The City of Toronto’s Department of Public Health organized a “physicians” conference on contraception and abortion for minors” at the Hospital for Sick Children on February 15.
This conference was part of the activities for Birth Control Week in Toronto whose theme was “Play It Safe,” Promotional gimmicks during the week included 500 coffee mugs at $2 each (which were given away free to health professionals and to the media). Slogans on the mugs stated, “Use your condom sense,” “Before you get it on, put it on,” and “Dress for the Occasion,”
Incredibly, 10,000 condoms were also available to be given away to teens. It seems the city’s teens had better sense than did the city fathers as, at the end of the promotion, over 9,500 condoms remained in stock.
The February 15 conference, called “The Doctor’s Dilemma,” featured guest speaker, Bernard Dickens, Dr. Dickens is a law professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in legal-medical areas. He is a prominent pro-abortion advocate.
On this occasion, Dickens stated that it is permissible for doctors to give information on birth control and abortion to minors without the knowledge and consent of their parents. He stated, “There are no legal problems with doctors giving information to patients who are under age – just threats from parents.” (Toronto Star, February 16, 1984.) Dickens argued that doctors should be more concerned about the consequences of not giving this information and added that under-age teens are “entitled to the right of confidentiality.”
He pointed out that teens can be treated under their parents’ medicare plan without the reason for the office visit being disclosed. Dickens also stated that abortions can be performed without parental consent if that is the “best medical judgment.” He pointed out that, under the Child Welfare Act, “parents have a legal duty to assist in medical health care.”
Campaign Life’s legal counsel, Gwen Landolt, protested the Star’s report of the conference in a Letter to the Editor, which the Toronto Star declined to publish.
Mrs. Landolt pointed out that no doctor can prescribe birth control or perform an abortion on a minor without parental consent. She wrote as follows.
On the contrary, parents can, in fact, sue a physician who provides medical services to their minor child without their consent. This is based on the fact that the common law provides that a minor may give her own consent only in those cases when it is established that she understands and fully appreciates the nature of the consequences of the medical procedure. The physician, in many cases, is a stranger to the minor child, who sees her for only a short period of time, and to whom the minor child may provide only selected information. Accordingly, to determine that the minor child understand the nature of the medical procedure in these circumstances is presumptions to say the least, and, unquestionably, leaves the physician open justifiably to legal action by a concerned parent.
Pointing out that in 1984 there is rarely, if ever, any medical requirement for abortion, Mrs. Landolt refers to the Badgeley Report (the Report of the Federal Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law) which stated most women having abortions were in good physical health and the physicians “…openly acknowledged that their diagnosis for mental health were given for the purpose of expediency and they could not be considered as a valid assessment of an abortion-patient’s state of mental health.”
Mrs. Landolt replies, “thus, to suggest that a parent vetoing a minor child’s abortion is a denial of ‘necessaries of life’ (S.197 of the Criminal Code), is indeed a most extraordinary interpretation of the law. I would suggest, with respect, that such an argument would not be a very persuasive one in a court of law.”