Dr. Somerville says in part:
"It's an oft-repeated truism in ethics: "Good facts are essential for good ethics." So surely we need the facts about an issue as ethically fraught as abortion. Yet not only do we not have them, but they are intentionally not gathered or, if some are or might be available, access to them is denied.
That allows two myths that favour the pro-choice stance on abortion to be propagated: That late-term abortion is rare and that there is a consensus in Canada on the public-policy regime that should govern abortion (which, at present, is the complete absence of any law)."
Vicki Saporta responded to Dr. Somerville's article with this letter in the Montreal Gazette published June 5, 2010
Facts are available
Re: "Busting the abortion myths" (Opinion, June 1). Margaret Somerville's article relies on anecdotal evidence that supports her personal ideology rather than speaking to the unbiased, statistical evidence concerning abortion.
The majority of abortions in Canada are provided in the first trimester and there is statistical data to support this fact. In 1995, the responsibility for collecting abortion data was transferred from Statistics Canada to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Perhaps if Somerville had contacted the correct agency when writing this article, she would have learned that, according to the CIHT, in 2005, the percentage of abortions provided after 20 weeks was less than one percent (0.56 per cent).
Abortions after 20 weeks are provided in a hospital and data show they usually have a corresponding diagnostic code, which indicates a fetal or maternal complication. These are often heartbreaking cases of women who discovered late in very wanted pregnancies that their fetuses were diagnosed with fatal anomalies or that their health or life would be put at risk if they continued their pregnancies.
It is misleading and inaccurate to suggest that the facts on later abortion are somehow hidden from the Canadian people.
Here is Dr. Somerville's letter to the Editor (unpublished) sent to The [Montreal] Gazette in response to Vicki Saporto's letter.
Re: Vicki Saporta (“Facts are available”, Letters, June 5)
Ms. Saporta signs her letter, challenging my recent article on late-term abortion, as President of the National Abortion Federation of Canada. She fails to mention she is also the Executive Director and President of the Washington-based National Abortion Federation, which, according to Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, “represents abortion providers in the United States and Canada”. (Charles Lewis, “Fetal rights stir debate on abortion”, National Post, November 19, 2008). It’s no surprise, therefore, that she uses “evidence that supports her ideology”, as she accuses me of doing, and that also supports the “abortion industry” for which she works.
Ms. Saporta tries to undermine my credibility and be reassuring that late-term abortions are so few we shouldn’t be worrying about them, when she states that if I had contacted the correct agency I would have learned that “in 2005 the percentage of abortions provided after 20 weeks was less than one percent (0.56 per cent)”. But Statistics Canada is a “correct agency” and when over 100,000 abortions occur in Canada each year the percentage she gives is consistent with the figures I state in my article, that between 400 and 800 post-20- week gestation abortions occur annually. We wouldn’t consider 400 to 800 deaths a year from road accidents nothing to worry about or a rare occurrence. We should treat late-term abortion similarly.
Ms. Saporta is probably correct that many late-term abortions are associated with “fetal anomalies”. But what is the nature of these “anomalies”? Should we, for instance, be aborting up to 90 per cent of Down syndrome children, as is currently happening, some of them late-term abortions? And what message does this send to disabled Canadians?
And her statement that late-term abortions are necessary to avoid risk to the pregnant woman’s life or health is inconsistent with medical evidence that this is a rare occurrence, especially as early delivery of a viable child is an alternative option.
Finally, Ms. Saporta claims “It is inaccurate and misleading to suggest [as I do] that the facts on later abortion are somehow hidden from the Canadian people”.
She is wrong that they are not being hidden, as, for example, this month's ruling by the British Columbia Office of Information and Privacy’s rejecting an attempt by pro-life activists to gain access to information on abortions at the province’s hospitals clearly shows. The senior adjudicator Celia Francis ruled that release of such information was “not in the public interest”, and the ruling can be interpreted to state that it never will be.
And, it’s ironic that the way in which Ms. Saporta chooses to present her “facts” is obviously intended to result in misleading Canadians in relation to the true realities of late-term abortion.