The eyes of pro-life activists in small-town Canada are focused on Almonte, Ontario as the battle there intensifies over the local hospital’s recently instituted policy allowing abortions. Early in March the Almonte General Hospital Board decided at its monthly meeting that abortions could be performed at the hospital until the end of the first trimester of pregnancy.

The decision was a direct result of a request by Dr. Juan Stocker, a local obstetrician and gynecologist. Dr. Stocker stated that there were two or three requests for the abortion procedure each month.

Of the sixteen board members, four voted against, one abstained and the rest voted in favor of the abortion policy. Prior to the March 7 decision abortions were not part of the hospital service.

Although board members were asked to reflect upon various factors including the perceived need for abortion services in the community and the public perception of the proposed program, the decision was taken by the board without any public input.

A pro-life rally was held on April 5 for those who opposed the decision of abortion on demand at the Almonte General Hospital. The film “Eclipse of Reason” was shown, and Dr. John Coombes, the founding member of Lanark Physicians for Life spoke on the abortion issue.

Several days later 200 pro-lifers picketed the hospital. The hospital board members then agreed to hold an “information night.” Presentations were prepared and delivered by various individuals representing both pro-life and pro-abortion arguments. The evening was meant to give members of the public a chance to aid their concerns, and to give board members a chance to raise questions and consider all aspects of choosing abortion or life.

Questions from the board following the pro-abortion presentations were leading and sympathetic. In contrast, the comments and queries to the pro-life advocates were very pointed, aggressive and often vicious. If was unfortunate that this exercise was not utilized for what it was intended: an educational, fact-finding process to understand not only the pro-choice view, but also to see why pro-lifers really value life from conception to natural death.

As the battle deepens, there are efforts to start a crisis pregnancy centre to offer real help to women who find themselves in what seems to be a hopeless situation. A community survey is being prepared to establish the needs in Lanark County. The results of the survey will determine if the crisis pregnancy centre will become a reality.

Meanwhile, the focus has now shifted to the Almonte General Hospital’s annual general meeting, to take place in mid-June. Pro-lifers are buying hospital memberships in record numbers with the intention of replacing pro-abortion board members with pro-life advocates.

In response to this the hospital administration has taken the unprecedented step of issuing a letter to more than 9,000 area residents defending the hospital board. The hospital has also placed full-page ads in local newspapers urging residents to judge the board on past achievements and future plans, and not only on a single issue.

The issue of abortions being performed at the Almonte General Hospital has rocket the usually tranquil Ottawa Valley town, and is expected to do so for some time to come. Postscript:

On June 13, 2988 the town decided by a wide margin to support the three Hospital nominees. The three received 797,805 and 789 votes while the pro-life candidates got 312,301 and 245.

Dr. Christine Deschenes, the hospital’s chief of staff announced that form two to three abortions would be committed at the hospital each month.