Top 10 stories of 2002
1. Government introduces reprotech bill
After years of stalling, the federal government finally introduced Bill C-56, on May 9, the misnamed An Act Respecting Human Reproduction, regulating reproductive and experimental technologies. The bill, later renamed Bill C-15, clearly permitted without any real restrictions, embryonic stem cell research which always results in the death of a human being at the embryonic stage. Also, an analysis by noted U.S. bioethicist Diane Irving found that despite claims to the contrary human cloning and the creation of chimeras would be allowed because of the bill's lack of specificity in what it did and did not permit. Pro-life groups fought hard against the bill. Campaign Life Coalition's Mary Ellen Douglas said that it was the most important issue pro-lifers have faced since the Omnibus Bill in 1969 which brought in abortion on demand. When Parliament recessed in June, the bill was at second reading but there was no action taken on it when Parliament resumed in the fall.
2. U.S. political realignment favours pro-lifers
Since the Democrats regained control of the Senate in May 2001 when Vermont Senator James Jeffords quite the Republican Party, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has prevented pro-life legislation, most notably a ban on human cloning, from coming to the floor for a vote. The U.S. elections Nov. 5, saw the Republicans regain control of the Senate (picking up two pro-life votes in the Senate) and increase their lead in the House of Representatives. Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Alabama) has promised pro-life legislation that has passed the House, including a cloning ban and a law preventing minors from crossing state lines to avoid local parental notification requirements, will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. President George W. Bush has promised to sign any such pro-life legislation that arrives at his desk. Perhaps more importantly, the Democrats can no longer defeat or delay pro-life judicial appointments in committee. Several committee members had made support for Roe v. Wade a litmus test for approval and scuttled the nominations of several pro-life judges. President Bush has indicated he would re-nominate them.
3. Marriage under assault
Two provincial court decisions -- one in Ontario and one in Quebec -- ruled that the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman unconstitutionally discriminated against homosexuals. The federal government has appealed both decisions, but Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has released a discussion paper and announced the need for public consultations on how the government should proceed in dealing with same-sex partnerships. Not even on the table, however, is maintaining the uniqueness of the man-woman marriage as distinct and special from other relationships. Meanwhile, a Statistics Canada study shows that increasingly, heterosexual couples are eschewing marriage in favour of less stable and satisfying common-law relationships.
4. Ethical stem cell success
There were many announcements of the successful use of ethically derived adult (somatic) stem cells for therapies and cures, yet the media largely ignored them, continuing instead to hype the largely untested, unsuccessful and immoral use of embryonic stem cells. Only a medical website reported that a woman was cured of lupus and showed no signs of remission for 18 months using adult stem cells. Only the Kingston Whig-Standard reported that multiple scleroris patients were treated with stem cells taken from their own blood by Ottawa Hospital neurologist Mark Freedman. The scientific journal Nature reported that a team of scientists at the University of Minnesota isolated a stem cell from adult bone marrow that can produce all the tissue types in the body. Another study reported in Nature found stem cells could replace damaged brain cells and diminish symptoms of Parkinson's in mice. Montreal Neurological Institute researcher Freda Miler found that certain skin cells can form into nerve, muscle and heart cells. Most of these stories were ignored by the mainstream press despite their collective proclivity to report on the slightest embryonic stem cell claim. Celeste McGovern, writing in The Report, said "Real people are already being cured of real diseases using adult stem cells. It's not some theoretical distant dream. The stubborn will to advance destructive embryo research over adult stem-cell research is baffling." Will the media stop hyping embryonic stem cell research after stem cell pioneering researcher John Gearhart's admission in December that embryonic stem cells would probably never yield a cure or treatment? Or will they hop on Gearhart's bandwagon now that they says they are useful for non-therapeutic research purposes?
