to file a legal claim to stall or
stop the abortion, but it was over before they were able to. The local archbishop, Jose Carolos Sobrinho, told
the media that God’s laws are superior to human laws in declaring that the girl’s mother, as well as the doctors
involved in the abortion, were excommunicated. At a time when a family most needs pastoral care, love and mercy
(not to mention counseling and legal help), their church responds with a theological slap in the face. The Church
is the cause of scandal.
And then the Vatican joined the chorus. Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops,
surprised at the outcry against the local church, defended his brother bishop opining that the twins had a right
to live. Such comments confirm just how out of touch they are. In Roman Catholicism, according to these men, the
law rules; letter over spirit, teachings over persons. One could ignore it, write it off as meaningless, except
it’s hard to pass over the harm done to the people involved. They have suffered enough. They don’t deserve it.
No one deserves it.
Insanity, Cruelty, or Christian Principles?
The details of the case are grim. The little girl went to the hospital with stomach pains only to discover that
she was four months pregnant. Brazilian law allows for abortion if the mother’s life is in danger and in cases
of rape. This case fulfilled the law on both counts, with doctors determining that because the child weighed only
eighty pounds it was doubtful she could carry the pregnancy to term. The girl’s 23-year-old stepfather admitted
to sexually abusing her, something he had apparently done for several years, and there are reports that he has
claimed paternity. He is also suspected of abusing her disabled 14-year-old sister. Police arrested the stepfather
when he tried to leave the area and placed him in protective custody.
My colleagues at Catholicas pelo Direito de Decidir, an international partner to the Washington-based Catholics
for Choice, asked in their editorial whether this was a case of Insanity, Cruelty, or Christian Principles? and
I applaud them for stating the question so clearly and for answering it without equivocation. Let me simply add
indignation, sadness, and affirmation.
It is hard to find words sufficient to convey the moral indignation elicited by the Roman Catholic Church’s actions.
As a Catholic feminist theologian who is pro-choice, I have dealt with abortion for decades. I thought I was inured
to its callousness. Maybe it’s because I have an 8-year-old daughter that I find the Church’s actions in this case
violent beyond defense.
By any measure, the family involved is in big trouble. The father is gone, the mother has at least two children,
one of whom is handicapped, and the stepfather is a sexual predator. It is a recipe for a disaster. The pregnancy
happened because an adult male assaulted a girl child; an oft-told story, tragic every time. The mother endeavored
to do the best she could in a bad situation. Medical personnel handled it according to the law. But the Roman Catholic
Church used the tragedy to make a theo-political point. Have they no shame? Are they so heartless as to kick this
family while it is down?
Whatever their relationship to the institutional church, the archbishop’s claim that those who help procure an
abortion are automatically excommunicated tells this family that the mother is unwelcome, unworthy to receive the
sacraments. One churchman had the gall to note that the church in its infinite wisdom does not excommunicate minors,
so the nine-year-old is still in full communion. Small comfort. What he failed to mention was that the perpetrator,
the stepfather, never even made it to the ecclesial radar screen. I am not suggesting the man be excommunicated;
no one should be. But it is sickening and morally repugnant to realize that abortion, in this case the most humane
solution to a terrible problem, is the cause of excommunication while sexual abuse is not. Something is seriously
wrong with this picture, and it is the Roman Catholic Church.
Is there anyone among you, who if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?
My sadness in this case comes not only from what has been done in the name of God to people who are living a nightmare,
but from what might have been done to help. Sexual abuse, especially incest, is hard to stop. But once perpetrated
it need not be made worse by ecclesial sanction.
A proper pastoral response would include: support for the pregnant child as she lives through an abortion; care
for the mother who is responsible for the child and the rest of the family; protection for the family from the
stepfather whose arrest may trigger backlash behavior; sensitive work with the other daughter who has also been
sexually abused; HIV and venereal disease testing for the girls and the mother; economic support for the family;
counseling for the family, the community, even the neighbors and parishioners who have been affected by this trauma;
prayer and pastoral attention, including reception of the sacraments according to the family’s wishes. They need
a spiritual community more than ever. Instead they got excommunication. “Is there anyone among you, who if your
child asks for bread, will give a stone?” (Matthew 7:9). Apparently there are several in Rome and Brazil.
Excommunication is a recognition that a person has acted in a way that violates the Roman Catholic Church’s rules.
In the case of abortion, it is latae sententaite, that is, the “crime” is so serious that the person incurs it
automatically rather than having anyone impose it. Much ink has spilled over this matter through the centuries,
but wouldn’t you think in a case as tragic as the Brazilian one that good taste—to say nothing of human compassion—would
have zipped the lips of the bishops? We teach children that it is better to say nothing than something hurtful;
bishops, apparently, are exempt from common courtesy.
They claim to know the law of God. But here’s the rub: even if they do, an overwhelming number of Catholics and
others of goodwill do not care. We do not believe in the cruel, vindictive, callous God they cite. Many believers
put our faith in a loving, merciful divinity whose response to human tragedy is to weep not condemn, to embrace
not exile. That is a Catholic view, well-supported by scripture and life experience. The bishops are welcome to
their views, but beware of people who think they know more about God’s will and God’s law than the rest of us.
They are selling a product we are not buying.
I believe that this case serves as further proof that the jig is up for Catholic clerics who dare to excommunicate
a mother who has already suffered enough while they continue to embrace priest pedophiles and the bishops who hide
their crimes. Let this case signal the end of any credible claim to authority such bishops might make, and the
beginning of a new era when local communities determine their own members. I daresay the world will be a safer,
A word of affirmation is in order for the family and people who care about them. There are many pro-choice Catholics
in Brazil including their president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is quoted as saying:
As a Christian and a Catholic I deeply regret that a bishop of the Catholic Church has such a conservative attitude.
The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl nine-years-old. In this case, the medical profession
was more right than the Church.
I am confident that in Pernambuco there are plenty of people who will welcome this family with open arms, both
to help them move forward and to be part of a community of faith if they so choose. In fact, the deeply respected
Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara, a Roman Catholic nun, lives there. She was silenced by the Vatican
in 1995 for suggesting, in an interview with the Brazilian weekly VEJA, that abortion should be decriminalized.
As punishment she was packed off to Belgium to do another doctorate, supposedly so she would toe the line. This
tragic case only makes her prophetic stance more understandable.
If any good can come from this horrendous set of circumstances, it is that future generations will not have to
tolerate either sexual abuse or excommunication because people today are unafraid to call them both acts of violence
and to work to eradicate them. God help us.
Mary E. Hunt
Back to index
In Toronto in 2006 during the World AIDS Conference, I was a volunteer at the booth of "Catholics for Choice",
a dynamic international;NGO with affiliates in 15 countries.
We were offering to surprised and delighted delegates, many from Africa, our magazine,"Conscience",our
lively posters and information and a petition in support of our mission :to shape and advance sexual and reproductive
ethics that are based on justice. reflect a commitment to women's well-being, and respect and affirm the capacity
of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.
I recognized Fr Czerny passing by, and I moved to introduce myself, a Canadian Catholic with many years' experience
in development (Tanzania and Jamaica) His reaction was to turn away without engaging the issues or the materials.
So I was not surprised by this piece, but ultimately desparing of the attitudes of churchmen who hold fast to dangerous
and outmoded ideas of sexual morality, in the face of widepread and preventable suffering and death.
None of us thinks that condoms are a single solution to the pandemic,.but all credible health workers believe they
are a part of reducing the harm.
As one who has critiqued and resisted "Humanae Vitae", for forty years, having organized my first public
protest in Dorval, PQ in 1968,I think I could have hoped for a more enlightened and independent analysis than Fr
Czerny's, and a more liberating one ,too.
Has he really spent time in the slums of Nairobi? Has he followed United Nations Conferences on women? Does he
realize the impact that retrogressive theology has on women's lives?
The most exciting and promising theological work these days is done by eco- feminists,many Catholic. I invite Fr
Czerny to consult this work,
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Back to index
March 27 2008
CFC and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast
Through four pregnancies, and a forty-seven year marriage, I have never been tempted to have an abortion, never
had the necessity to contemplate such a decision. My sons now have a lot of beautiful babies who bring us deep
I had the blessing of a good education in a Catholic college. I was a philosophy major, studying ideas which Basilian
priests taught: the importance of inquiry, the Catholic principle of the inviolability of conscience, and the necessity
to continue to read theology. I grew up in a period of history where Canada flourished under the rule of law and
the Charter of Rights.
Then I encountered the liberating power of the feminist movement, attended an international conference on women
in Beijing in 1995, and spent some time as a journalist. I have had a loyal spouse and an adequate income, good
health care, and six years of mind-altering overseas experience.
Christian Catholic adulthood has had its profound challenges and its rich rewards. In circles of feminists of faith
I have found my community. As for the task for us, Elizabeth Johnson, the Fordham University theologian and author
of "She Who Is" said "When the poorest, most abused woman in a South African township, and her children
are flourishing, our work will be done".
It is a distant dream. But we are clear.
But not helping in these great causes are the men leaders of the Roman Church, my church.
Today, there are other themes I would like to give my time and attention to: ecology and spirituality for one.
But it is exactly women like me, with my privileged social location and past global history who are most called
to defend the rights of other women.
Hence I am fully involved in church and abortion politics. It is surely not in hopes of becoming popular. I am
not invited to discuss these ideas in Catholic institutions: pulpits, schools, colleges, convents, retreat houses.
However I am in the struggle because of the ongoing assaults on women and girls globally; those distressed, poor,
unhappily-pregnant women, faced with terrible choices, made eternally guilty by their cold church and often by
their state; frightened, confused, having been denied proper contraceptive information or having been made pregnant
through force, rape or incest. They are frequently on their own.
We Catholic feminists have a special burden: countering the obtuse and absolutist pronouncements of our church.
In an ironic sense it is perhaps a privilege to be who we are and know what we know, from the inside. Ours is an
international institution with international clout. Many would say an inappropriate misogynist clout. What we influence
here in Canada may affect women globally.
So when I read that Archbishop Prendergast, who is a well-educated Jesuit, had taken a leaf from his ill-informed,
Vatican-compliant, American episcopal colleagues and said in Ottawa that he would excommunicate pro-choice politicians,
I felt bound to speak out and challenge his words. The Ottawa Citizen gave this encounter front-page coverage and
it was followed by a radio interview.
Consider this: a recent report from the Ministry of Health in Jamaica, a country which, like many others, is adamantly
anti-choice, asked the society to begin to consider the decriminalization of abortion. The Committee reported that
clinics and hospitals island-wide are over-crowded and scant public health services are stretched to exhaustion
by hundreds of young girls coming for urgent help after botched backstreet abortion attempts. In Nicaragua recently,
a poor, sole- support woman with three children was jailed, after being arrested at the hospital doors for having
an abortion.My volunteer work with Amnesty International provides me with case after case accounts of the harm
done by anti-woman legislation and hypocritical state attitudes, all compounded by the proclamations of the universal
Roman Catholic Church.
Bishops gain little and risk much from their use of the sacraments as political tools. Sadly, the sacrament of
the Eucharist, holy and mysterious, has emerged as a political symbol. Certainly it has been thus mis-used in Calgary,
in Timmins and now threatened in Ottawa. These bishops, ignoring the valued principle of separation of church from
state, assert that how you vote on legislation becomes sinful. This alienates lay people even further from bishops.
And it will not prevent a single abortion. It has already caused great distress to several sitting Canadian members
And so, Archbishop Prendergast and I have a lot to talk about. I am willing to meet with him at an Ottawa coffee
shop of his choice. But no chancery office for me, too unequal. I will ask him to read beforehand a few articles
by such theologians as Christine Gudorf, Daniel Maguire and Anthony Padovano. I will set up a couple of private
visits for the archbishop at an abortion clinic, to speak with staff, counselors and, with their permission, clients.
I will read anything he proposes I read. But he will have to withdraw his remark that I am not a "normal"
We will do sexual ethics together. Maybe others will join. Perhaps we will pray together, in inclusive language.
It will be civil and searching.
Together I am sure we are capable of contributing to a Canada where abortion is safe, legal and rare.
Back to index
JULY 12, 2007
CATHOLIC GROUP SAYS: DON’T IMPOSE RELIGIOUS RULES ON COMMUNITY HOSPITAL
(MIDLAND): The Huronia District Hospital Board recently voted to merge with the Penetaguishene General Hospital
to become a Catholic hospital. If the amalgamation goes ahead, then the HDH will have to comply with the rules
of the Catholic Health Corporation of Ontario. Those rules forbid any operations or procedures for birth control
reasons, and would rule out abortions, tubal ligations, vasectomies, and the morning after pill.
"The imposition of religious rules on public health care is just wrong" said Rosemary Ganley, President
of Catholics for a Choice-Canada. "Even the majority of Catholics disagree with and totally ignore the Church
when it comes to issues of sexuality. How can Ontario allow the Church to dictate to Ontario citizens of other
faiths, when it comes to publicly funded health care? This should not be allowed to happen in a pluralistic and
Catholics for a Choice-Canada urges the Minister of Health and Long Term Care, George Smitherman, to step in and
ensure that women’s reproductive health services won’t once again be jeopardized.
