|Toronto Star - May 7, 2000|
Even pro-choice supporters dismayed by StatsCan figures
By Lynda Hurst, Feature Writer
Since 1988, when the Supreme Court struck down Canada's existing abortion law, termination of a pregnancy has been a private matter between a woman and her doctor. An attempt in 1990 to write new legislation failed and, since then, all political parties have been more than happy to leave the socially divisive issue in the realm of medicine, not politics.Until the last few weeks.
The three top contenders for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance are all pro-life. The most outspoken of them, Stockwell Day - who, as Alberta treasurer, led a failed attempt to stop the province from paying for abortions - has pledged, if he leads a government, to hold either a free vote in the House of Commons or a public referendum.Most political observers say they're on to a lost cause. Poll after poll in the past decade has shown that 80% of Canadians believe in a woman's right of choice, and there's no turning back the clock on the issue.
Still, even the most vehement of pro-choice supporters may have been dismayed last month when the latest Statistics Canada figures on abortion were released. They showed that in 1997, 114,648 women had abortions, up almost 3% from 1996 and up 10% from 1990. Ontario has the highest number: 47,174. Since clinics and out-of-country terminations began to be included in the count in 1990, the rate of abortions to live births has climbed steadily.In 1997, there were a record 33 abortions for every 100 live births in Canada. Women in their 20s accounted for more than half of them; teenagers just under 20%. The abortion rate per 1,000 Canadian women of all ages was 16.8. While that is lower than the U.S. at 20 per 1,000, it's far higher than countries such as the Netherlands at 6.5; Belgium at 6.8; Germany at 7.6; and Switzerland at 8.4 (all figures are for the latest available years).
Those are all countries with liberal or non-existent abortion laws, yet their rates remain consistently low while Canada's grows yearly. And because StatsCan doesn't collect data on the reasons for termination, nobody knows why it's happening. In a survey of 27 countries (not including Canada) by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a New York reproductive research organization, the most commonly cited reasons were the disruption of education or employment, the inability to afford a child, and the desire to postpone childbearing.Easy to ask: why, then, get pregnant in the first place? Easy to answer: 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned.
Nobody is even too sure how many Canadian women use birth control. One study by University of Victoria sociologist Zheng Wu found that its use dropped to 60% from 69% between 1984 and 1995. But the last Canadian Contraception Study in 1995 put the percentage at 74. "From everything we know, the increase in abortion is not due to irresponsibility about birth control," says Alex McKay, research director of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN)."The occurrence of pregnancy is very complex; it's not 'I'm planning/I'm not planning.' But once a woman is pregnant, then she has to make a clear-cut choice. The increase shows that women are exercising their right to choose." That's the view of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, whose 18-year fight to overturn Canada's restrictive abortion law led to the Supreme Court decision. (Prior to that, the procedure could be performed legally only when a woman's health or life was in danger, and had to be approved by a four-doctor medical committee.)
Does the steady increase, coupled with the emergence of pro-life politicians like Stockwell Day, concern Morgentaler? No, he says, because it's been clear for years that the consensus among Canadians is that abortion is legal, safe and a woman's private business.Still, the pro-life minority in the country remains as vociferously anti-choice as ever. "That's why it's very important to stress that Canadian women are not using abortion as a form of birth control," says Marilyn Wilson, executive director of CARAL (Canadian Abortion Rights Action League).
There are countries where this happens - Cuba and Romania with rates of 78 per 1,000 women, for instance - but Wilson says there is no indication of that here. If there was, Canada's abortion numbers would be much higher. But with the availability of improved contraception, shouldn't they be lower? "Birth control methods are scientifically effective if taken properly, but they aren't always. There's a disparity in their use," says Wilson. "If taken properly" is a key part of the explanation for why the abortion rates is up, according to many health-care workers. Too often, they're not.Using a condom without also using a spermicidal gel reduces its effectiveness from 98 to 85%. And yet according to the University of Victoria study, condom use on its own increased from 6 to 10% between 1984 and 1995. Newer forms of the pill have lower doses of hormones, fewer side-effects and are 98% effective, but they have a wider room for error if taken late, even by a few hours.
Some women can't take the pill because it causes migraines. Sometimes other medications - antibiotics, even antihistamines - interfere with its action, and yet many women aren't aware of these pitfalls, says Selma Savage, sexual-health consultant for Toronto's public health department."There is a lot of misinformation out there about birth control. A lot of family physicians, who do most of the dispensing, are not able to spend the time to make sure the person understands how to use it properly."