5. World Youth Day
In July, Pope John Paul II visited Toronto and brought with him a quarter-million young people from around the world. Before and during the World Youth Day festivities, pro-life youth took part in numerous events including the World Youth for Life Day, pickets and prayer vigils in front of Toronto abortuaries and the World Youth Alliance's Creating a Culture of Life Cafe and seminars. At least a half-million youth endured the rain to hear the Pope say Mass Sunday morning before leaving. The media coverage was generally fair, the streets of Toronto seemed kindler and gentler despite the crowds and religious leaders say that it is impossible to have this event not touch the hearts of the young people who came to see the greatest living pro-life leader.
6. Pro-life successes at the UN
Pro-lifers were successful on three United Nations fronts in 2002. In May, pro-life non governmental organizations were successful in ensuring that there were no references to abortion "services" in the in the final document ("A World Fit for Children") at the General Assembly Special Session on Children, the 10-year-review of the Rights of the Child. Abortion advocates lobbied vigorously for the addition, but failed. In August, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa -- better known as the Earth Summit -- and at its prepatory committee meetings in the months preceeding the summit, pro-life NGOs prevented population controllers from inserting tricky language into the final document that would have declared abortion a human right. Pro-life NGOs were also successful in having "reproductive health rights" balanced by a concern for national laws and traditions. In November, the UN's negotiations on a human cloning treaty -- the Ad Hoc Committee for the International Convention Against Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings -- were postponed for one year after the U.S.'s insistence that it go beyond banning only reproductive cloning and include a prohibition on cloning for research purposes. Having utterly failed for the past two years to advance their anti-life, anti family agenda at various UN conferences and summits because of strong opposition from the Bush administration, the UN says it will not hold any more large summits before late 2004. The move illustrates that such conferences, although ostensibly about population and development, women's rights, children's rights, and the environment, are really about advancing the abortion, "safe-sex" and anti-family agenda.
7. Religious freedom under attack
The assault on religious rights in Canada, a trend that pro-lifers have long been concerned about, continued unabated in 2002. In May, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert MacKinnon ruled that an Oshawa Catholic school could not forbid Marc Hall, a 17-year-old male student, from bringing his homosexual "boyfriend" to the school prom. In June, the Ontario Divisional Court's decision in Brillinger vs Brockie (which examined the treatment of Brockie at the hands of the Ontario Human Rights Commission who was fined after a homosexual activist group claimed discrimination when Brockie refused to publish their materials) could have serious implications for religious rights. The Court found the HRC judgment to be overly broad in its application to Brockie by failing to accord sufficient weight to his right to freedom of religion under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But it may set up the courts and human rights commissions to determine what "could be reasonably considered to be in direct conflict with the core elements" of one's religious beliefs. At the end of the year, we witnessed the usual silliness of holiday correctness as a B.C. school board banned the use of the term Christmas to describe holiday festivities, clothing retailer Gap Inc. directed its employees to greet customers with happy holidays instead of merry Christmas and the Royal Canadian Mint ran a commercial, "The 12 Days of Giving." Lastly and most ominously, NDP MP and homosexual activist Svend Robinson introduced a private members' bill, C-415 (later re-labelled, Bill C-??,) which amends hate crimes statutes to include sexual orientation. Pro-family advocates are worried about a possible chilling effect on political debate and religious speech. While Robinson claims religious groups would not be affected, EGALE, a gay lobbying group that supports the bill, admitted that the provisions would be used to silence religious opposition to same-sex rights.
8. Pro-life counsellor attacked
Following an attempt by employees of the Cabbagetown Women's Centre to prevent an 18-year old woman from going with Aid to Women counsellor Robert Hinchey to the hospital after changing her mind about having an abortion, two representatives of the Stop 86 women's shelter abducted the teen and pepper-sprayed Hinchey in the face. Police, called to the first incident at the abortuary, determined that the teen was leaving with Hinchey of her own accord. How the women's shelter workers knew to go to the hospital is unknown. The incident occurred at the Family Medicine Clinic of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto in August, as the teen was to have the laminaria tent removed. Two women, including Carol Ann Trueman, approached Hinchey and the teen with the intent of taking the teen back to the abortuary. After the altercation, including a scuffle with a security guard, the teen was taken away. Police later told an Aid to Women representative that the teen had changed her mind. Still, the police charged Trueman with assault with a weapon. Attempts to set a trial date was twice postponed.
