Ontario Premier Bob Rae has responded to a letter from the Ontario Bishops (November 1990) and from the Knights of Columbus (December 1990), both of which objected to the underwriting of free-standing abortion ‘clinics’ in Ontario.
Both are reaffirmations of the NDP government’s aggressive pro-abortion policy.
It took almost two months for Premier Bob Rae to reply to bishop John O’Mara, president of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops (OCCB). Bishop O’Mara had written “that innocent life needs to be protected and cannot morally be directly destroyed, no matter what the pretext or excuse.”
The other Rae-letter was to state Deputy, Grant R. Ertel, the top-ranking officer of the Knights of Columbus in Ontario. It had a similar tone and shrugged off Mr. Ertel’s objections to “forcing citizens who find abortion morally repugnant to help pay for the practice.” This, Mr. Ertel had written, “is a gratuitous invasion of people’s cherished rights of conscience.”
The International Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization with over a million-and-a-half members. In Ontario over 50,000 active members are involved in charitable, church and civic affairs.
In his letter to Bishop O’Mara, Premier Rae reiterated his government’s belief that abortion is a provincial matter.
“Our government believes that abortion is a moral and health issue and not an issue best left to the Criminal Code,” he wrote. “Our intent is not to promote abortions, but to ensure the safety of women who have made this choice.”
Father Angus MacDougall, the OCCB’s General Secretary said about the response that “it was the kind of letter he expected the bishop would get.”
MacDougall also said that there would be no reply to the letter, but the bishops would be waiting for other opportunities to make their position known. He said that Mr. Rae attended a religious forum on poverty in Toronto recently at which Bishop John Sherlock, of London, Ontario, attended, but the issue of free-standing abortion ‘clinics’ was not raised.
In his letter to Mr. Ertel, the Premier wrote that “the existing abortion clinics are now completing their applications to become licensed under the Independent Health Facilities Act.”
“The Ministry of Health will then be able to inspect these abortion facilities,” he wrote, “this will ensure that clinics meet acceptable standards of patient care.”
The Premier also noted that there are now 85 “clinics” across Ontario that specialize in women’s health and do counseling on abortion.
“We’re not pleased with the letter, Mr. Ertel told The Interim. We would like to see more definite action taken on the part of the provincial government in the appropriate area regarding the spending of our funds on abortion “clinics”, Tax money is our funds. Rae is also not reflecting the moral issue and we see it as a moral issue,” Mr. Ertel said.
Premier Bob Rae received some other letters.
On December 8, Mrs. Betty Moseley-Williams of the Ontario Separate Schools Trustees’ Association, representing 54 school boards also sent a strong protest.
“The announcement of the government in allowing free-standing abortion clinics in Ontario,” she wrote, “will add to the moral demise of this province…”
“What is needed in our province is a holistic approach. Let us not look at abortion as an answer to an unwanted pregnancy, rather let us look at the needs of the pregnant mother…,” she said.
On February 4, the Chairman of the Metropolitan (Toronto) Separate School Board, Donald Clune, wrote the Premier informing him his board fully supports the letter of the Trustees.
“The Board respectfully requests that the Ontario government reconsider its policy on free-standing abortion clinics, and seek alternative policies…,” the letter stated.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Schools, Father Kyran Kennedy, had written the Premier stating, “We believe that the protection of the people is as important as saving the environment in which people live. The NDP, having made its reputation as a strong advocate for human rights, deviates from its conviction when it supports or passively allows abortion. This is truly the outstanding human rights issue of the 20th century.”
Mr. Rae answered Mrs. Moseley-Williams in a letter dated February 4. It was almost identical to the letter sent to the Ontario bishops and Mr. Ertel.