Abortion access in BC

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Abortion access in BC



Today's Vancouver Sun has an article about access to abortion in BC. Predictably enough, while access has improved considerably in Vancouver over the last decade, the situation is much worse in rural areas.

[url=http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=adc3... Arthur, a spokeswoman for B.C.'s Pro-Choice Network, said ... rural women may have to wait as long as six weeks for the procedure at hospitals because operating rooms are booked or a doctor is not available, compared to an average wait of one to two weeks at an abortion clinic.[/url]


After a sniper shot and wounded Dr. Garson Romalis at his Vancouver home in 1994, the B.C. government in 1995 passed the Access to Abortion Services Act.

The law designated so-called bubble zones around abortion clinics, doctors' offices and homes, creating areas where activities such as demonstrations, counselling or physical interference are prohibited.

Karen Dean, executive director of Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic, one of the six abortion clinics in B.C., used to do security work at the Everywoman's Health Centre. At that time, it was in a street-level, stand-alone building, which made it an easier target for anti-abortion protesters -- some of whom would chain themselves to doors or vandalize locks.

The Bagshaw clinic at 1177 West Broadway has rarely seen large numbers of demonstrators.

Dean said the last time a protester entered the bubble zone around the multi-storey government building was in October....

Dean said that because of the possibility of violence, her abortion clinic and others don't reveal statistics about the number of abortions performed annually.

A special amendment to the B.C. Freedom of Information Act keeps statistics for individual clinics and hospitals secret. ...

Arthur said women sometimes get incorrect or incomplete information about what services are available.

In the spring of 2006, volunteers with the 200-member BC Pro-Choice Action Network phoned almost 300 walk-in medical clinics, doctor's offices and hospitals around the province.

Using a script, they asked clinic receptionists and other front-line workers: "Hi, can you help me? I'm pregnant and I'd like to get an abortion. Do you do abortions?" If the answer was no, the caller asked for a referral to a centre that offered those services.

Arthur said the results on Vancouver Island were "very disturbing."

"And basically, that was the pattern throughout the province."

Although there's an abortion clinic and a family health and planning clinic in Victoria, Arthur said 35 per cent of the respondents offered no information or misinformation.

Forty-two per cent said they were unaware of the existing services on Vancouver Island; only 23 per cent referred the callers to one of the two clinics on the island.

Women don't need a referral from a doctor to go to one of the six abortion clinics in B.C.; they only have to call the clinic to make an appointment. But if they want to have the operation in their local hospital, they must get a referral from a doctor.

"If you only have one GP [general practitioner in your community and that GP is anti-choice, you now have a major barrier," Dean said.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons, whose mandate is to protect the public by regulating, monitoring, and sometimes disciplining doctors, doesn't require doctors to perform abortions or do things such as prescribe morning-after pills.

"Physicians, like anyone else, have a right to adhere to their own belief systems or philosophy," college registrar Dr. Morris VanAndel said. "If they are anti-abortion or have strong feeling, they can't be compelled."

However, VanAndel said the college expects doctors to disclose those beliefs to their patients and refer them to other doctors.

VanAndel said some doctors feel so strongly about the issue of abortion that they don't want to refer the patient to another doctor, but he said those cases are very rare.

He said the college has had "a few" complaints from patients who alleged a doctor was obstructive or critical of the patient's choice. Those complaints led to discussions between the college and the doctor, not discipline, he said. ...