Pro-life officials are critical of an Ontario Ministry of Health move to exempt abortion from a new payment system designed to control physician’s fees.

Bulletin 4290 from the Ontario health ministry’s processing office excludes abortion and 14 other medical services from a 10 per cent “clawback” in the fees physicians can bill the Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan (OHIP).

According to the ministry, the list of excluded services was developed by medical consultants to reflect “services urgently requiring protection, services with high potential to be discontinued, or where shortages currently exist.”

Dermatologist Andre Lafrance, co-ordinator of Physicians for Life for Ottawa and District, believes the government’s exemption of abortion from the OHIP clawback is politically motivated.

“To me this is being done as a matter of political correctness,” Dr. Lafrance told The Interim. “According to the ministry initiative, abortionists can perform all the abortions they want without fear of surpassing any payment threshold.”

Dr. Lafrance said abortion doesn’t require special protection in the province. “There is certainly no shortage of abortion available in Ontario,” he said. “It has become privileged treatment.”

Dr. Lafrance isn’t sure if exempting abortion from the clawback would lead more doctors to consider taking up the service.

“I’m very disappointed to see this kind of action from a Conservative government,” he said. “It’s more in keeping with the New Democratic Party’s attitude toward abortion.”

Dr. Lafrance said the ministry action was given scant notice by the mainstream media and by the Ontario Medical Association.

Meanwhile, a Campaign Life Coalition media release says the ministry’s treatment of abortion as a protected service is misguided. Campaign Life Coalition said 14 of the services on the list, such as transplants, dialysis, cardiac bypassed and cataract surgery, are deserving of the exemption.

“But the inclusion of abortion in this list is astounding,” Campaign Life Coalition says. “The purely elective procedure o abortion does not belong on the list.”

CLC said the move indicates the health ministry is dominated by pro-abortion supporters who promote access to abortion over other considerations.

National vice-president Mary Ellen Douglas said the exclusion of abortion is especially bizarre in light of a November, 1995 Environics poll showing 57 per cent of Ontario residents oppose OHIP funding of abortion.

She said the province’s attitude to abortion services is at odds with its aim of streamlining Ontario’s massive healthcare expenditures.