Soconvivium

The importance of accessing abortion stats

 This morning we posted a press release from a blogger who is challenging in court the government’s suppression of abortion information. Faye Sonier of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has written an article about this and notes:

In January 2012, the Ontario government quietly passed an amendment to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As a result of the amendment individuals are no longer being permitted to make access to information requests for data related to the provision of abortion services.

But did the amendment intend that no information – not even generalized, non-identifying data – could be released?

The legal community was confused. A number of lawyers and law firms released commentary stating that the amendment likely applied to hospital records but not aggregate OHIP 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.

Statistics and costs related to abortion — information that would not endanger the privacy rights of either patients or medical staff — serve legitimate policy ends and neither the public nor its elected representatives should be left in the dark about it. Policy cannot be evaluated with information. Without access to this information public health authorities and educrats have no idea whether their “safe sex” initiatives are working; taxpayers have a right to know how much money is being spent on abortion; programs related to pregnancy, especially teen pregnancy, cannot be properly evaluated without the data on how many pregnancies end in abortion. Citizens have a right to know these things. If this information is being collected and used internally by bureaucrats, it raises important issues about transparency and the creation of a class of insiders (in government) and outsiders (the voting and taxpaying public). The EFC has a very good paper on the “blackhole” of abortion information in Ontario.

A few years ago there was a huge uproar over the federal government ending the long-form census with many groups and government organizations saying that information garnered through it was essential to good public policy. But there is no outcry over the suppression of information about abortion that the government has in its files.

As Sonier says, blogger Patricia Maloney’s court challenge is “a fight to ensure that Ontarians can keep their provincial representatives accountable on health care costs and programming. And this isn’t just Maloney’s fight. This is a fight for all Ontarians,” because we should not be “comfortable with the government deciding what information we can and can’t access about their activities and funding.” We should all challenge the arrogance of the information suppression policy. We should ask why the Liberal government does not want us to — or thinks us unable to — judge their performance in certain public policy areas. In other words, why can’t we be trusted with this information?

There are five byelections on August 1. Candidates should be asked about this issue by pro-lifers (and others) on the campaign trail. And during the dull days of Summer at Queen’s Park, an enterprising reporter who covers the provincial scene could do what journalists should do and try to stir the pot a little by asking politicians and bureaucrats about suppressing information affecting public policy.

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