But no one would know, if Ontario had its way

By Paul Tuns
The Interim

Jakki Jeffs, executive director of Alliance for Life (Ontario) is not the least bit surprised that the National Post had difficulty obtaining Ontario’s abortion statistics. The Guelph pro-life leader has met roadblocks repeatedly over the last several years in pursuing basic statistics on abortion from the provincial government.

The February 29 National Post reported that the paper had to go to the Information and Privacy Commission following an Access to Information request first made in 1998, to ask the Ministry of Health to release the total number of abortions in Ontario. “What abortion-related statistics now too often contribute to,” the ministry said defending its decision to not release the information, “is uncontrolled passion, be it expressed by a mob or by a lone individual who stalks and is willing to kill.”

“A senior adjudicator with the commission did not agree with the government’s position,” thePost’s Adrian Humphreys reported, “forcing the ministry to divulge the information – after a year and a half of arguments and appeals.”

In its March 2 editorial, the Edmonton Journal remarked, “To find out how many abortions are performed in Alberta each year, a newspaper reporter can call the provincial health department spokesperson and get an answer in minutes … To find out the same information in Ontario, a reporter had to make a formal request under that province’s Freedom of Information Act, then wait for the results of a year-and-a-half of legal wrangling.”

Alliance for Life’s Jeffs told The Interim that it wasn’t this difficult to obtain the statistics until 1994. From 1989 to 1994, the total numbers and a breakdown of the statistics by 11 categories – including martial status, gestation, and complications – were released upon request annually. In 1994, the ministry released category information but not the total numbers. Jeffs made a request for the statistics under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The ministry argued that by releasing abortion statistics to Alliance for Life they would be effectively releasing them to the public which could enflame passions on both sides of the abortion debate, possibly leading to violence. The ministry acknowledged that Alliance for Life is a peaceful organization, but the ministry remained steadfast in their opposition to releasing the numbers.

The Interim has obtained the December 8, 1997 decision by Tom Mitchinson, Assistant Commissioner at the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario, who accepted the Ministry’s arguments. He stated that “the more abortion-related information that is made available … the more likely specific individuals will be targeted for harassment and violence.”

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act can prevent the release of information when doing so is deemed to endanger the life or safety of a person or the security of a building. According to the Act, the threat must be demonstrable, not merely theoretical. Jeffs said the ministry failed to prove such harm would come about if the statistics were released.

Jeffs said the public has a right to know how many abortions are committed annually, because all taxpayers are forced to pay for them. Also, the public has a right to know the number of women and children harmed by abortion. As the Edmonton Journal noted, Jeffs wondered why government bureaucrats should get to determine what’s in the best interest of the public, especially when it is merely a number, as the paper says, “about a publicly funded medical procedure.”

Jeffs noted that by not releasing abortion statistics as it does with every medical procedure the ministry is betraying the lie that abortion is “just another so-called medical procedure”, like “having a kidney removed.” The extraordinary measures that the Post had to go to illustrates that abortion is not just another publicly funded medical procedure.

As it did with Jeffs, the Ontario government resorted to its inflammatory excuse to prevent the release of such numbers to the Post. The information, they claimed in a written statement to the Information and Privacy Commissioner, is too sensitive, and could contribute to “uncontrolled passion” from both sides of the abortion debate whether it be “expressed by a mob or by a lone individual who stalks and is willing to kill.”

The Edmonton Journal said it best when it said “[S]urely a simple statistic could hardly be blamed for the actions of some lunatic gunman. Figures for previous years were already available.”

The Ministry of Health has since released the figures. A total of 44,002 abortions were performed in 1998. No wonder the government didn’t want to release the figures: it is paying for the doctor-delivered deaths of more than 44,000 innocent babies each year.

With the Ontario statistics finally available, Statistics Canada was able to report a total of 114,848 abortions in the year 1997 – a 2.9 percent increase over the previous year. The record high number means that Canadians are now aborting one in four children conceived in this country.