If you read Fr. Alphonse de Valk’s book Morality and Law about how Pierre Trudeau decriminalized abortion in 1969, you’ll find that the early advocacy for liberalizing Canada’s abortion law were led not by feminist groups but three publications: the United Church Observer, Chatelaine, and the Globe and Mail. Joining the chorus were professional organizations like the Canadian Medical Association.
The Globe and Mailcontinues their campaign for abortion access today, most recently in a series of six articles beginning on Sept. 22. On the weekend edition of the paper, the cover story titled, “The barriers that remain.” It was a feature story in the opinion section by Globe Atlantic Canada correspondent Jessica Leeder about becoming unintentionally pregnant at 36 and her quest for a quick abortion in Nova Scotia.
After a personal testimony about how difficult two previous pregnancies were for her mental health, Leeder relates the story of trying to obtain an abortion in the Maritime province when she was five weeks pregnant. “I was an angry, desperate animal in my quest to figure out how anyone goes about getting an early stage abortion – discreetly, while juggling the demands of a family and a full-time job – in my adopted province of Nova Scotia.”
Leeder reports in great detail about her “desperate” search for an abortionist who would administer an abortion-drug quickly without following the Health Canada guideline suggestion of an ultrasound to determine the gestational age of the preborn child and ensure it was not an ectopic pregnancy. Under federal regulations, Mifegymiso, the abortion drug regiment approved in Canada in 2014, should be administered before nine-weeks gestation for safety reasons. In Nova Scotia, no hospital carries out abortions before eight weeks except in cases of emergency; no abortionist was able to help Leeder expedite a medical abortion because there was a two-week queue for ultrasounds at the local hospital.
Leeder concluded, “getting an abortion in Nova Scotia is basically impossible.”
The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports that between 2007 and 2016, there were between 1908 and 2,157 abortions in Nova Scotia every year, so impossible is a bit of an exaggeration.
Leeder did not want a surgical abortion nor did she want to wait for two weeks, so she continued calling doctors to see if any would help her.
It would be one thing for a national newspaper to allow one of their reporters to write a long, first-person essay on one of their life experiences. The story appeared in the opinion section. But what followed over the next week turned a personal interest story into a sustained campaign to put pressure on the Nova Scotia government to change the rules governing abortions in the province.
There were three stories that were essentially the same – the same pro-abortion experts, the same facts being re-stated – reiterating that there is a “weeks” long wait period for ultrasounds that abortion advocates insist are unnecessary. There was no pro-life and counter-argument provided. One point that could be extrapolated from Leeder’s essay was the timing of her pregnancy. It occurred literally the week after the province launched an abortion helpline and shortly after the introduction of the abortion drug in the province. There is no evidence that there is a chronic queue for ultrasounds to confirm fetal age other than the reporter’s anecdote.
Carly Weeks, the paper’s health reporter, repeatedly noted in the stories that Health Canada stipulates a dating ultrasound is necessary for medical abortions, that only hospitals have such diagnostic equipment in Nova Scotia, and that the Nova Scotia Health Authority has found that such brief waits are medically permissible. The mantra that there were “delays of days or weeks” and that “even short delays can have consequences for women seeking abortions,” such as nausea and vomiting.
The sources of criticism of the Nova Scotia policy across the three “news” stories are Dustin Costecu, author of federal guidelines for prescribing Mifegymiso; Lianne Yoshida, co-medical director of the Women’s Choice abortion facility; Martha Paynter, a Halifax nurse and reproductive health advocate; Robyn MacQuarrie, a Nova Scotia abortionist and long-time abortion advocate for greater access to abortion throughout Atlantic Canada; Frédérique Chabot, director of health promotion with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights; Ellen Wiebe, medical director of Vancouver’s Willow Women’s Clinic. That is six advocates of abortion. No pro-life and dissenting medical voice is provided.
Marie-Claire Bissonnette, youth coordinator of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interimthe articles’ bias obscures several facts that might confuse readers. “The fact is what the reporter is complaining about is not access to abortion, which is code for easy, no-questions-asked, quick-and-dirty abortion-on-demand,” said Bissonnette. “Ms. Leeder is complaining that she cannot have abortion on her terms. She is complaining that the medical community, even in permitting medical abortion, recognizes that the abortion drug is not as safe as its advocates claim.”
Bissonnette said most of the harm the reporter claims to suffer is psychic while ignoring the dangers that ignoring the guidelines could cause women. She pointed to Leeder’s line stating, the “system that was forcing me into submission, to remain pregnant longer than I wanted to be,” as evidence this was less about health concerns than a frame of mind. Not that there is not a health dimension to this story. Bissonnette said in the reporter’s and newspaper’s campaign for quicker abortions, “they are risking the health of pregnant women – the guidelines are there for the safety of mothers.”
“Most importantly,” Bissonnette says, “Leeder and theGlobeignore that the real victim of Canada’s permissive abortion regime are the millions of preborn children killed by surgical and chemical abortions since 1969.”
Leeder acknowledges that Atlantic Canada has had “markers of progress” in recent years. Nova Scotia no longer requires women seeking abortions to have a doctor’s referral for the procedure. New Brunswick now pays for abortions carried out a private abortion center in Fredericton. Prince Edward Island ended its 32-year moratorium. But Leeder writes and the Globe and Maileditorialized that the few restrictions that remain are “more than an inconvenience.” The paper editorialized “it’s time for those provinces to join this century” and the paper is doing what it can to push the Maritimes in the direction of easier abortion access.
On Sept. 28, the paper reported “the province has come under fire this week after the Globe and Mailreported women often have to wait days or weeks for an ultrasound.” Just on cue. After the story appeared, the CBC also reported on the wait times and provincial NDP began their pressure on the Nova Scotia government to liberalize abortion.