And it's not just teenagers who aren't being told, says Bonnie Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood of Canada. "There are grown women who don't know what to do if they miss a pill. I've talked to 35-year-old women who've taken the pill, had spotting, so they stopped, but still thought they were protected. It's hard to believe that women in this country don't have this knowledge, but it's true."Canada may have no law against abortion, but it also has no national reproductive strategy that would help make it an option of last resort, Johnson says. Access to birth control and sex education outside the big cities, in rural areas and in the north, are "all over the map." Conversely, Western European nations with low abortion rates have routine access to sexual health-care services and high-quality sex education. The subject is considered a legitimate, non-controversial part of the school curriculum like any other.
"We know kids are starting their sexual activity at the same age here as there, so something is making the difference," says Johnson. "We believe it's access to health care and education."Sex education, including methods of contraception - abstinence among them - has been on the Ontario Grades 8, 9 and 10 curriculums since last fall. But critics say there are no guidelines on just how, precisely, it is to be taught, though there is the clear instruction that parents are to be informed when it is.
Teachers have the mandate to teach birth control but they're not given the materials, says Johnson. But that will change this fall, says Carol Rocks, Toronto board of education's district-wide coordinator for health and physical education. Several provincial school boards in the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association are putting together resource packages to help teachers through what are still treacherous waters - for many of them, let alone opponents of sex education."Some parents still won't go for it," says Rocks. "But it's crucial for schools to provide factual, accurate, up-to-date information on birth control to counter the myths that young people get hold of" - chief among them that "you can't get pregnant if you only do it once." She worries, however, that in a course that also includes phys-ed instruction, substance-abuse education and injury prevention, there won't be sufficient time for teachers to thoroughly explain the pros and cons of various birth control methods.
Then, too, the course isn't even mandatory in Grade 10. By Grade 11, according to Planned Parenthood, an estimated 46% of teenagers are sexually active.But if the target is a reduced abortion rate at all ages, including the 20s where it's now highest, the most effective weapon is free birth control, says SIECCAN'S McKay.
The last time StatsCan did a composite of who had abortions was in 1994, when it found the typical woman was 26, unmarried and had had at least one other child. "It's convenient to point the finger at sex education with teenagers, but we're missing the boat if we ignore the socio-economic factors at work here," says McKay. "What's led to rising pregnancy and abortion rates is increased poverty and decreased access to health care and social services. It makes economic sense to provide subsidized contraception." Indeed, according to StatsCan, a female is six times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy if she is poor.Aside from free birth control, many health-care professionals are arguing for wider education on the existence and effectiveness of emergency birth control, the so-called morning-after pill. Sexual-health consultant Savage says Toronto public health is also pushing for provincial funding for a pilot project that would allow pharmacists to give out emergency contraception over the counter. The Society for Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports the move, and also wants to authorize physicians to prescribe the emergency pills in advance so a woman will have them on hand if needed.
"Accidents happen," says CARAL's Wilson. "Canadian women need and want the right to choose what happens when they do."
The material contained in this file is made available courtesy contributors and editors of Pro-Life E-News.
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EXPERT DEBUNKS 'MEDICALLY NECESSARY' ABORTION IN BREAST CANCER CASES
NEW YORK, Mar. 7, 2001 (LSN.ca) - In an article published in the current issue of The Post-Abortion Review, Dr. Joel Brind debunks the myth commonly used by pro-abortionists who say that "therapeutic abortions" are necessary for women diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. Brind, a leading expert on the abortion-breast cancer link and head of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, notes studies have shown that pregnant women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and carry to term generally live longer than women who have abortions. In one study, while only 20 per cent of women who carried to term were still alive 20 years later, all of the patients who chose to abort had died within 11 years.
Brind hypothesizes that the lower death rate may be due to hormone changes in the last stages of pregnancy that switch the cells from a growth stage into a milk producing tissue. Since this hormonal change shuts down cell division (cancer is characterized by cell division that is out of control), this hormonal shutdown signal may be a powerful form of "natural chemotherapy."
Since studies have consistently shown that women with gestational breast cancer are actually more likely to survive if they carry to term, how could any physician not strongly recommend against abortion? If their first concern was the welfare of the woman, they could do nothing else. But according to one surgeon cited by Brind, abortion is recommended not because it will benefit the woman but purely for the sake of destroying the child who might suffer from some ill effects of the mother's chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
But even this eugenic "targeting" of the potentially "unfit" lacks any scientific merit. As Brind notes, numerous studies show that "the unborn child demonstrates a remarkable capacity to withstand aggressive maternal cancer therapy without ill effect." After the first trimester of pregnancy, chemotherapy does not appear to increase the risk birth defects, and even in the first trimester, the risks of fetal harm are very low and can be further reduced with proper precautions.
For the full text of Brind's article go to:
Have no illusions that the problems with America's education system are national ones. Once you read Tom DeWeese's article and know who's behind "The Fix", you'll come to the conclusion that you know why "The Fix" is destroying education in all
developed nations. Furthermore, you will know why the current push for sex-education is such a large part of "The Fix."
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