"In this election year", remarked Ganley, "the citizens of Midland and Penetanguishene will surely
let their politicians know what they think about having to go to Toronto for medical services which have been banned
by the local Catholic bishop in their town".
Back to index
June 15, 2007 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"Yet again, the Catholic Church is trying to bully an international rights group over women’s and human rights"
said Kathleen Howes, spokesperson for Catholics for a Choice-Canada. "It is hard to believe that the Church
would oppose Amnesty International’s work for women’s human rights, especially victims of rape in war torn countries".
Catholics for Choice-Canada, is a Canadian voluntary group working to provide education around sexual and reproductive
health issues and which supports the right of practising Catholics to dissent from official Church policy on these
matters. It has affirmed its strong support of the recently announced Amnesty International policy on sexual rights,
including selected aspects of abortion. Defending the right of women to sexual and reproductive integrity in the
face of grave human rights violations, Amnesty International recently incorporated a focus on selected aspects
of abortion into its broader policy on sexual and reproductive rights.
"We regret but are not surprised by yesterday’s statement from Cardinal Renato Martino in Rome that the Catholic
church urges Catholic supporters of Amnesty International to withdraw support from the widely respected global
human rights organization."said CFC C.
"It is regrettable" said Howes, a Toronto lawyer, " and further marginalizes the Catholic leadership
from the mainstream of human rights work related to women around the world. Not surprising when one looks at the
where policy is developed : in an all male celibate enclave."
"We imagine Catholics will ignore this policy directive as they do many others."
Kathleen A. Howes
Back to index
North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network
210 Memorial Avenue
July 10, 2007
Attention: Ruben Rosen, Chair
Dear Mr. Rosen:
We have recently been made aware of the current situation in the Midland-Penetanguishene area, where the board
of the Huronia District Hospital has voted in favour of a merger with the Penetanguishene General Hospital. This
amalgamation would result in one board structure which would be part of the Catholic Health Corporation of Ontario.
As such, women’s health services would be very seriously affected and many reproductive health services would be
unavailable to women in this region. Any operations or procedures for birth control reasons would be prohibited,
and this would rule out abortions, tubal ligations or vasectomies; in vitro fertilization would probably be unavailable,
and the "morning after" pill and condom distribution could certainly be no longer available.
You have no doubt heard from many people on this issue. Many opponents of the proposed merger have spoken about
the fact that in a pluralistic and multi-cultural society, no religion should be able to dictate to citizens who
are not of that religion. Most certainly, you have been reminded that since the hospitals are publicly funded,
no religion should be given funds to run a hospital which prohibits essential services on religious grounds.
Perhaps, however, no one has yet addressed this important point: even within the Roman Catholic religion, the vast
majority of members do not agree with the "official" policy of the Church on issues of birth control
and abortion. Within the faith tradition, dissent from the Catholic Church’s positions on these issues is affirmed
by Catholic teaching on the principle of conscience.
A poll by the Angus Reid group revealed that fully 91% of Canadian Catholics approve of the use of birth control
and contraceptive devices. The same poll (which was done for Maclean’s magazine) showed that 77% of Canadian Catholics
think that abortion should be permitted in certain circumstances, and 36% thought it should be available whenever
a woman requested the procedure.
Health care is becoming increasingly expensive and financial resources often cannot keep up to the need. For this
reason, hospital amalgamations are often a way to cut down on duplication of services and spread out the funds
in order to serve more needs. However, this should never be done at the expense of women and families. It is most
unfair if the people of Midland and Penetangue have to travel to other regions, or to Toronto, in order to obtain
services which are funded under OHIP but not approved of by the Catholic Church.
We would be more than happy to speak to you in person, or appear at any board meeting which you might like us to
address. Please act to ensure that the women and families of this region do not have to pay the price of amalgamation.
Catholics for a Choice-Canada
cc-The Honourable George Smitherman
Garfield Dunlop, MPP
Jean Trimnell, CEO
Back to index
Late Term Abortions
This paper describes the prevalence of late term abortions, explains the reasons why they are performed,
and argues that any effort to ban late term abortions in Canada would necessarily infringe on women's constitutional
Incidence of Late Term Abortions
The Canadian Medical Association's abortion policy defines abortion as the active termination of a pregnancy up
to 20 weeks of gestation (Canadian Medical Association, Policy on Induced Abortion, 1988). 90% of abortions in
Canada are performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and just over 9% of abortions take place between 12
and 20 weeks of gestation. A mere 0.4% of abortions take place after 20 weeks of gestation. These are considered
late term abortions.
Why Late Term Abortions are Necessary
A very small number of abortions occur after 20 weeks of gestation primarily because the fetus is gravely or fatally
impaired, or the woman' s life or physical health is at risk, or both (Statistics Canada, Therapeutic Abortions,
1995). Many impairments or health risks are not detectable until after the 24th week of gestation. In 1998 an American
Doctor, George Tiller, opposed efforts to ban late term abortions in Kansas, using "statistics and photos
of catastrophic pregnancies he had aborted." The images showed fetuses with missing skulls or spinal cords,
and in one case twins fused into a single body (Dave Ranney, "Tiller: Abortion Bill an Insult to Women,"
Wichita Eagle, April 11, 1998, and Colleen McCain and Dave Ranney, "Five Kansas Families share Deeply Personal
Stories," Wichita Eagle, April 19, 1998).
Those opposed to abortion rights have portrayed women as having late term abortions out of "selfish convenience"
or because they "suddenly can't get into a bathing suit." This misrepresentation of women's decision
making with regard to abortion is always inaccurate, but especially so in cases of late term abortion. Most women
who terminate their pregnancies after 20 weeks wanted to have a child, and were forced to consider abortion for
medical reasons. Other women may be in desperate social circumstances, such as an abusive relationship, or they
may be very young teenagers who have delayed abortion care because they were in denial about the pregnancy.
Who Performs Late Term Abortions
Hospitals and some clinics in Canada perform abortions on request up to about 20 weeks, and a few centres do abortions
up to 22 or 23 weeks. However, most of the very small number of abortions performed over 20 weeks gestation in
Canada are done to protect the woman's physical health, or because of serious fetal abnormalities. Such problems
cannot be discovered until an amniocentesis test is done on the fetus later in pregnancy. Rare abortions after
22 or 23 weeks gestation are also done in Canada for some cases of lethal fetal abnormalities, where the fetus
cannot survive after birth.
Since abortion services after 20 weeks are not always readily accessible in all parts of Canada, women are sometimes
referred to clinics in the United States (Kansas, Washington State, and Colorado). Such procedures and associated
expenses may be funded in full or part by some provincial governments.
Why Late Term Abortions Should not be Banned or Regulated
Late term abortions have been inappropriately labeled "partial-birth" abortions by those opposed to abortion
rights (see Position Paper #5a). These lobbyists are most likely referring to a specific procedure called D&X
(dilation and extraction), which is often, though not always, used in later term abortions in the United States.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was signed into U.S. law by President George W. Bush in 2003. Yet this legislation
has already been successfully overturned because it fails to leave an exception for the life and health of the
Anti-abortion activists in Canada typically mimic the efforts of their American counterparts. Some have suggested
that "partial-birth" and late term abortions should be banned in Canada. The point is moot because this
abortion technique is rarely if ever used in Canada. Late-term abortions done in Canada are generally performed
via induction of labour. In any case, such a ban would infringe on women's constitutional right to the security
of the person. At the same time, it would award politicians more rights than pregnant women as well as their doctors
- making medical advice secondary to political legislation. All medical care, including abortion care, should be
based on clinical standards with the goal of meeting patients' needs and minimizing risk to patients. Physicians
should not face criminal prosecution or imprisonment for providing clinically appropriate care for their patients.
Canada is one of only two countries in the world with no laws restricting abortion. Because of that, Canada serves
as a respected role model for abortion care internationally. Abortion is a health procedure and as such, can be
left up to the discretion of the doctor and patient. It requires no extra regulation, in the same way that childbirth
or heart surgery require no extra regulation. It would be reactionary and counter-productive to pass any restriction
against abortion, because that would endanger women's health and lives, and infringe on women's equality rights
(only women get pregnant, so abortion restrictions amount to discrimination against women). It would also give
the anti-abortion movement something to build on, and agitate from. Abortion opponents target rare cases of late
term abortion, describing it in horrific detail, to evoke an emotional response in listeners. Their ultimate goal
is to restrict all abortion rights. What these lobbyists strategically fail to mention, however, is that banning
late term abortions would force women pregnant with dying fetuses to give birth at great risk to their own health,
undermining both the rights of women and the medical authority of doctors.
Back to index
Abortion as a Moral Decision
by Rev. Debra W. Haffner
January 18, 2005
I recently watched a special about the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It included interviews with advocates,
lawyers, women, and clergy. The only religious leaders were men opposed to abortion rights. It echoed much of the
discussion about moral values following the election: to be against the right to choose an abortion is mostly presented
in the media as the religious and moral position.
It is not.
For more than fifty years, many religious leaders from diverse denominations have affirmed the moral agency of
women. Before Roe, courageous and compassionate clergy counseled millions of women faced with unintended pregnancies
and helped them obtain abortions. More than thirty years ago, many religious denominations passed resolutions in
support of women's right to legalized abortion. During the past thirty-two years, our religious commitment to women's
right to abortion remains the same: women must be able to make their own decisions based on their personal conscience
and faith. It is a commitment that is shared by millions of people of faith across the country.
Today, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing releases a new "Open Letter to Religious
Leaders on Abortion as a Moral Decision." Written by diverse theologians representing Jewish, Protestant,
and Catholic traditions, the Open Letter outlines the religious foundations for affirming abortion as a morally
justifiable decision. It affirms women as moral agents who have the capacity, right and responsibility to make
decisions as to whether or not abortion is justified in their specific circumstances. It addresses such emerging
issues as services for adolescents, provider conscience clauses, and bans on specific medical procedures.
The theologians who developed the statement once again considered how to articulate their respect for human life,
including the life of the developing fetus, while affirming their support for the right to choose an abortion.
They concluded that it is precisely because life is sacred that it not be created carelessly – people must have
access to sexuality education and information, contraception and high quality prenatal care. They recognized that
poverty, social inequities, sexism, and racism must be collectively addressed, for far too many women are virtually
powerless to address individually the circumstances that result in unintended pregnancies. The theologians noted
that religious traditions have different beliefs regarding the value of fetal life, usually according greater value
as fetal development progresses, but affirmed a fundamental teaching of most religious traditions: the health and
life of the woman take precedence over the life of the fetus.
Although many progressives agree that "abortion should be safe, legal, and rare," the Open Letter goes
further, maintaining that we have a moral imperative to ensure access to abortion services. The ability to choose
an abortion should not be compromised by a woman's economic, educational, class or marital status, her age, her
race, her geographic location or her lack of adequate information. Current or proposed measures that limit women's
access to abortion services – by denying public funds for low-income women; coercing minors to obtain parental
consent and notification instead of providing resources for parental and adolescent counseling; denying international
family planning assistance to agencies in developing countries that offer women information about pregnancy options;
and banning certain medical procedures – are harmful to women's lives and well being.
The Open Letter recognizes that in a pluralistic society, the government cannot privilege the teachings of one
religion over another. No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on abortion, nor should the
government take sides on religious differences. More than 40 religious denominations and organizations support
the right to safe and legal abortion. It is unconscionable to legislate specific religious doctrine concerning
abortion for all Americans or for the women of the world.
Ultimately, the decision to continue or to terminate a pregnancy is intensely personal. Every parish-based clergy
person in America works with women, couples, and families struggling with unintended pregnancies or very wanted
pregnancies that become threatened by fetal abnormalities or women's dire health conditions. The Open Letter calls
on leaders of all faiths to prepare themselves to minister compassionately, competently, and justly to individuals
and families faced with pregnancy decisions.
When I became involved with the abortion rights movement over 30 years ago, I did so out of a personal concern
for my life and future. Today, I do so out of a personal concern for my daughter, her friends and my congregants,
but also out of my passion and commitment to relational and reproductive justice. Standing up for our moral values
requires nothing less.
Reverend Debra W. Haffner is the director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.
The Open Letter is posted at www.religiousinstitute.org.
Back to index
Abortion in Canada - History, Law, and Access
By Joyce Arthur (copyright © October 1999)
Canada is one of the very few countries in the world that has NO criminal law restricting abortion at all. We first
liberalized our law against abortion in 1969; then our Supreme Court threw it out completely in 1988. And we've
been doing just fine without it. In the 11 years since we began our great experiment, we've found that doctors
and women exercise the right to abortion responsibly, without the need for any legal restrictions. We don't need
gestational limits. We don't need waiting periods. We don't need parental or spousal consent laws. And we don't
need restrictions on certain types of abortions.
I'd like to share with you Canada's unique history of abortion, how it came to be that we have no law, and what
abortion services in Canada are like today.
First, I must admit that Canada has its share of problems trying to deliver accessible abortion services to women.
