The following letter from Dr. Janet Ajzenstat of Hamilton Right to Life was addressed to Dr. Tuzo Wilson, Director-General of the Ontario Science Centre.
We wish to draw your attention to the fact that the Ontario Science Centre pamphlet “Amniocentesis” condones and promotes what is, under the Criminal Code of Canada, an illegal activity, that is, the aborting of the handicapped fetus. The pamphlet presents amniocentesis as leading to abortion in instances where the procedure reveals fetal defects. However the Criminal Code allows abortion only where the life or health of the mother is threatened. The fact that prenatal screening has shown that the unborn infant is, or may be, handicapped is not considered in itself grounds for ending the pregnancy.
The provisions of the Code are the only legal safeguards at present for the life of the unborn child. While we believe these safeguards inadequate, we are, as you may imagine, opposed to seeing them held in contempt. It is surely inappropriate that one of Ontario’s educational institutions show such disregard for the criminal law.
We suggest moreover that the pamphlet in general presents amniocentesis in a falsely optimistic light. The tone and mode of presentation play down the gravity of abortion, and appear designed to encourage the mother to gloss over the fact that abortion will end the life of her developing child. The pamphlet tends as well to minimize the fact that the procedure may induce a miscarriage, and does not indicate that amniocentesis is prone to errors that will suggest the presence of a handicap where none exists.
We expect that the Centre will want to rewrite or withdraw “Amniocentesis”, and we hope to hear from you about the decision.
(Dr.) Janet Ajzenstat
The following interim reply was received by Dr. Ajzenstat. We will keep readers posted of further developments with regard to the Science Centre.
This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of October 24, 1984, concerning the pamphlet “Amniocentesis.”
I will discuss your comments with relevant members of my staff and at a later date reply further.
Dr. Tuzo Wilson