A pro-life blogger is taking the Ontario government to court after discovering it passed legislation allowing for abortion data to be kept secret. Patricia Maloney, the author of the Run with Life blog, submitted a Freedom of Information request in March 2012 for abortion statistics but was denied in March 2013 by the Ministry of Health. This was due to Bill 122, the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, which amended the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to ban FOI requests for abortion data.
Maloney sought the legal counsel of constitutional lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos and brought the Ministry of Health’s decision before the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The IPC, abiding by the amendments to FIPPA, agreed with the Ministry. Mahoney is now looking to have the IPC reconsider its order by taking it for judicial review to the Ontario Divisional Court.
Maloney called the amendment “without precedent” in a press release, and said that without abortion data, a host of public policies cannot be properly scrutinized. “Without this data, how will we know if safe-sex campaigns are effective? Or the sex-education program that Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised to introduce?” asks Maloney. “Or if there is a sudden spike in tween or teen abortions … and now the public is running blind on a government expenditure previously identified as costing as much as 30 to 50 million dollars each year.”
Before the amendment, Maloney was able to obtain information about how many abortions were carried out in Ontario and compare them with statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which often underreported numbers.
There was no debate recorded in the transcripts of Ontario’s legislature or committee hearings regarding the amendment to restrict access to abortion statistics.
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada legal counsel Faye Sonier, writing for the EFC’s Activate blog, said that lawyers were confused about how the amendment would affect the release of abortion statistics. Sonier said many lawyers falsely believed that the new regulation applied to hospital records but not Ontario Health Insurance Plan billing records. “However, if it didn’t apply to OHIP billing records, it would still be possible to determine how many abortions were paid for by Ontario tax-payers,” states Sonier.
“Are we comfortable with the government deciding what information we can and can’t access about their activities and funding? Sonier asked. “If we’re comfortable with one $30 million a year restriction, what’s next?”
Last year the EFC released Black Holes: Canada’s Missing Abortion Data explaining gaps in abortion data across Canada and debunking the argument that releasing such information would be a safety risk to abortionists and women who have abortion.