Some parts of Canada are run by politicians who wouldn't lift a finger to improve women's access to abortion, especially
around election time. Access is also hampered by our sheer size -- we're the second largest country in the world
after Russia and by far the least populated for our size, and that makes it much harder to deliver accessible abortion
services to all Canadian women. Also, many clinic abortions are not funded in Canada, which forces women to go
to hospitals instead. Unfortunately, hospitals in Canada may not be the easiest or most supportive places to obtain
A second problem is anti-choice harassment and violence, all of it either copied or directly imported from the
United States. Three Canadian doctors have been shot in the last five years, and an American anti-abortion terrorist
has been linked to all the shootings. Canada shares the longest unprotected border in the world with America. Being
so close to the U.S. does have its benefits, but the flow of anti-abortion extremism across our border is not one
I'll expand on each of these issues a bit later -- access, funding, and anti-choice activity -- but first let me
take you on a tour of Canadian history.
History of Abortion in Canada
Canada has a fascinating and unique history around abortion, because a single lone figure -- one doctor -- stands
out as a great Canadian hero, a pioneer who forged the way in the struggle for safe, legal abortion on demand.
Like most other countries, Canada criminalized abortion in the 19th century. The Canadian Parliament banned it
completely in 1869 under threat of life imprisonment. Statistics on illegal abortion are always hard to come by,
but we do know that between 1926 and 1947, 4,000 to 6,000 Canadian women died as a result of bungled, illegal abortions.
By the 1960's, it was estimated that anywhere from 35,000 to 120,000 abortions were being performed every year.
Today, Canada's legal abortion rate is about 100,000 a year.
Pressure to liberalize Canada's abortion law began in the 1960's. It came primarily from medical and legal associations,
but also from various women's and social justice groups, such as the Humanist Fellowship of Montreal, whose president
at the time was Dr. Henry Morgentaler.
In 1967, the Justice Minister of Canada presented a bill to liberalize Canada's abortion law. It would still be
a crime, of course; but the woman could apply for special permission from a therapeutic abortion committee of three
doctors at a hospital, who would judge whether her life or health was in danger. The Justice Minister who presented
the bill was Pierre Trudeau, destined to become one of Canada's most famous and charismatic prime ministers. Trudeau
not only succeeded in liberalizing Canada's abortion law, his bill also legalized homosexuality and contraception,
both of which had been completely illegal up until then. When he introduced his bill, Trudeau uttered what is probably
his most famous line: "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation!"
The bill became law in 1969, exactly 100 years after abortion was first made illegal in Canada. The new law was
an odd piece of work. It gave the medical profession exactly what they had asked for -- legal sanction for the
status quo. You see, in the old days, groups of doctors at some big-city hospitals would get together and approve
abortions by committee. That made it harder to prosecute any lone doctor. So the new law was great for doctors,
but it didn't do much for women. There were immediate and ongoing problems. First, hospitals were not required
to set up therapeutic abortion committees (TACs), so most simply didn't, even if they were the only hospital around.
Second, TACs often took 6-8 weeks to process an application for an abortion, or they would impose quotas. Third,
each TAC would interpret the law differently. The law allowed abortion to preserve the woman's "health",
a vague term that some TACs interpreted conservatively, others liberally, with the result that some TACs approved
very few abortions, while others simply rubber-stamped them all. Fourth, TACs were overwhelmingly male, meaning
that men were dictating the fate of women they had never even met. Fifth, the anti-abortion movement started taking
over hospital boards, and once in control, they would either disband the TAC, or staff it with anti-choice doctors.
So in practice, access to abortion was very unfair, just like it was before the law. The only women who had relatively
good access to abortion tended to be educated, middle and upper-class women who lived in big cities. For the majority
of women who were poor or who lived outside major centres, there was virtually no access to legal abortion at all.
One person who hated the new law was Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a family physician from Montreal, and a Polish survivor
of the Nazi concentration camps. Dr. Morgentaler had lobbied for a change to the old law back in 1967, stating
that women had a basic right to abortion, that it was not just a privilege. After the publicity, a parade of women
started to show up at Dr. Morgentaler's office, pleading for an abortion. At first, he refused -- I'm so sorry,
I can't help you, he would say -- It's a crime, I might have to go to jail. But after awhile, Dr. Morgentaler started
to feel like a coward and a hypocrite. Finally, after hearing about one too many terrible deaths from illegal abortion,
he decided to act. He began to provide abortions to women in his office. Dr. Morgentaler's conscience felt better,
but now he was an outlaw. Even with the liberalized abortion law, he was still an outlaw, because abortions were
only supposed to be performed in hospitals, with the permission of three doctors.
In 1973, Morgentaler publicly declared that he had defied the law by performing 5,000 safe abortions outside hospitals,
without the approval of any committee. He even filmed himself performing an abortion and had it shown on television.
What happened next changed Canadian jurisprudence forever. He was arrested, then brought to trial three times by
the province of Quebec (where he practiced), and three times Quebec juries refused to convict him. The courts were
outraged at this rebellion by the juries against the law, because Morgentaler had clearly broken the law, and even
boasted about it.
At the first trial, the court simply reversed the acquittal, citing jury error. Morgentaler was sentenced to 18
months in jail, where he suffered a heart attack while in solitary confinement. Also during his prison stay, he
was tried on a second set of charges and acquitted again by another jury. There was a political cartoon published
at the time that showed a prison guard pushing Dr. Morgentaler's food under the grill and saying, "Congratulations,
doctor, you've been acquitted again!"
Morgentaler's ordeal created an uproar in the civil rights community, and resulted in a new federal law that prohibited
courts from cancelling a jury verdict. The law was named in honour of Dr. Morgentaler. The government set aside
the doctor's first wrongful conviction, but ordered a new trial, at which he was acquitted again. Finally, after
serving 10 months in jail, Morgentaler was released. By this time, Quebec had a new government, which decided that
the abortion law was unenforceable. They offered Morgentaler dom from prosecution and dropped all further charges
Meanwhile, a growing abortion rights movement was becoming galvanized by Morgentaler's struggle. Hundreds had mobilized
around his legal defence, and his civil disobedience was a major catalyst for the budding feminist movement in
Canada. In May, 1970, one year after the new abortion law, the first national feminist protest took place -- the
Abortion Caravan. Women travelled over 3,000 miles from Vancouver to Ottawa, gathering numbers as they went. In
Ottawa (Canada's capital), the Abortion Caravan held two days of demonstrations. As a finale, 35 women chained
themselves to the parliamentary gallery in the House of Commons, closing Parliament for the first time in Canadian
history. The Abortion Caravan helped politicize and activate women around the country. One group, the Canadian
Alliance to Repeal the Abortion Law, or CARAL, formed in 1974. Today, they are called the Canadian Abortion Rights
Action League -- Canada's only national group dedicated to defending abortion rights.
After Morgentaler was finally d from the threat of criminal prosecutions in his own province of Quebec, he decided
to challenge the law in other provinces. With the help of CARAL and other women's groups, he spent the next 15
years opening and running abortion clinics across Canada, in clear violation of the law. Two of his clinics were
raided by police, and Dr. Morgentaler, along with other doctors, was charged with "conspiracy to procure a
miscarriage". At the 1984 jury trial, everyone was acquitted -- Morgentaler's fourth acquittal! Unfortunately,
Canadian governments and courts are very slow learners. The government appealed, the appeal court squashed the
acquittal, and a new trial was ordered yet again. Now it was Dr. Morgentaler's turn to appeal -- to the Supreme
Court of Canada. Finally, on January 28, 1988, the Supreme Court handed down an extraordinary ruling. Canada's
abortion law was declared unconstitutional, in its entirety. They tossed it out. Dr. Morgentaler's struggle was
over, his actions and principles were vindicated, and all Canadian women now had the promise of complete reproductive
The legal victory was a decisive one. The court fully recognized that the law was unfair, that it presented unreasonable
obstacles to women seeking abortions. The abortion law was in breach of Canada's Charter of Rights and doms, which
guarantees the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. As one of the justices stated: "The right
to liberty...guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting his or her
private life. ... The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a
and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state."
As you can guess, this wasn't the end of things. In spite of the decision's noble language, the Supreme Court actually
encouraged the government to create a new, "improved" law against abortion. A year later, the government
introduced a bill making doctors fully responsible for the abortion decision, with a two-year jail term as punishment
if the woman's health was not at risk. While the bill was being debated and fought over, close to 100 doctors quit
performing abortions, and another 275 promised to quit if the bill passed. The bill was passed in the House of
Commons, but when it went to the Senate, it was defeated there by a tie vote. That's how precarious a woman's right
to abortion was -- after so many years of bitter struggle and our great victory, we almost lost it then and there,
because a hundred politicians, mostly men, figured they had the right to decide on abortion, not women. It was
an important lesson that clearly demonstrates that as long as abortion remains politicized -- not just in Canada,
but anywhere -- women's right to abortion will never be safe.
After the defeat of that bill, the government finally gave up and washed their hands of the abortion issue. They
promised not to introduce a new law again. So Canadian women finally won an unfettered right to abortion upon request.
Or did they? After all, our government's decision to leave things alone was not based on a passionate belief in
a woman's right to choose. It was simply based on distaste for having to deal with anything controversial. I guess
we're lucky to have a do-nothing government on our side for a change, but in politics, you never can tell what
the future will bring. We must always be vigilant.
In the 1990's, access to abortion did improve tremendously. There are now many clinics and health centres across
the country that provide abortions outside hospitals. Abortion is also extremely safe. In fact, I believe that
Canada has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world for early abortions. Even though there's no gestational
limits in Canada, over 90% of abortions are done in the first trimester, only 2-3% are done after 16 weeks, and
no doctor does abortions past 20 or 21 weeks except for compelling health or genetic reasons. Our overall abortion
rate is about 16 per 1000 women of child-bearing age per year, a fairly low rate compared to other developed countries.
And about 80% of Canadian women use some form of contraception (compared to 64% of American women).
Access and Funding Issues
Today, Canada's pro-choice movement focuses most of their work around three issues: access, clinic funding, and
anti-choice activity. I'll expand a bit on each of these, with some examples from different regions of Canada.
Canada is divided into ten provinces and three northern territories. 90% of Canada's population of 30 million people
live within 100 miles of the U.S. border. That's because our great white north is a harsh environment to live in.
This causes serious access problems for many women from northern regions, as well as outside the major centres.
It's common for women to travel hundreds of miles to find the closest abortion provider.
Abortion access is closely tied to hospital funding versus clinic funding. Nearly two-thirds of all abortions in
Canada are still performed in hospitals, although that number decreases every year. Hospital abortions are more
common simply because the federal government pays for them. Provincial governments are required to fund abortions
in clinics, but some don't. Two provinces provide only partial funding to clinics (Quebec and Nova Scotia), and
two refuse to pay a penny (New Brunswick and Manitoba). The Nova Scotia government is so stubborn on this issue,
they prefer to pay $130,000 a year in penalties to the federal government rather than pay for a poor woman's abortion.
Clinics also do fewer abortions than hospitals because there still aren't enough clinics. Part of the problem is
political, and part of it is because Canada's small population means there simply isn't enough demand for abortion
to support independent clinics except in the largest cities. -standing clinics are also not well-suited to small
communities, because it's hard for patients and medical staff to remain anonymous.
Even though so many women must depend on hospitals, it can be difficult to obtain abortions there. Only about a
third or so of hospitals actually do abortions, forcing many women, especially rural women, to travel in search
of an abortion provider. Some hospitals put women through an illegal approval process; some have quotas; a few
require parental consent for surgery on minors (with no exemption for abortions); some will only perform first-trimester
abortions; and some have long waiting lists -- four to six weeks in some cases. Hospitals also require a doctor's
referral for an abortion, which can be very difficult to obtain for women living in conservative areas. Finally,
not only does a woman receive no counselling at a hospital, she may have to face anti-choice medical staff who
disapprove of her decision.
Abortion is the only medical procedure in Canada that does not meet the most basic requirements of the Canada Health
Act, which states that insured medical services must be universal, accessible, portable, and comprehensive.
From Coast to Coast
Generally speaking, access to abortion is the worst in the Maritime provinces (on the east coast of Canada), which
is the poorest part of Canada. When it comes to abortion, the province of Prince Edward Island is our national
disgrace. The government there refuses to provide any abortion services whatsoever. PEI is very conservative and
the Catholic Church also has a strong presence. The province will pay for hospital abortions in other provinces
for women willing to travel, but through luck or design, virtually no hospital in the Maritimes will perform abortions
on women from out-of-province. So, every year, 200 women a year from Prince Edward Island travel to a private clinic
in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, at great personal expense. If they are unlucky enough to be over 16 weeks pregnant,
they must travel to Montreal, Toronto, or Boston. Things are a little easier for PEI women now -- in 1997, a very
long bridge was built connecting the Island to New Brunswick. Now, PEI women can drive across the bridge, have
their abortion, and come back the same day. This is all very nice, but building a bridge to another province seems
an awfully expensive way for the government to avoid their responsibility to women.
Only Newfoundland provides full funding for all abortions, including at its single clinic. By the way, Dr. Morgentaler
is still very busy fighting legal battles in Canada, but his focus has now switched to clinic funding. Recently,
he's been trying to force provincial governments to fund his clinics in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, with no
luck so far. He wins in court, but the governments just refuse to pay. Morgentaler is not one to give up, though.