9. Morgentaler agitates for taxpayer's money
In what is becoming an old story, abortionist Henry Morgentaler agitated for funding for his private abortuaries in Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In November, he began the process of suing N.B. to fund abortions in his Fredriction facility and is considering doing the same in Nova Scotia, which refuses to full funding of abortions committed in private abortuaries. Morgentaler also stepped up his attacks on the Manitoba government for not buying his Winnipeg abortuary. He complained that Manitoba Minister of Health David Chomiak's "religious bias" is jeopardizing women's reproductive health rights even though the province funds abortions done in hospitals. A Chomiak spokesman said that Morgentaler was being difficult during negotiations and the Winnipeg Free Press reports the province may set up its own free-standing abortuary. Morgentaler also requested that Prince Edward Island reconsider it policies of not providing for abortion on demand.
10. Courageous stands
While there are many people who refuse to give in to the culture of death, two notable stand-outs this year come from professions from which we need much leadership. In September, Fr. John Maes of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic church in Medicine Hat, Albta., refused to preside over the marriage of Celinda Ling, a parishioner whom he discovered to be working for the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. He said "her position on this central issue was contrary to the church (so) I had to discharge my duty to the church." In February, Dr. Stephan Dawson, a Toronto family practitioner working in Barrie, Ont., was threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to prescribe the birth control pill or the sex-enhancement drug Viagra to unmarried patients because he believes it would promote immoral activity. He vowed he would risk losing his licence rather than sacrifice his religious and moral beliefs: "There is no compromise here," the born-again Christian told The Interim. The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons charged Dawson with committing an act of professional misconduct by denying standard medical care to his patients.
Top stories in brief
In September, Neil and Rena Glass (left) win their court case and maintain the right to keep a pro-life sign on their property, near Kleinburg, Ont. He was charged with erecting a sign without a permit. He successfully proved that the sign, which has been up for a decade, was in place before the municipal bylaw was enacted. Over the years, the homemade sign has displayed messages such as "Pray to end abortion" and "Abortion sucks, literally."
- In February, Paladin Labs announces it will formally ask Health Canada to approve the over-the-counter distribution of its morning-after pill.
- On March 4, less than three months after Parliament's Standing Committee on Health released its report on experimental and reproductive technologies and two months before Health Minister Anne McLellan would announce federal regulations on experimental technologies, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research announces its guidelines regarding the funding of embryonic stem cell research.
- On March 20, Stephen Harper replaces strongly pro-life Stockwell Day as leader of the Canadian Alliance.
- On May 16, Belgium becomes the second country to legalize euthanasia. The law took effect in September and it appeared that restrictions designed to protect the vulnerable were ignored in one of the first cases of "legal" euthanasia.
- After announcing in August that he will retire in February 2004, Prime Minister Jean Chretien begins legacy-building by announcing the government will accede to various international treaties including the Kyoto Protocol and the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
- In September, UNICEF asks to be let back into the Toronto Catholic District school board. A decision is delayed until May 2003. In the meantime, Aid to Women, which assists women facing crisis pregnancies, raises an estimated $13,000 in change through boxes distributed at 68 Toronto-area Catholic schools
- In November, James Kopp, suspected of killing Buffalo, N.Y. abortionist Bernard Slepian, admits to the Buffalo News that he shot Slepian but never intended to kill him.
- In December, Rev. Mark Bigelow, a member of Planned Parenthood's clergy advisory board in the U.S., claims that the Bible says, "Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy."
The October Creating a Culture of Life: An International Forum pro-life conference in Toronto is a huge success. At least 650 people participate in a three-day conference that saw some of the best pro-life speakers from around the world address abortion-related issues, including Dr. Jack Willke, the president of the International Right to Life Federation.