In a June 9 decision, Justice Marc Labrosse of the Ontario Superior Court threw out a 2012 provincial law banning access to abortion statistics.
Pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney of Run for Life challenged the the Dalton McGuinty government’s amendments to Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that excluded “records relating to the provision of abortion services.”
Lawyer André Schutten of the Association of Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada, who along with Maloney challenged the law, said the decision “is a huge victory for freedom of expression.” He said, “There has never been a decision granting access to information from the executive branch based on the freedom of expression provision of the Charter.”
Schutten argued in court that the FIPPA amendment was unconstitutional because it censored Ontarians “from having access to meaningful abortion-related information.”
In the February hearing, lawyer Daniel Guttman, representing the province of Ontario, claimed censoring abortion statistics does not impair meaningful discussion of abortion, noting that Maloney and ARPA discuss abortion without full statistics. Maloney notes that abortion numbers for Ontario released by Canadian Institute of Health Information do not include abortions committed outside hospitals.
Guttman also claimed that releasing statistics about abortion “could pose risks to the safety and security of their patients, healthcare providers, and other staff.”
Labrosse did not agree with the province. In his decision he said: “Does having less than 50 per cent of some of the statistical information on a matter of important public interest allow for a meaningful public discussion?” He said “I think the answer to the question is ‘no’.”
He also rejected the argument censoring statistics were necessary for safety reasons, saying the province did not provide evidence of their claims: “Ontario has shown no rational link between general statistical information and safety concerns.”
In February, Maloney told LifeSiteNews, “The government is just worried that if people knew how many abortions are being done, they wouldn’t like it.”
In a statement, Schutten said, “the question at the heart of this case was whether governments can avoid accountability on a particular matter simply by excluding information related to that matter from the access to information law,” he pointed out.
The judge set aside the decision for a year to give the province time to amend the necessary laws.
A month before the decision, the Ministry of Health released a set of abortion statistics to Maloney. Labrosse’s decision will ensure the numbers are available to everyone without resorting to expensive legal challenges to access them.