In 1994, New Brunswick took him to court to stop him from opening a clinic in the province, but they eventually
failed, after numerous court cases and appeals. They even tried to take away his licence to practice medicine,
but that didn't work either. And in Nova Scotia, after Morgentaler announced he was opening a clinic there, the
government passed a law in one day outlawing clinic abortions. The moment poor Dr. Morgentaler started performing
abortions at his brand new clinic, they swooped in to arrest him. What a coup for the government! But their gloating
turned glum when they came out the losers after another endless round of taxpayer-funded trials and appeals.
Because of lack of clinic funding, about 90% of Nova Scotia's abortions are performed in hospitals. In New Brunswick,
hospitals cannot keep up with the demand, forcing many women to pay in full for a clinic abortion, or travel to
another province. New Brunswick's clinic must fly in a doctor every week because no local physician performs abortions.
Back in Morgentaler's home province, Quebec, things are much improved compared to earlier decades. Abortions are
now being performed in 30 hospitals, 11 community health centres, 5 private clinics, and 3 other centres. The private
clinics are only partially funded, but all abortions at hospitals and community health centres are fully funded.
Quebec has a mostly liberal, French-speaking, Catholic population, but the Pope and the Vatican have very little
influence there. Believe it or not, Quebec's Archbishop is in favour of contraception! In addition, anti-choice
opposition is very weak and almost non-existent. Quebec was responsible for the famous case of Chantal Daigle.
In 1989, one year after Canada's abortion law was thrown out, this young woman's boyfriend managed to get a court
injunction preventing her from getting an abortion. Ms. Daigle's case went all the way to the Supreme Court, although
by the time the court ruled on the case, Ms. Daigle had secretly managed to obtain a late-term abortion in the
U.S. The court went on to decide that a father has no legal right to veto a woman's abortion decision.
Ontario, Canada's wealthiest and most populated province, accounts for almost half of Canada's abortions. Most
are performed in five major cities, all in Southern Ontario. However, travel grants are available to women in northern
regions, and a new clinic has just opened in Sault St. Marie (in the north). Clinics have been fully funded since
1991, but in '95, a conservative government was elected, and funding was denied for new clinics. Overall access
to abortion has also decreased in the last four years due to healthcare budget cuts, hospital closures, and mergers
with Catholic hospitals, which deny reproductive care to their patients. Ontario is also a major target of anti-choice
harassment and violence in Canada. One doctor has been shot there, and others have been threatened. In 1992, Morgentaler's
Toronto clinic was destroyed by a bomb.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are called the "prairie" provinces (picture those endless flat expanses
of golden wheat). Again, access is concentrated mostly in the large, southern cities, with the exception of Alberta,
which has clinics in both Calgary and Edmonton, up north. The Calgary clinic suffers from government-imposed quotas,
which force women to wait or travel elsewhere for abortions, even while the clinic's procedure rooms sit empty.
Saskatchewan has no clinics, and until 1992, only one hospital provided abortions, in Saskatoon. After Dr. Morgentaler
threatened to open a clinic in Regina unless the government improved access, the Saskatchewan government finally
started a Women's Health Centre at a local hospital. Anything to keep the dreaded Dr. Morgentaler out! Manitoba
is the only province besides Ontario and British Columbia to have experienced an episode of serious anti-choice
violence. A doctor in Winnipeg was shot in 1997. Morgentaler's clinic in Edmonton, Alberta also experienced a butyric
acid attack in 1996. Butyric acid is a toxic, foul-smelling chemical that is injected inside clinics through the
roof or walls. Clinics in the United States have suffered countless butyric acid attacks.
British Columbia has four clinics, all located in Vancouver. The current government in BC is very supportive, however,
and has designated 33 hospitals throughout BC that must provide abortions. Clinics are fully funded, and the government
has taken steps to improve access, as well as reduce the effects of anti-choice harassment and violence. BC is
the only province in Canada to have legislation prohibiting the presence of anti-choice protesters outside clinics,
as well as doctors' offices and homes. It's called the Access to Abortion Services Act or the bubble zone law for
short. The Act has been challenged in court twice by anti-choice protesters, who believe it interferes with their
dom of speech, but the Act was upheld both times. In Canada, there is no absolute right to dom of speech. The courts
found that the bubble zone law's restrictions on dom of speech were justified, because they applied only in a particular
time, place, and manner to protect a vulnerable group -- women seeking abortions.
Canada has three northern territories, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. All are sparsely populated,
and the majority of the population are First Nations people -- Canada's aboriginals. There are no clinics of course,
because of the lack of a population base to support them, but abortions are available at a single hospital in the
capital city of each territory (Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit). The territorial governments pay travel costs
for women from remote areas.
First Nations women have the highest rates of abortion in Canada, because aboriginals suffer disproportionately
from poverty, unemployment, and other social ills. The real challenge for First Nations women is not access to
abortion, but just fighting for the right to have and keep a baby, and the ability to provide for it adequately.
Indeed, some white doctors counsel First Nations women to have abortions, because they're "too poor"
or "not fit to raise a child." Canada's First Nations people are only now beginning to emerge from more
than a century of oppressive government policies. Today, they finally have some much-deserved political clout in
Canada, and there is hope for more justice and prosperity in their future.
To a large degree, Canada's access problems reflect the degree of conservatism and anti-choice presence we have.
Most provinces have at least some anti-choice activity, but two provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, bear the
brunt of anti-choice violence, harassment, and clinic protests. That may be because governments there have been
publicly supportive of abortion rights and have worked to improve access. In other provinces, abortion services
may not be well publicized. This reduces anti-choice activity, but it also makes it harder for a woman to find
the services. In areas where access is poor, like the Maritimes, the population is more conservative, and people
are afraid to speak out publicly in favour of abortion rights. The anti-choice stay quiet in those situations,
since all they have to do is preserve the status quo. But when the anti-choice are confronted by too many women
exercising their right to abortion too openly and too easily, the anti-choice fight back, and they fight dirty.
In November 1994, the first Canadian doctor was shot in Vancouver, BC, Dr. Garson Romalis. He was shot in his home,
while eating breakfast, by a sniper hiding in the back alley. Two other similar shootings followed in 1995 and
1997, first in Ontario, then Manitoba. All the shootings occurred around Nov. 11, Canada's Remembrance Day holiday
for war veterans, a day that the anti-choice movement has co-opted to memorialize aborted fetuses. The sniper also
struck in New York State twice, once in 1997, and again in 1998, killing Dr. Barnett Slepian. The killer is James
Kopp, an American anti-abortion radical, and he is the main suspect in the Canadian shootings.
Anti-choice violence creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Crimes like shootings, death threats, and
clinic bombings have reduced access, because many Canadian doctors quit performing abortions to protect themselves
and their families. Canada, along with the United States, already suffers from a dwindling pool of aging abortion
providers, who are starting to retire. Young doctors don't remember what it was like when abortion was illegal,
and they don't want to risk their personal safety to perform a medical procedure that doesn't carry as much prestige
or financial reward as other specialties. One bright spot, however, is Medical Students for Choice, which has two
chapters in Canada -- Toronto and Vancouver. This group is working successfully at raising awareness of the need
for abortion training at medical schools.
The right to abortion in Canada now stands on very firm legal ground. The anti-choice have initiated numerous court
cases over the years, trying to obtain legal protection for fetuses, but they have decisively lost every one. In
at least seven major court cases, Canadian courts have ruled that the fetus has no inherent right to life and no
legal protection as a person, until it's born alive. Under Canadian law, the woman and her fetus are one, and the
woman's interests always come first.
In conclusion, I hope that Canada's experiences in abortion law might be useful to other countries that would like
to abolish their laws against abortion. Perhaps the key is to do as we did -- adopt a liberalized abortion law
that is so badly flawed, it violates people's constitutional rights! Unfortunately, although we did get the courts
to toss it out, it took 20 years of difficult struggle, and women suffered in the meantime.
But living without any law against abortion has taught us that legal victories can be hollow without extensive
social and government support to back them up. After all, women can't make a real choice between abortion and childbirth
unless they have genuine access to abortion in all communities, and adequate social supports to help them raise
their kids. Abortion providers can't give women proper access if they're the victims of anti-choice harassment
and violence, or if they have to fight government repression, like Dr. Morgentaler had to and still does. Since
abortion will likely stay political, perhaps the long-term solution is to pass a federal law that declares abortion
to be an essential health service.
In spite of the problems, most Canadian women do enjoy relatively good access to quality abortion services. And
we've accomplished much of that in only 11 years. Canada also enjoys a high approval rating for abortion. Almost
80% of Canadians believe that abortion is a private matter between a woman and her doctor, compared to less than
60% of Americans. Because we have virtually no restrictions against abortion, we've been able to spend our time
working on access and funding issues, instead of fighting oppressive laws, which is what our American friends must
do. Restrictions such as consent laws, waiting periods, and the like are simply cruel and unnecessary obstacles
that impede a woman's ability to get a safe, early abortion.
There is no question that the absence of restrictive laws against abortion places the struggle for abortion rights
on the fast track to success. Those rights can be compromised if the government is not fully committed to fulfilling
them. But I believe that abolishing all laws against abortion is a crucial first step to ensure safety and access,
and to promote social and political tolerance of abortion.
References / Bibliography
Arthur, Joyce. 1998. The Morgentaler Decision: Happy 10th Anniversary. Pro-Choice Press, Winter 1997/98. Vancouver,
Bowes, Nancy, Varda Burstyn and Andrea Knight. 1998. Access Granted: Too Often Denied. A Special Report to Celebrate
the 10th Anniversary of the Decriminalization of Abortion. Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL): Ottawa,
BC Coalition for Abortion Clinics. 1990. Submission to the Legislative Committee of Parliament on Bill C-43, an
Act Respecting Abortion. Vancouver, BC.
British Columbia Task Force on Access to Contraception and Abortion Services. 1994. Realizing Choices. Province
of British Columbia: Victoria BC.
Childbirth by Choice Trust. 1999. Abortion in Canada Today: The Situation Province-by-Province. http://www.caral.ca/situation1.html
Childbirth by Choice Trust. 1995. Abortion in Law, History, and Religion. http://www.cbctrust.com/abortion.html
Childbirth by Choice Trust. 1999. Chronology of Court Cases. http://www.cbctrust.com/chronolo.pt1.html
Childbirth by Choice Trust. 1995. Contraceptive Use in Canada. http://www.cbctrust.com/contraceptive.html
Collins, Anne. 1985. The Big Evasion. Abortion: the Issue That Won't Go Away. Lester & Orpen Dennys: Toronto,
Day, Shelagh, and Stan Persky, eds. 1988. The Supreme Court of Canada Decision on Abortion. New Star Books, Vancouver,
Dunphy, Catherine. 1996. Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero. Random House of Canada: Toronto, ON.
Grogan, Pat. 1989. Interview with Canada's Dr. Henry Morgentaler (1984). In Abortion Is A Woman's Right! Pathfinder:
New York, NY.
Mitchell, Rosanne. 1987. The Decriminalization of Abortion: A Report to the Law Reform Commission of Canada. Vancouver,
National Abortion Federation. Canadian NAF News. Issues #1 to #5, 1997-1999.
Personal correspondence. 1999. Various provincial CARAL representatives.
Pro-Choice Action Network. 1998. History of Abortion in Canada. Pamphlet. http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/history.html
Schlesinger, Dr. Benjamin. 1962. Why Abortion Should Be Legalized in Canada. Liberty Magazine (July).
Wright Pelrine, Eleanor. 1975. Morgentaler: The Doctor Who Couldn't Turn Away. Gage Publishing, Canada.
Back to index
Abortion Is a "Medically Required" Service
and Cannot be Delisted
The following arguments explain why all abortions are medically required and must be fully funded by provinces
under the Canada Health Act, whether performed in hospitals or clinics.
What does "medically required" mean?
The federal government or the courts have never defined what "medically necessary" means, other than
the circular definition in the Canada Health Act - "medically necessary is that which is physician performed".
The provinces decide what is medically necessary under the Act, by creating a list of insured services, which are
then automatically deemed medically necessary. In practice, however, politicians alone do not decide what is medically
necessary; listed services must be negotiated between physicians and government. So even if a province wanted to
delist abortion, they would have to get the cooperation of a medical organization, usually the College of Physicians
and Surgeons or the provincial chapter of the Canadian Medical Association.
Women's lives and health are at stake
Abortion services are a critical component of public health programs, since many women will otherwise risk their
lives to obtain unsafe, illegal abortions. Legal abortion literally saves women's lives and protects their health,
making the service an integral part of women's reproductive health care. (No Choice: Canadian Women Tell Their
Stories of Illegal Abortion. Edited/published by Childbirth by Choice Trust, 1998.)
Abortion is not an elective procedure
Pregnancy outcomes are inescapable and time-sensitive. Neither childbirth nor abortion are "elective"
because unlike elective procedures, a pregnant woman cannot simply cancel the outcome, or wait till next year.
