B.C. pro-life activist Ted Gerk is slamming the recently elected Liberal government for following the lead of the New Democrats in refusing to make abortion statistics publicly available.
In November, when Gerk made a request for the latest numbers of abortions being done in the Okanagan-Similkameen Health Region and, specifically, Kelowna General Hospital, his request was denied. Now it is apparent, he says, that the Liberals intend to enforce Bill 21, the amendment to the Freedom of Information Protection of Privacy Act enacted by the former government in the dying days of its mandate.
Gerk, who has been trying to keep track of the number of abortions at Kelowna General since an abortuary opened there in August 2000, calls the Liberal’s actions “just plain silliness.”
“We know why the NDP would (enact the law). The question is why the Liberals would enforce it,” he said.
It is ridiculous, said Gerk, to suppress the abortion numbers because of the fear of attacks on abortion providers because, “Everyone in the health region knows they (the abortions) are being done. It’s the only hospital in the health region that does abortions.”
He added that the province’s privacy commissioner referred to concerns about the safety of those who provide abortions when he was turned down over a request to Vancouver General Hospital for the number of abortions it was performing.
However, in an August 1999 ruling, privacy commissioner David Loukidelis ordered VGH to release the information to Gerk, saying it was not authorized under the Freedom of Information Protection of Privacy Act to withhold it. That led to the passing of Bill 21.
Gerk said, Liberal MLAs John Weisbeck and Health Planning Minister Sindi Hawkins, must be called to task for enforcing the legislation. “Maybe they can come up with some logical rationale as to why this law is enforced,” he said. “It appears that the Liberal government intends to enforce this draconian piece of legislation with a vengeance. B.C. is the only place in North America where such a ban has taken place. It is unheard of.”
According to Gerk, B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner wrote a protest letter on Bill 21 to the government earlier this year. As well, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has expressed concern over the application of the bill, and is pressing the government to withdraw it. The office of Health Planning Minister Sindi Hawkins was contacted for comment, but phone calls were not returned.This article orginally appeared in the Dec. 24, 2001 B.C. Catholic.