Despite the real possibility that Bill C-43, if passed, could be used for “search for and destroy” the mentally handicapped unborn, Diane Richler, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Community Living says the Toronto-based organization Association does not take a stand on abortion.

In an interview with The Interim, Ms. Richter stated that the criteria for aborting handicapped babies would be different from those for healthy children.

March 1990

The Association, representing 40,000 mentally disabled Canadians, was angry in March of this year when they were refused a chance to appear before an all-party committee of MPs studying the government’s proposed abortion law, Bill C-43. At the time, President Ronald Smith told the media:

“Parliament would never consider legislation which permitted different guidelines for abortion based on race, religion or gender.”

Bill C-43, now stalled in the Senate, will permit abortions when a woman’s physical, mental or psychological health is “endangered by carrying a fetus to term.” Background notes state that abortions may be “performed” in the case of fetal “irregularities.” This was what he objected to.

Mr. Smith thought it appalling that MPs would not consider the ramifications of this law

On the country’s disabled population.

In their brief, the Association said that it does not take a position on abortion itself, but was concerned with the message such reasons for abortion would send to Canadian.

The move, the brief claimed, would establish “an atmosphere which condones the rejection of persons with a disability,” and would “have a profound impact on how Canadians with a disability are treated.”

“In the case of disability, viability is not an issue,” Ms. Richler said. “What we’re saying is, if a standard for viability is set, the presence of a disability shouldn’t change that standard.”

When The Interim told Ms. Richler that doctors can diagnose over 200 metabolic and developmental disorders before birth, through ultrasonography, amniocentesis, chronic villus sampling, fetoscopy, alpha fetoprotein and DNA analysis, she expressed surprise.

At present, most of these disorders are incurable. However, this prenatal screening can be useful, if used with the intention of providing care and treatment.

If Bill C-43 cannot protect healthy unborn babies, was she not being over-optimistic for her to expect the handicapped unborn to be protected, she was asked.

No petition

Richler said that after “much discussion, a majority at their recent annual general meeting voted not to take a stand on abortion.” She said that over 50 people attended the meeting, representing over 900 members.

The Association for Community Living has prepared a brief to the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, Ms. Richler said. At this time they intend reassert their concerns.