Once a woman is pregnant, she must decide relatively quickly to either give birth or have an abortion. Abortion
in particular is very time-sensitive. Even waiting a few weeks increases the medical risk of the procedure. Dr.
Henry Morgentaler has said: "Every week of delay increases the medical risks to women by 20 percent."
Access to abortion is a constitutional right
Abortion is unlike any other medical procedure-legal, accessible abortion is also a Charter right guaranteed to
women to protect their liberty, equality, and bodily security, as per the Supreme Court's Morgentaler decision
in 1988, which struck down Canada's old abortion law. Not funding abortions would infringe on that right and impair
access. This is precisely why the court threw out the old law, because it obstructed access and treated women unfairly.
Although the court did not address the funding of abortion specifically, if it ever becomes necessary, a strong
legal argument can be made that defunding abortion would have the same effect and therefore the same constitutional
problems as the old abortion law.
Significantly, the Charter guarantees equality for women, and this clause has played a role in several court
decisions that have upheld the right to abortion. A look at what happened in Saskatchewan in 1991 is also instructive.
The province held a referendum on abortion funding during the provincial election, and 63% voted to de-insure abortion
services. The conservative government lost the election, however, and when the victorious NDP stepped in, they
commissioned lawyers to review the referendum results and offer advice. The lawyers decided that defunding abortion
would probably not survive a Charter challenge because it would discriminate on the basis of sex. That's because
only women can get pregnant and only women need abortions. The Saskatchewan government never acted on the referendum.
Defunding abortion discriminates against low-income women
Anti-choice people claim that if abortion services were defunded, it would not discriminate against poor women.
They say that most women will find the money anyway, as has been shown in the United States, which banned Medicaid
funding for low-income women in 1976 with the Hyde Amendment. But recent research in the U.S. shows that only 80%
of poor American women who want an abortion actually get one. This discriminatory and tragic U.S. policy cannot
be held up as a model for Canada. Women's equality rights are enshrined in our constitution, unlike in the U.S.
Plus, the values embodied in Canada's universal healthcare system are very different from the U.S.'s profit-driven
system. In Canada, funded healthcare is a right, not a privilege. And under the 1988 Morgentaler decision, all
women-not just the well-off-must have the right to access abortion services in a fair and equitable manner.
All abortions are "medically required," not just some
Everyone agrees that at least some abortions are medically required, i.e., those performed to save the woman's
life or health. That means the government and medical profession would be forced to decide which abortions are
medically necessary and which are not, based on women's reasons for abortion. This is an impossible task, and one
that medical organizations have refused to do. The lesson learned in Alberta in 1995 was that these groups refuse
to go along with the government when it tries to delist some or all abortions. Physician groups do not want to
formally define any categories, because they believe such things should be left to the discretion of individual
doctors. It's a matter of professional medical judgment, based on the patient's particular circumstances and needs.
Regardless, the doctors who actually perform abortions would be the first to attest that all abortions are medically
necessary. Health, after all, is defined broadly in our society. It encompasses not just physical health, but mental
and emotional health as well. All abortions would qualify under such criteria.
All pregnancy outcomes must be funded equally
Anti-choice people often say that pregnancy is not a disease and that abortion is a lifestyle choice-therefore,
it is not medically necessary. However, the same arguments can be made for childbirth. There are no medical reasons
for a woman to get pregnant and have a baby. She does so because she chooses to, often for socio-economic reasons.
Anti-choice people might protest that there are "two patients" in a pregnancy and that abortion harms
at least one of them. But Canadian courts have ruled decisively that fetuses are not legal persons with rights.
Also, if the government were to de-insure abortion without also de-insuring childbirth, it would in effect be making
the "lifestyle choice" for women. But such a move would bring us right back to the 1988 Morgentaler decision
and the issues of unequal access, arbitrary obstacles, and discrimination against women.
Also, the co-opting of the word "choice" by anti-abortionists to marginalize the medical necessity
of abortion is inappropriate and irrelevant. Every medical procedure is essentially a choice-people have the right
to opt out, even if it means choosing death instead.
Unwanted pregnancies are costly
If abortion were de-funded, more women would be forced to carry to term. But the medical costs of childbirth are
at least three times higher than the medical costs of abortion, and the social costs of raising unwanted children
are prohibitive. According to U.S. figures, for every $1 spent by government to pay for abortions for poor women,
about $4 is saved in public medical and welfare expenditures resulting from the unintended birth. Known risks of
unintended birth include inadequate prenatal care, smoking and drinking during pregnancy, low birth-weight babies,
and increased medical risks and poor social outcomes for pregnant adolescents and their babies. (www.cbctrust.com/ECONOMIC.html).
Compared to wanted children, unwanted children are up to four times more likely to have an adult criminal record,
and up to six times more likely to receive welfare between ages 16 and 21 (www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/civilize.shtml).
Opinion polls are not relevant to the abortion funding issue
Opinion polls commissioned by anti-abortion groups show that a majority of voters do not want to pay for abortion
procedures. But if equitable access to legal, safe abortion is a constitutional right for women, and if provinces
and medical groups are responsible for deciding which treatments will be funded as medically necessary, that means
the public has no business voting to defund abortion. Women's basic rights and doms must not be subjected to a
vote by the electorate.
Further, if a majority of taxpayers really don't want to fund abortion, that may just indicate a misunderstanding
of the issue by the public, rather than an informed and reasonable perspective. The public has been subjected to
relentless anti-choice propaganda for years. As a result, many misconceptions about abortion have made their way
into the mainstream, such as the notion that women who have abortions are irresponsible and promiscuous. Such misconceptions
contribute to the belief that abortion should not be funded.
Back to index
Abortion Clinics Must be Fully Funded under the Canada Health Act
Private abortion clinics do NOT violate the Canada Health Act or the principles of universal Medicare.
1. Abortion services have been deemed "medically required" by all provinces.
This means that all abortions must be publicly funded, regardless of where they are performed, in hospitals or
clinics. Abortion clinics fall under the category of "hospitals" in the Canada Health Act because they
deliver a medically required hospital service. That means that any private clinic delivering a medically required
service normally provided at hospitals must have that service fully funded by Medicare. The difference between
hospital care and private clinic care then becomes moot, since it no longer results in "two-tier" medicine.
Private abortion clinics can become fully integrated into our public healthcare system simply by becoming publicly-funded.
2. The politicizing of abortion led to the current situation of one-half of all
abortions in Canada being performed at mostly private clinics. Abortion clinics opened in the first place because
hospitals were failing to provide adequate services on a fair and equal basis for Canadian women. People like Dr.
Henry Morgentaler were forced to open private clinics and work outside the system, just to provide quality accessible
services to women. Regardless of why they exist, the clinics are here to stay, and they deserve to operate as part
of the publicly-funded system. Further, abortion clinics must remain in private hands as long as abortion is still
politicized in Canada, because an anti-abortion provincial government cannot be trusted to operate public abortion
3. Countless other private "for-profit" businesses are already an integral
and major part of our universal Medicare system-private doctors' practices. Abortion clinics (some of which have
non-profit status) can be compared to private doctors' practices in this context. The main difference is that abortion
clinics have higher overheads because they do surgery, including extra costs for nurses, drugs, counseling, and
equipment. All these costs should be publicly funded via an operating budget from the Ministry of Health, in the
same way that a private radiology lab receives additional funds to cover their operating and equipment costs.
4. Abortion is unique from many other medical treatments in that dedicated clinics
are actually better at providing the service than hospitals, generally speaking. In fact, abortion clinics serve
as an excellent, proven model showing the effectiveness of publicly funded, privately delivered health care. Abortion
clinics are fully accredited and accountable to their provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as
to local health authorities. Abortion clinics usually offer important services not available in hospitals, such
as counseling, supportive pro-choice care, 24-hour on-call service, birth control support, reproductive health
screening, and more cost-effective aftercare when required. In contrast, hospitals have longer waiting lists, most
require a doctor's referral, many impose some restrictions on abortion services, they can fall victim to anti-abortion
politics, and they usually feature a sterile and sometimes judgmental environment, with insufficient privacy and
compassion for women. (Public hospitals do play a crucial role in providing two-thirds of all abortions in Canada,
and enjoy a few advantages over clinics. )
5. Several private abortion clinics in Canada are still not fully funded (five or six
in Quebec, one in New Brunswick) and women must pay out-of-pocket for their abortions. Although this amounts to
illegal user fees, this is the provincial governments' fault. The clinics have been begging for public funding
for years. For political reasons, these provinces are violating the Canada Health Act and women's constitutional
rights by refusing to fund clinic abortions, and the federal government has failed to penalize these provinces
by withholding transfer payments.
6. Opponents of privately-delivered healthcare often cite higher overall costs to the
consumer, but this criticism is based on the assumption that private clinics are profit-driven and charge user
fees. This doesn't apply to publicly-funded abortion clinics. Besides, abortions at clinics are significantly more
cost-effective than abortions at hospitals (mostly because hospitals tend to use general anaesthesia rather than
local anaesthesia). The average cost for an early surgical abortion at a clinic is about $500, while the cost for
the same abortion at a hospital can exceed $1000. Further, in response to opposition to "for-profit"
healthcare, we should note that any private clinic, whether publicly funded or not, can choose to operate as a
non-profit entity (or could even be required to operate that way by the government).
1. Arthur, Joyce. Spring 2002. Untangling the Canada Health Act. Pro-Choice Press. www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/02spring.html#untangling
2. Whether a particular service might be sometimes medically required and sometimes not (e.g., MRI's) is a separate
issue with no relevance to abortion. All abortions are medically necessary, since it is impractical and discriminatory
to separate out abortions done for "social" reasons from those done for "health" reasons. Besides,
childbirth and pre- and post-natal care are fully funded under Medicare, even though "pregnancy is not a disease"
and people have children for largely social reasons. All pregnancy outcomes must be fully funded on an equal basis
in order to guarantee women's reproductive rights and equality.
3. Other examples of private entities (often for-profit) that receive public funding for medically required services
and facility overheads, include walk-in medical clinics, laboratories, and some hospitals.
4. Arthur, Joyce. Spring 2002. Clinics Are Better Than Hospitals-Really! Pro-Choice Press. www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/02spring.html#hospitals
5. Hospitals have better security from anti-choice protests and immediate access to emergency care in case of complications.
Abortion-providing hospitals are also integral as training centres for new abortion providers. As a proven model
for future clinics, we support self-contained clinics inside hospitals where feasible, such as the C.A.R.E. Program
at BC Women's Hospital, and the Women's Services Clinic at Kelowna General Hospital in BC. These facilities combine
the advantages of a standing clinic with a hospital's protection from political interference and denial of funding.
6. We can't speak for the cost-effectiveness of other private clinics that provide other types of healthcare. It
may well be that private clinics, in general, end up costing the consumer more. If so, abortion clinics would be
the exception to the rule.
Back to index
CATHOLIC GROUP ENDORSES GAY MARRIAGE,
URGES CHURCH TO DO SAME
January 21, 2005
TORONTO: "Catholics for a Choice-Canada" is dismayed that the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese
of Toronto, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic has written an open letter to the Prime Minister, Paul Martin in opposition
to human rights for Canadian gays and lesbians. Ambrozic urges that the Canadian government postpone the issue
of gay marriage for five years, so that the matter can be debated openly among Canadians.
"We believe firmly that human rights can be accommodated in a civil society, and that the Catholic Church
can and should be a diverse and inclusive community where all are welcomed", said Kathleen Howes, spokesperson
for Catholics for a Choice-Canada. "In this case, justice delayed is justice denied".
She noted that Cardinal Ambrozic stated in his letter that dom of conscience is fundamental to our society. "The
Catholic Church doctrine decrees that every person must ultimately act according to his or her conscience,"
she said. "But some bishops have threatened excommunication for any politician who endorses gay or lesbian
marriage. In fact, in 2003 the Vatican issued an edict advising Catholics, and in particular, Catholic politicians,
around the world to oppose same sex marriage."
For many years, members of Catholics for a Choice have insisted on the right of Catholics to follow their consciences
on issues such as birth control, abortion, reproductive rights and other sexual issues, notwithstanding the official
doctrine of the institutional Church.
"We hope that the Catholic Church will not be selective as to when Catholics are entitled to follow their
conscience", said Howes.
CONTACT: Kathleen Howes
Back to index
CFC-C Presents Workshop to the First Annual Canadian
Conference of "Medical Students for Choice"
Various medical schools across Canada have chapters of "Medical Students for Choice"
active on their campuses, but the first annual meeting of all the Canadian chapters was held in London, Ontario
on February 8 and 9, 2003.
The conference participants were greeted warmly by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and this was followed by
a keynote speech by Judy Rebick, who currently holds the CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice at Ryerson University,
and who had been in the forefront of the struggle for reproductive rights. A short video entitled "The Issue
is Choice" was also shown.
CFC-C had an information table set up throughout the weekend at the "Reproductive Choice Information Fair'.
Two of our members also presented a workshop entitled "Religion and Abortion", which was well attended
and very well received by the participants. In the workshop, which was presented by a family physician and a lawyer,
the presenters outlined the history of Catholic doctrine on reproductive issues such as contraception and abortion,
and also the various lobbying and educational activities of Catholics for a Choice were discussed. This was followed
by a practical examination of the ethical issues which may confront both a patient and a physician when a woman
is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, and how a doctor or other medical services provider might deal with these.
