Pro-life groups question the recommendations of a survey, which found an increasing number of Ontario hospitals no longer offer abortion.

The survey, released in April by the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences, reported that more than half the hospitals in the province no longer commit abortions. The main reason given for the trend is personal choice by physicians, followed by concerns over harassment from pro-life pickets.

The survey was distributed to 163 Ontario hospitals of which 158 responded. Some 28 hospitals affiliated with religious organizations were excluded from the survey. It was undertaken on behalf of the Ontario government after a task force noted discrepancies in abortion access between urban and rural communities.

Dr. Lorraine Ferris, author of the survey, said in media reports that the real issue raised in the report is the uneven availability of legal medical service.

The report found 94 per cent of hospitals in the Toronto area offer abortion, while only about 30 per cent of hospitals in northeastern regions make it available.

It also aid only 15 per cent of physician respondents cited actual harassment as a reason they no longer commit abortions. Nonetheless the authors recommend safeguards be established to protect abortion availability.

“Physicians willing to perform the procedure need to have improved working conditions,” the report concludes.

“Hospital factors need to be examined in more detail to determine what additional resources may be necessary to increase the availability of the procedure. Physicians need to be able to provide care in an environment that does not allow them to be harassed for providing a legal and regulated procedure.”

The authors likely would support former Prime Minister Kim Campbell’s Bill C-43 which would have allowed medical personnel to make abortion routinely available.

Fortunately, for pro-life supports, C-43 was defeated.

Jakki Jeffs, executive director or Alliance for Life Ontario, questioned the report’s objectivity. She said there is clear pro-abortion bias in the report, especially its call for increased access to service.

“There is no need for an elective procedure to be made available in every hospital across the province,” she said, adding that overall demand for abortion has declined across Ontario.