On January 29, 1987, Murray Elston, Health Minister of Ontario, tabled in the Ontario Legislature the report he had been expecting since last July. Authored by Dr. Marion Powell, the report is the answer to the government’s desire to open “clinics” for abortion and contraceptive counseling throughout Ontario and thus to “resolve” the Morgentaler issue.

The Powell proposals boil down to four basic recommendations:

–          Abortion clinics in “all larger cities in Ontario;

–          Full OHIP coverage for abortions for clients and medical personnel;

–          Expansion of travel grants for abortion from Northern Ontario to cover the entire province;

–          Adding family doctors to gynaecologists/obstetricians permitted to perform abortions.

The report also recommends that the centres perform such tasks as screening for cancer, perhaps to provide respectability to an otherwise sordid enterprise.

Marion Powell is a long-time supporter of Henry Morgentaler and of aabortion0on0demand. She heads the Toronto Bay Centre for Birth Control. In 1976, she was one of three authors of the survey on abortion facilities and procedures throughout Canada, known as the Badgley Report.

Federal proposals

When the Badgley report was tabled in the House of Commons, in March 1977, the then federal health minister Marc Lalode presented the same proposals for women’s clinics now tabled in the Ontario Legislature ten years later. These had been drawn up for him by the Family Planning section of the Federal department of Health and Welfare. The proposals, which included nationwide contraceptive advertising, were canned later on, as was the Family Planning section. Opposition to it was vigorous and strong.

The 1977 federal plan blatantly belied promises made in 1968-1969, when the sale and distribution of contraceptives became legal. These included solemn assertions that contraception was a private affair and not a public task; that advertising of contraceptives would be prohibited, and that government would remain passive rather than active; that is, only monitor the development, rather than actively promote it.

The Peterson government obviously has different plans. Ontario Health Minister Elston has promised to “move with dispatch” or “within the year.”

The Liberals are not expected to act upon the report until after the election, so as not to disturb voters who might be upset.