The CFC-C presenters and the participants then had an interesting discussion on the primacy
of conscience and Catholic Church teachings on abortion and birth control.
Back to index
to Toronto Catholic District School Board
by the Catholic Network for Women's Equality
and Catholics for a Choice-Canada
regarding Hallowe'en Fund-raising
February 6, 2003
In 1996, the Vatican cut off its annual contribution to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), charging that
the UN agency was involved in the distribution of contraceptives contrary to Catholic church teaching. It called
upon Catholics to review their support of the charity, but did not issue any directives on the subject.
As a result, some Catholic school boards have decided not to allow the collection for UNICEF by children at Hallowe'en.
The Toronto District Catholic School Board (TDCSB), voted on this issue at meetings held on July 18, 1997 and August
20, 1998. The Trustees agreed at those times that the only charities for which Toronto area Catholic children could
collect funds at Hallowe'en were:
1. The Holy Childhood Association;
2. Development and Peace, and
3. Aid to Women.
This policy has not been changed since that time. The purpose of this submission is to request that the TDCSB re-open
this issue, and either allow children to collect again for UNICEF, or at the least, replace "Aid to Women"
with another charity.
We understand that representatives of UNICEF will be making a presentation to the TDCSB regarding its use of funding,
and so we will not elaborate on that in this brief. Suffice it to say that UNICEF endorsed the 1994 Cairo International
Conference on Population and Development, which made it clear that family planning programmes must be a part of
a wider approach to improved child survival, safe motherhood and reproductive health. While the Vatican may try
to coerce UNICEF and other agencies to follow its positions on family planning, the overwhelming majority of Catholics
themselves reject these positions. A 1993 Angus Reid Group poll indicated that 91% of Canadian Catholics approve
of the use of birth control and contraceptive devices, and a Gallup Canada survey in the same year showed that
only 10% of Canadian Catholics agree that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.
UNICEF is an internationally known agency whose mission/purpose is to help the children of the world. It is a non-denominational
charity, and one which is easily recognized by average donors, such as the people who would be handing out candy
and funds to trick-or-treating children. The UNICEF boxes which children use on Hallowe'en and which are part of
a fund-raising campaign are well known, and donors do not expect to see any other kind of fund-raising at their
doors on Hallowe'en. In addition to this, Toronto is perhaps the most multi-cultural city in the world, and many
Hallowe'en donors who are happy to donate to a non-denominational charity, do not want to give to a charity with
religious ties. We submit that it is misleading to have children collect for charities other than UNICEF, unless
this difference is clearly pointed out to the donor. This is unlikely to be done by the children, who also should
not be put in the position of being rebuffed at the door by donors who may not agree with the charity for which
they are collecting.
"AID TO WOMEN"
"Aid to Women" is the operating name of a non-profit corporation called "Lifeline". It has
a charitable tax number, and describes itself as a "pregnancy crisis centre". It is located at 300 Gerrard
Street East, in Toronto, on the upper floor of a two-story semi-detached building. The occupant of the other half
of this semi is the "Cabbagetown Women's Clinic", a health facility funded by the Ontario Ministry of
health. Health professionals at this clinic provide birth control counseling and perform abortions.
"Aid to Women"used to share accommodation with an organization called "The Way Inn", which
was located immediately beside another abortion clinic on Harbord Street in Toronto. "The Way Inn" was
begun by a Baptist minister named Ken Campbell and was a centre for anti-abortion activism. In 1989, an injunction
was obtained, restraining all anti-abortion activity in front of that abortion clinic. In 1992, the abortion clinic
was bombed and no suspects have ever been charged.
2. Violations of Injunction
Joanne Dieleman, a volunteer at "The Way Inn", a founding member of "Aid to Women"and a member
of the Canadian Reformed Church, was one of the persons named in a second injunction, which was issued in 1994
to restrain anti-abortion activities in the vicinity of abortion clinics or doctors' homes. This injunction is
still in effect, and prohibits anti-abortion activities within 500 feet of doctors' homes, within 25 feet of doctors'
offices, and within 60 feet of two clinics and 30 feet of a third clinic. Both injunctions were obtained in order
to deal with the harassment of patients and clinic workers at the legal abortion clinics and to stem the violence
which so often occurred at these clashes.
Volunteers and staff at "Aid to Women" carry out what they call "sidewalk counseling". They
approach women who may be headed towards the legal abortion clinics and attempt to divert them into the "Aid
to Women" offices. This is often done in violation of the injunction. It always involves the violation of
the privacy of women seeking medical services. The volunteers of "Aid to Women" call out to and importune
these patients, hold up placards and aggressively attempt to hand out pamphlets to passers-by. Some volunteers
purposely mislead the patients, who go into the "Aid to Women" offices thinking that they are going into
the abortion clinic. Dieleman estimated that as many as five women a day have mistakenly gone into "Aid to
Women" (Catholic Insight, October 2001). The abortion clinic often has volunteers usher in the patients, so
that they do not have to endure the emotional tirade of the "Aid to Women" volunteers alone, and do not
mistakenly end up in the "Aid to Women" offices.
The injunction is frequently violated. Another of the volunteers at "Aid to Women" is Linda Gibbons,
also a member of the Christian Reformed Church. She has purposely violated the injunction and has served time in
jail for the violations (Interim, July 1999).
3. St. Michael's Hospital Disassociates itself from "Aid to Women"
The actions of "Aid to Women" volunteers have often contributed to a general atmosphere of violence.
On one occasion in the summer of 2002, volunteers from "Aid to Women" intercepted a patient who had an
appointment at the Cabbagetown Women's Clinic, and took her to St. Michael's Hospital in order that she not continue
with a medical termination which had already been started. This lead to an altercation in the hospital, as "Aid
to Women" and the patient's support worker argued over the apparent abduction of this woman (who went on to
terminate the pregnancy), resulting in a call to the police and charges being laid against the support worker.
As a result of this Dr. Phillip Berger, Chief of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael's Hospital stated
in a letter dated August 30, 2002 to the manager of the Scott Clinic (another clinic which provides medical termination
of pregnancies) that:
"As of today, SMH Family Practice Unit physicians will not accept referrals on behalf of patients from "Aid
to Women" or persons known to be associated with "Aid to Women".
4. Misleading the public
As has been mentioned, the collection boxes for "Aid to Women" are very similar to the familiar UNICEF
orange and black box. Donors would not know the difference, on a dark doorstep. In addition to this, "Aid
to Women" does its own door to door fund raising, at which time it represents itself as a "women's shelter"
(as the name would suggest). Some teachers and principals of Toronto area Catholic schools, when asked about "Aid
to Women", also thought that this was a women's shelter.
5. Legal challenges to "Aid to Women"
"Aid to Women" currently has charitable tax status, but a number of complaints have been lodged with
Canada Customs and Revenue Agency in an effort to have this status revoked on the grounds that it is a political
group with the aim of re-criminalizing abortion. Charitable tax status has already been revoked from Human Life
International and Alliance for Life, anti-abortion groups with similar goals.
"Aid to Women" received $9,000.00 from the Hallowe'en collections in 2000 (Interim, October 2001) and
$3281.00 in 1998 (Revenue Canada return). The collection boxes are very similar to those of UNICEF, being black
and orange, with a picture of a mother and a child shown on it. They are virtually indistinguishable, especially
on a doorstep at night. We submit that the vast majority of people who put money into these boxes thinks that the
donation is to UNICEF, and that it is misleading for the Toronto District Catholic School Board to be involved
in this intentional confusion carried out by "Aid to Women". Indeed, some teachers and principals of
Catholic schools seem themselves to be confused about "Aid to Women", as some of them told parents that
it was a shelter for abused women
There have also been allegations made that "Aid to Women" volunteers hold themselves out as medical practitioners.
Anyone who misrepresents himself or herself as a health care professional is committing a serious breach of ethical
and legal standards. A former patient of the Cabbagetown clinic, who was lured into "Aid to Women" offices
under false pretenses has indicated her intention to lay a complaint before the College of Physicians and Surgeons
regarding this allegation.
We urge the TDCSB to reinstate its support for the Hallowe'en UNICEF collections. UNICEF is an important and respected
charity whose goals are widely supported by Catholics. Hallowe'en donors have come to expect to see UNICEF boxes
at the doorstep on Hallowe'en, and it is misleading to have a collection for another charity, especially when the
collection boxes for the two are so similar. Finally, Toronto is a multi-cultural and pluralistic city, and it
is not appropriate to collect funds for Catholic charities from non-Catholics.
However, even if the TDCSB continues its ban on UNICEF Hallowe'en collection, we should not associate our children
or our religion with a group as controversial as "Aid to Women". There are many other charities with
the goal of aiding pregnant women continue their pregnancies, which are in fact associated with the Catholic religion
(such as Rosalie Hall, a home for unwed mothers). A Catholic charity such as this one should replace "Aid
Back to index
See and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada
In October 2002, Catholics for a Choice (CFC) submitted a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, The
Holy See and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The purpose of the report was to assist the Committee in
conducting a comprehensive review of the laws and policies of the Holy See, and an investigation into how it often
compromises the laws of other States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As a State party to the Convention, Canada is obligated to comply fully with the Convention. However, because there
are laws of the Holy See that contradict Canada's child protection laws, Canada is in danger of not fulfilling
its obligations to the Convention. Subsequently, Catholics for a Choice-Canada (CFC-Canada), a partner organization
with CFC, is submitting this report to the Canadian government and to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
to expose how the Holy See's laws and practices conflict with Canada's child protection laws, leaving children
vulnerable to continued abuse and exploitation by Catholic clergy. It is the hope of CFC-Canada that this report
will assist the Committee and the Canadian government to acknowledge the implications of the Holy See's laws on
child abuse and will thus hold the Canadian Catholic church accountable to Canadian law and the Convention to which
the Holy See is a State party.
Finally, a copy of this report has been submitted to the Canadian Catholic church and the Holy See's permanent
mission in Geneva, asking that they submit reports to the Canadian government and the Committee to respond to our
About this Report
This report provides a review of the Holy See's activities regarding the implementation
of the Convention on the Rights of the Child within Canada. The focus of this report will be the sexual abuse and
exploitation of children and adolescents by members of Canadian Catholic clergy and religious, the concealment
of the abuse, and how the abuse has been dealt with once brought to light. The conclusion will be, that the Holy
See knew that the abuse was occurring, and had the responsibility to comply with Canadian law and the Convention
on the Rights of the Child, to ensure that Canadian children were protected from such abuse, and justly compensated
The Holy See is a Non-member State that maintains a Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. It is a full
member of some agencies, and a full state participant at major United Nations conferences with the right to ratify
or accede to international treaties and to submit reservations to documents. The Holy See's status allows it to
participate in United Nations' processes when it suits its purposes, but often removes it from the full accountability
expected of Member States. We believe that it is essential that the Holy See be held accountable.
The Catholic Church hierarchy claims over 1 billion adherents worldwide, comprising one-sixth of the world's population.
In Canada, 46% of Canadians are Roman Catholic, and many of the health care facilities and schools are directly
run by the Catholic Church. The Holy See's compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child should be
a serious concern to Canada, given the extent of its influence and effect on children in Canada and internationally.
Many thousands of cases of child abuse by Catholic clergy have been reported in the media since 1995 worldwide,
and many of these are Canadian cases. One of the first extensive inquiries into such abuse took place in Canada,
and resulted in a report by the Winter Commission in 1991.
Catholics for a Choice-Canada (CFC-Canada) is uniquely suited to prepare this report on the Holy See's compliance
with the Convention in Canada, as we are the Canadian partner of CFC, which is an international non-governmental
organization involved in Catholic social justice and human rights efforts. Additionally, CFC enjoys special consultative
status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
The Holy See and the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Holy See was one of the first to accede to the Convention on the Rights of
the Child in 1990, making it accountable to the world community for implementation of the Convention. By its accession,
the Holy See accepted the responsibilities of the Convention, and agreed to implement its provisions to further
the good of children throughout the world. A party is expected to comply with the Convention's obligations within
a reasonable time after ratification; the Holy See has now had twelve years to comply.
After acceding to the Convention in 1990, the Holy See submitted its initial report in 1994, following the requirements
of Article 44 of the Convention. However, its follow up reporting, due in 1997 and 2002, has not yet been submitted.
Law of the Holy See
As Canada and the Committee members analyze the child protection laws of Canada,
it is important that they consider the laws of the Holy See in order to ensure that those laws do not prevent Canada
from being in compliance with the Convention. Furthermore, knowledge and understanding of the Holy See's laws will
assist Canada in holding the Canadian Catholic church accountable to its laws.
The "Code of Canon Law" (the "code") provides the legal underpinning not only for the fundamental
legislation of the Vatican City State (Vatican City is the physical or territorial base of the Holy See) but also
spells out the constitutive and disciplinary scheme of the Roman Catholic church and is applicable to all members
throughout the world. Canon law has several sections that illustrate recognition of some rights of the child and
repugnance for sexual abuse of children by clergy and religious.
First, the code, like the Convention, recognizes legal majority of individuals at age eighteen. The code provides
that before the age of majority the child's exercise of his or her rights is subject to the authority of the child's
parents or guardians (although there are some instances where the rights of the child must take precedence over
the parents' authority, such as in instances of child abuse).
The code makes several assertions of basic rights that are applicable to the protection and defense of children.
The code clearly states that Catholics have the right to defend their rights in a competent church forum, in accordance
with the law.
The code also defines relationships between people in terms of their hierarchical relationship within the church.
The pope holds supreme, full, immediate and universal power in the Catholic church. He alone approves changes to
the law in the codes, and is the bishops' immediate superior.
The diocesan bishops oversee the conduct and life of the priests subject to them, even, in some cases, legislating
where appropriate. These men are obliged to promote the observance of laws and to act in executive and judicial
roles in accordance with the law. The code makes specific provision for the competence of diocesan bishops to issue
norms and pass judgment on matters relating to the priests' obligations to their vows of celibacy and sexual continence.
The bishop is the executive, legislator and judge for all matters in his diocese. In most cases, responsibility
for handling cases of clerical sexual abuse of children lies first with the diocesan bishop, and ultimately with
the Holy See.
The Holy See's legal code continues, in its section on criminal law, stating explicitly that clergy sexual activity
with minors is a serious offence, to be dealt with in a serious manner, even including dismissal from the clerical
state-considered the most severe penalty for a priest. The code then provides a detailed judicial process to investigate,
confirm or repudiate claims, and punish criminal acts. This process includes several mechanisms for protecting
the rights of the accused cleric as well as the accusing party, and provisions for due process before the law.
The law guarantees the victims of the abuse the opportunity to participate in a judicial proceeding and to request
and be awarded reparations. It even prescribes a penalty for negligence, which could be asserted in these cases
when a superior has failed to investigate or punish instances of actionable offenses brought to his attention.
In addition to these codified provisions, the legal system of the Holy See allows a superior to petition, directly
to the Holy See in egregious cases, enabling a punishment to be inflicted swiftly, and without due process.
There are special laws for Catholics who are members of institutes of consecrated life, both secular and religious.
We know many of these institutes as "religious orders" such as the Dominicans, the Franciscans, and the
Jesuits, or the Christian Brothers, or religious institutes of women. For these people, the code determines that
certain offences call for mandatory dismissal from the institute (but the code also provides that for the category
of sexual offences, the hierarchical superior need not dismiss the offender if the superior judges that justice
can be restored and scandal repaired in another manner). Included in these offences are homicide, kidnapping, and
sexual activity that involves force or threats or takes place in public or with a minor. In addition to the code,
these organizations also have constitutions and rules of conduct specific to each. The superiors within these institutes
are responsible for seeing that the law is followed by the members of the institutes. All these laws addressing
clergy sexual abuse of a minor, and the local authorities charged with implementing them, are now directly subordinate
to one office of the Holy See.
New Law Requires Secrecy and Centralized Review
In 2001, the Holy See issued a document entitled Sacramentorum sanctitatis
tutela, instituting a little publicized but important change in the law. In this document, which supersedes the
law in the codes, the Holy See directs all the bishops of the world to inform one of its offices, the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, if they receive an allegation of child sexual abuse by a cleric. This same law prohibits
the bishops or other church authorities from taking any action beyond a preliminary investigation of the allegation
without further direction from the Holy See's delegate.
According to the new law, this office of the Holy See may, at its discretion, conduct an inquiry itself, or transmit
norms to the local ecclesiastical authority explaining how to proceed. These cases, the law states, are "subject
to the pontifical secret". This is the Holy See's highest level of confidentiality-just short of the absolute
secrecy required by sacramental confession-and provides that the Holy See reserves the right to punish any party
who reveals information about clerical sexual abuse of children. Furthermore, the document mandates that no one
but a priest may be involved in the proceedings concerning clergy sexual abuse of minors. These provisions raise
questions about the integrity of the internal processes as well as questions of how this law might conflict with
laws of the geographically defined jurisdictions in which the subjects of the Holy See find themselves.
The new legal requirements make clear two facts: (1) the Holy See has overtly claimed responsibility for managing
these cases, and (2) the Holy See does not intend to comply fully with the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(by skirting reporting requirements of Article 44 through its secrecy requirements and by frustrating legitimate
efforts of other State parties to the Convention by advocating circumvention of their laws in favour of the Holy
See's new secret procedures).
Overall, the Holy See's law does provide redress and some protection for children in cases of sexual abuse and
also provides for punishment of clergy and religious who sexually abuse children. The existence of law, however,
is of little use if the law is not enforced. The canon laws which touch on this issue are many and have been consistently
ignored, inadequately applied, or wrongly applied in favour of the church authorities and its institutional image.
Does Canon Law comply with Canadian Law on Child Sexual Abuse?
In addition to the prohibition against sexual assault which is found in
the Criminal Code of Canada, all Canadian provinces and the territories have child protection laws, which would
apply to the issue of sexual abuse of children by clergy members. As an example, in Ontario the Child and Family
Services Act, R.S.O. 1990 specifies in s. 72 that a person has the obligation to immediately report to the Children's
Aid Society any suspicion that a child has been abused, sexually molested or sexually exploited. The obligation
to report overrides any privilege which might otherwise be claimed (s. 72 (7)). Failure to report such child abuse
is an offence if the person who knew about the abuse was a person who performs professional or other official duties
with respect to children, including a "member of the clergy" (s. 72 (5) (b)).
Clearly there is a legal obligation under Canadian law to report this sexual abuse. However, the Canon law now
specifies that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith now has total authority over the investigation and
resolution of allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergy members. This should be a matter of grave concern
to Canada, when assessing the Holy See's compliance with the Convention within Canada.
The Failure of the Holy See to Deal with Clergy Abuse of Children
In its report of 1994, the Holy See did not make any reference to the
clergy abuse of children which was increasingly a scandal in the Catholic Church. Given the evidence of a long
standing problem of clergy and religious physical and sexual abuse around the world, it is troubling that the Holy
See omitted any mention of the crisis in its 1994 report to the Committee. The only conclusion to be drawn is that
the Holy See has been at least willfully ignorant, if not culpably negligent, in regard to sexual abuse of children
by its representatives, preferring instead to maintain an institutional silence at the peril of those very children
they purport to protect.
In fact, in Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) had been struggling with this problem, which
became impossible to ignore after the horrendous findings of clergy abuse of children by the Christian Brothers
at Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland. The Canadian Bishops issued, in 1992, a document entitled "From
Pain to Hope" as a response to this scandal. In the report, it is noted as a "contributing factor"
to the abuse "a church that too readily shields its ministers from having to account for their conduct; that
is often tempted to settle moral problems behind a veil of secrecy which only encourages their growth". In
the document, the Bishops stated their intent to "support those who with great difficulty, struggle to allow
a painful truth to be heard, despite the conspiracy of silence which develops so readily as a way of self protection
against the fear of scandal".
The Mount Cashel scandal had itself been the occasion for a Special Commission of Enquiry in 1990. The commission
was established by the Archdiocese of St. John's, but to ensure credibility and to answer accusations that the
church was investigating itself, the Archbishop appointed a former Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Gordon A.
Winter, an Anglican, as the Chair of the Commission.
Both the CCCB and the Winter Commission established policies or made recommendations on how the church should deal
with allegations of clergy abuse of children, and try to prevent the abuse from happening in the future. In "From
Pain to Hope" the bishops established a policy of immediate removal from office of any priest accused of child
abuse, and of reporting this abuse to the police. The Winter Commission, with a wide mandate to examine the factors
which may have contributed to the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy and to determine why the abuse
went undetected and unreported for so long, went even further in its recommendations. Some of the 55 recommendations
1. That the power of the clergy be reduced, and lay members of the local church become empowered to initiate changes;
2. That convicted priests never be assigned to pastoral responsibilities in a parish unless the parish council
is informed and consulted, and that a convicted priest never be given a pastoral responsibility for children;
3. That the bishops across Canada address fully, directly, honestly and without reservation questions relating
to the problematic link between celibacy and the priesthood.
4. That reasonable monetary compensation be provided to victims of abuse by clergy and religious.
Implementation of "The Winter Commission Report" and
"From Pain to Hope" by the Holy See in Canada
The Holy See has not ensured that the rights of the child are protected
from clergy abuse in Canada. There are still many instances of allegations of abuse of children by Catholic clergy
or religious, which are not dealt with in the manner mandated by the CCCB. Priests who have been accused of and
even convicted of child abuse continue to hold positions of trust in parishes. The Catholic church has hidden behind
corporate law in order to evade financial responsibility for compensation, especially in the case of allegations
by native people of abuse at residential schools. Allegations of past abuse continue to be made yet charges are
Priests Shuffled into new positions of trust
Following are some examples of clergy child abuse which have
been either unaddressed, or not dealt with in accordance with the CCCB procedures. No one knows the extent of the
problem in Canada because church records are not public. It would require every diocese to open its files to piece
together a total picture of the extent of abuse by priests.
1. Father James Kneale of Ft. Erie, Ontario, was convicted of child sexual abuse, and later relocated to a parish
in Alberta. In 1999, the Bishop of Calgary, Frederick Henry, had to apologize to his parishioners for failing to
tell them that the priest he had hired was a convicted child abuser.
2. In Hamilton, Ontario, Father Douglas Stamp was removed as head of pastoral services at a local hospital when
it was revealed that he had been convicted in 1997 of sexually assaulting two 12 year-old boys.
3. In Manitoba, it was recently revealed that Martin Houston, a man convicted of sexual abuse in the 1960s, was
ordained in 1990 and is now working as a priest.
4. Father Joseph Lang, a priest accused of having sexual relations with a minor in the U.S. was sent to work in
a remote village in British Columbia in 1988. He withdrew in 2002, when his past was revealed.
5. A group of men who say they were sexually assaulted at church-run orphanages in Quebec continue to demand that
charges be laid against three former staff members. The men said that they tried to launch a court action against
the Brothers of Mercy in 1992, but were unable to gain assistance in tracking down the clergy members.
Claimants go uncompensated
About 12,000 former students have filed almost 5,000 lawsuits
alleging physical or sexual abuse in residential schools operated by three national churches and Catholic church
organizations. The Anglican and Presbyterian national churches reached cost-sharing agreements with the federal
government in which the churches agreed to pay 30 per cent of the compensation awarded to former students with
validated claims. The Catholic church has so far refused to enter into such agreement; on the contrary, it has
spent millions in legal fees, trying to escape legal responsibility. In 2001, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled
in favour of the institutional Catholic Church and held that there is no corporate legal entity known as the "Roman
Catholic church"; therefore, any actions for compensation would have to be brought against the order for which
the priest worked, or specific Catholic dioceses, and not the church as a whole. Most of the residential schools
at which the abuse took place are located in northern Canada, and the orders which ran them have few assets. The
Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Manitoba are seeking bankruptcy protection. The Manitoba Oblates operated 12 residential
schools until the early 1970s; they are expecting to be named in about 2,500 law suits and their potential liability
is estimated at $270 million. Oblates in Alberta have said that they also may be forced to seek bankruptcy protection:
they are directly named in about 1,200 lawsuits from native people claiming that they were sexually, physically
and emotionally abused at residential schools.
If the Holy See was complying with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Catholic
Church in Canada would assume financial responsibility for its fair share of compensation payments. In Ireland,
the Catholic Church has chosen to acknowledge that it exists as an "entity" and therefore accepts responsibility
as a total church for abuses committed by members of its clergy. In Canada, too, the Catholic Church should not
hide behind a corporate veil in the fight against compensating children who have been abused by clergy.
On occasion, the Catholic Church has responded to claims for compensation by counter-claiming against the victim.
John Caruso, of Ft. Erie, Ontario, sued Father James Kneale for sexual abuse which he alleges took place in 1985.
Father Kneale responded with a counter-suit against the parents of Caruso, on the grounds that the parents were
negligent for allowing their son to spend time with the priest.
The Catholic Church held "World Youth Day" in Toronto during July 2002. It held itself out as a legal
entity when it requested and obtained millions of dollars of grants from the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario.
And when there was a $38 million deficit even with those grants, the Catholic Church in Canada asked its parishioners
across Canada to pitch in and contribute to pay off the debt. In complying with its obligations under the Convention,
the Canadian Catholic church should also ensure that its assets across Canada are available to make the compensation
To the Committee on the Rights of the Child
When Canada reports to the Committee in September 2003, the Committee should inquire about instances of clergy
sexual abuse in Canada, and ask that the Canadian government explain how Canadian law holds the Canadian Catholic
church officials and other religious leaders accountable in cases of clergy sexual abuse and exploitation. The
Canadian government should be asked what measures it has taken to investigate the magnitude of such abuses and
to prevent it from happening in the future.
To the Canadian Government
When reporting to the Committee, Canada should include information about the scope of clergy sexual abuse in Canada,
and what measures the Canadian government has taken to protect children from future clergy sexual abuse and exploitation.
Canadian authorities should carry out an analysis of the Holy See's laws and the laws of Canada and determine areas
where the Canadian Catholic church may not be in compliance with Canada's child protection laws. Canada should
hold officials of the Canadian Catholic church accountable to its laws.
To the Holy See
The Holy See, a State party to the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, is delinquent in its obligations, as it has not yet submitted its 1997 report to the Committee.
It should do so immediately, and include a full report on the magnitude of child abuse by clergy and religious
and with a concrete plan for ensuring that future abuse does not occur. It should also submit a report to the Canadian
government to reveal the magnitude of cases of abuse in Canada, and measures the Holy See is taking to prevent
To the Canadian Catholic Church
- The Catholic Church in Canada should cooperate with
government officials to ensure that in handling cases of clergy sexual abuse, the Canadian Catholic church complies
with the national laws of Canada.
- The Canadian Catholic church should work in conjunction
with the Canadian government to ensure both Canada's and the Holy See's compliance with the Convention on the Rights
of the Child.
- The Catholic Church in Canada should reach a cost-sharing
agreement with the federal government's Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution of Canada (OIRSRC) as have
the Anglican and Presbyterian national churches.
- The Catholic Church in Canada should not evade financial
responsibility by claiming that it is not a legal entity, but should, like the Catholic Church in Ireland, accept
financial responsibility for any financial obligations arising from claims or judgments for child abuse by members
of Catholic clergy or religious.
- The Catholic Church in Canada should assist claimants
who are trying to locate clergy members whom they allege have abused them.
- If the Canadian Catholic bishops intend to "support
those who, with great difficulty, struggle to allow a painful truth to be heard" (statement in "From
Pain To Hope") then the church should instruct its legal counsel not to employ aggressive legal tactics, such
as the use of counter-suits; and should never require that the victim agree to a "confidentiality agreement"
preventing the publication of any settlements.
- The Canadian Catholic Church should implement the
"Winter Commission Report", and in particular, should immediately both set up structures to empower Catholic
- All church committees established to deal with problems
of child abuse by clergy and religious should include victims and members of their families, in order to promote
accountability and protection of children.
We are pleased to have had the opportunity to present our concerns about the Catholic Church in Canada and its
compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and look forward to answering any questions which may
arise from this report.
Back to index
Reproductive health care in Latin America :a Canadian
By Rosana Pellizzari
Emergency contraception, the use of hormones to prevent pregnancy after unprotected or forced intercourse, has
been available in North American and Europe for more than 30 years.
In Canada, it is the standard of care for victims of sexual assault. It is now recommended for any couple relying
on condoms, in case of breakage or slippage, as their method of birth control. If given within 5 days of unprotected
intercourse, it can prevent most pregnancies. If given to a woman already pregnant, it will cause no harm to the
developing fetus. It is not an abortificient but in fact, prevents recourse to abortions.
Yet, in Latin America, where I am now working, the Catholic Church does its best to prevent access of millions
of women and couples to this effective form of birth control. Instead, it helps to promote myths and misconceptions
about emergency contraception, so that providers and potential users believe it is either immoral or illegal to
offer it to a woman, even in the case of rape.
In countries such as Costa Rica, levonorgestrel, the best form of emergency contraception, is not registered or
available. Emergency contraception, commonly called the "morning-after pill", can utilize either a single
hormone, such as levonorgestrel, or a combination product, such as ovrol, or many other of the pills used for birth
control by women. Two ovrol pills, followed by a second dose 12 hours later, can prevent 80 to 90% of pregnancies
if taken up to five days post-coitally. The sooner they are taken, the better. The levonorgestrel product, marketed
as "Plan B" in Canada, has the advantage of being more effective and causing fewer side effects. In addition,
the drug can be taken as a single dose, rather than being split into two, which makes it much easier to use.
A recent study done in Ontario showed that having the product available through pharmacists, without the need for
a medical prescription, prevented approximately 400 pregnancies, and 200 abortions over a 12 month period.
According to the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (FIGO), it is unethical for a physician
to withhold emergency contraception from a patient. In its 2002 ethical guidelines, the Federation states "Early
access to hormonal emergency contraception improves its success rate and therefore decreases health risks. Therefore,
at a public policy level, the medical profession should advocate that emergency contraception be easily available
and accessible at all times to all women".
On January 21st of this year, Mexico, despite immense opposition by the Catholic Church, made emergency contraception
part of its Ministry of Health standards of care in reproductive health. But the church's tactics, its denunciations,
have been noted in other Central American countries, and, although unsuccessful in Mexico, send a strong and intimidating
message to advocates for women's health elsewhere. In Costa Rica, where a coalition of government representatives
and NGO's have been meeting for the purpose of ensuring that Costa Rican women get access to emergency contraception,
advocates attribute the Catholic Church's close ties to the ruling "Unidad Social Christiana" government
as the main barrier. Recently, the Catholic Church hierarchy was successful in closing down the government's adolescent
sexual health promotion campaign. This, in spite of the fact that 21% of all births in Costa Rica in 2003 were
to teenaged mothers.
Despite church opposition, the Costa Rican Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, set up by decree
following the Catholic Church's attempt to prevent access to vasectomies and tubal ligations, has decided to hold
a national forum on contraception on March 24th and 25th in San Jose, the capital city.
The University of Toronto has made it possible for two Canadian physicians to present lessons learned from Canada,
with the hope that Costa Rican health professionals can build upon international experience to hasten the introduction
of emergency contraception into protocols and standards of care here.
Currently, in Central America, only Nicaragua and El Salvador have levonorgestrel products registered, but many
still have not made access to emergency contraception part of their reproductive and sexual health care. For women
living in these countries, unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, including those resulting from sexual violence,
continue to put women's lives and well-being at risk.
Back to index
Congratulations on your election victory to represent your riding, and best wishes as you begin this session of
We wish to introduce our group to you and your staff, and we ask you to read our brochure with its mission statement.
We are a voluntary group of Canadian Catholic women "Catholics for a Choice Canada", working to ensure
that reproductive rights and services for Canadian women are maintained, and where inadequate, expanded.
We seek to shape sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, a commitment to women's well being and
an affirmation of the moral capacity of women and men to make sound and responsible decisions about their lives.
Through education and advocacy, CFC C works to infuse these values into public policy, community life and Catholic
Our Catholic church leaders are often vigorous in their opposition to the medical procedure of abortion. These
leaders speak against the very Catholic principles they should uphold: namely those of privacy, the primacy of
conscience and the autonomy of the person.
We believe that we speak, on the other hand, for the vast majority of Canadian Catholics who have shown in the
same proportion as other Canadians that they support the present situation regarding abortion.
We wish to inform you of our willingness to meet with you or provide further materials.
With best wishes,
Coordinator, "Catholics for a Choice Canada"
Back to index
Clearing Up the Confusion
In Canada, two types of medications can be used to prevent pregnancy if there has been
unprotected intercourse: oral contraceptives, a combination of commonly used hormones, or newer and better dedicated
products containing only Levonorgestrel, a hormone found in some birth control pills. On May 18th, the federal
government announced plans to make Levonorgestrel available without a physician's prescription, as it already is
in 31 countries and 5 US states. Canadian Bishops oppose the move. Ironically, the very pill they allege to cause
abortion has tremendous potential to prevent over 100,000 abortions in Canada annually.
Hormones used as contraceptives cannot cause abortions. "Contra" "ception" prevents conception,
not abortion. Oral contraceptives are the most commonly used form of birth control in Canada: the most recent Canadian
Contraception Study (2002) found that 32% of women surveyed used oral contraceptives. If a woman is already pregnant,
mistakenly taking oral contraceptives will not harm her or her baby. The same is true for emergency contraception.
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that, since 1869, the Roman Catholic Church has defined that human life
begins at the moment of conception. Since then, science has determined that life begins as a cascade of many steps,
beginning with ovulation, including fertilization and requiring several more events before a pregnancy occurs.
Couples undergoing infertility treatment will be aware that the achievement of ovum fertilization in a petri dish
does not constitute a pregnancy. The medical and legal definition of pregnancy is the completed implantation, and
not the fertilization, of the blastocyst. A WHO Technical Report published in 1987 clarified that the process of
implantation, beginning about 5-6 days post-fertilization, takes up until 13-14 days to be completed. In its 1998
definition of pregnancy, the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (FIGO) states that pregnancy
is the part of human reproduction "that commences with the implantation of the conceptus in a woman".
Another part of the confusion may stem from the use of abortificients, such as RU 486 (mifepristone) and methotrexate
available in some countries as emergency contraceptives. . But the hormones being used here for emergency contraception
in Canada are not and do not contain any substance even remotely similar.
If levonorgestrel is not able to provoke an abortion, how does it work? Large clinical trials conducted internationally
have found that the mechanism of action depends on the timing. If taken before and up to ovulation, levonorgestrel
appears to delay ovulation, or cause it to be dysfunctional. There is also some research evidence to suggest that
levonorgestrel interferes with the migration and function of sperm. Taken after intercourse, researchers have noted
that levonorgestrel causes changes in cervical mucous, alters the pH of the uterine fluid and reduces the number
of sperm recovered from the uterine cavity. The previously held belief that levonorgestrel changes the endometrium
and prevents implantation is not supported by research findings.
These findings support the results from trials showing that emergency contraception is most effective if taken
within the first 24 hours of unprotected intercourse. A recent Ontario pilot study found that most young women
calling a hotline for EC did so within the first 24 hours. These results underscore the reason for making levonorgestrel
available from a pharmacist without a prescription: early access is critical. This is even more important for adolescents,
who, despite parental taboos and cautionary sexual health programs, are at highest risk of having unprotected intercourse.
Dr Andre Lalonde, the Vice-President of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada told the Canadian
Medical Association Journal "If you are against abortion, this is a wonderful pill". Levonorgestrel is
already available behind-the-counter in BC, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
Back to index
Reproductive health care
in Latin America: a Canadian physician reports
By Rosana Pellizzari
Emergency contraception, the use of hormones to prevent pregnancy after unprotected or forced intercourse, has
been available in North American and Europe for more than 30 years.
In Canada, it is the standard of care for victims
of sexual assault. It is now recommended for any couple relying on condoms, in case of breakage or slippage, as
their method of birth control. If given within 5 days of unprotected intercourse, it can prevent most pregnancies.
If given to a woman already pregnant, it will cause no harm to the developing fetus. It is not an abortificient
but in fact, prevents recourse to abortions.
Yet, in Latin America, where I am now working,
the Catholic Church does its best to prevent access of millions of women and couples to this effective form of
birth control. Instead, it helps to promote myths and misconceptions about emergency contraception, so that providers
and potential users believe it is either immoral or illegal to offer it to a woman, even in the case of rape.
In countries such as Costa Rica, levonorgestrel,
the best form of emergency contraception, is not registered or available. Emergency contraception, commonly called
the "morning-after pill", can utilize either a single hormone, such as levonorgestrel, or a combination
product, such as ovrol, or many other of the pills used for birth control by women. Two ovrol pills, followed by
a second dose 12 hours later, can prevent 80 to 90% of pregnancies if taken up to five days post-coitally. The
sooner they are taken, the better. The levonorgestrel product, marketed as "Plan B" in Canada, has the
advantage of being more effective and causing fewer side effects. In addition, the drug can be taken as a single
dose, rather than being split into two, which makes it much easier to use.
A recent study done in Ontario showed that having
the product available through pharmacists, without the need for a medical prescription, prevented approximately
400 pregnancies, and 200 abortions over a 12 month period.
According to the International Federation of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists (FIGO), it is unethical for a physician to withhold emergency contraception from a patient. In
its 2002 ethical guidelines, the Federation states "Early access to hormonal emergency contraception improves
its success rate and therefore decreases health risks. Therefore, at a public policy level, the medical profession
should advocate that emergency contraception be easily available and accessible at all times to all women".
On January 21st of this year, Mexico, despite
immense opposition by the Catholic Church, made emergency contraception part of its Ministry of Health standards
of care in reproductive health. But the church's tactics, its denunciations, have been noted in other Central American
countries, and, although unsuccessful in Mexico, send a strong and intimidating message to advocates for women's
health elsewhere. In Costa Rica, where a coalition of government representatives and NGO's have been meeting for
the purpose of ensuring that Costa Rican women get access to emergency contraception, advocates attribute the Catholic
Church's close ties to the ruling "Unidad Social Christiana" government as the main barrier. Recently,
the Catholic Church hierarchy was successful in closing down the government's adolescent sexual health promotion
campaign. This, in spite of the fact that 21% of all births in Costa Rica in 2003 were to teenaged mothers.
Despite church opposition, the Costa Rican Commission
on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, set up by decree following the Catholic Church's attempt to prevent
access to vasectomies and tubal ligations, has decided to hold a national forum on contraception on March 24th
and 25th in San Jose, the capital city.
The University of Toronto has made it possible for two Canadian physicians to present lessons learned from Canada,
with the hope that Costa Rican health professionals can build upon international experience to hasten the introduction
of emergency contraception into protocols and standards of care here.
Currently, in Central America, only Nicaragua
and El Salvador have levonorgestrel products registered, but many still have not made access to emergency contraception
part of their reproductive and sexual health care. For women living in these countri