CANADA/QUEBEC – Confidential report reveals negative climate for third-trimester abortions in Quebec

The Clinical Ethics Working Group of the College ofPhysicians of Quebec has just published a report that denounces the currentstate of third trimester abortion services in Canada, which it describes as”disorganized”, “discriminatory” and”unacceptable”. Thereport finds that doctors who provide late abortions are “stigmatized,even intimidated”.Women arerejected by hospitals, and must travel to the USA where they have to pay$10-15,000 for an abortion.Others are “forced to continue the pregnancy”,for lack of access.Yet abortions in Canada are legal without time limits.The College has suggested setting up aspecialised centre with the mandate to provide late abortions for the province.

InQuebec, only a few women request these abortions each year.Sometimes theydid not know they were pregnant earlier. Others have “difficult, eventragic social situations”, explains the document.“More recently,there have been requests following Zika virus infection and requests forselective abortion.Cultural reasons may also be involved.The reportalso notes serious maternal health problems and serious fetal abnormalities.

As a signof the climate prevailing on this subject in the health network, oneprofessional medical association refused to comment so as not to “endangerthe safety of women and carers” and “not to open a debate on thisdelicate issue”. Another said: “Wewill not comment on this matter as long as there are doctors who are thesubject of death threats.We must protect them to guarantee the provisionof care for women.” An anonymous communityworker said that professionals who provide this type of abortion are called”baby killers” by colleagues.In addition, there are threatsfrom anti-abortion activists.A health professional who also did not giveher name said that security issues cause “a lot of concerns” for theteams.

“It’sstill very taboo,” notes Patricia LaRue, director of the Outaouais Women’sHealth Center.Even those who provide first trimester abortions are stilldiscriminated against in their environment.They are told: “We know,you kill babies”.Doctors who agree to do third trimester abortionswork in such secret that evenMs LaRue does not know theiridentity.The late termination of pregnancy exacerbates anti-abortion argumentsand makes the decision to proceed more difficult for both the woman concernedand the caregivers,” she said. “Whether it is for the pregnant woman, thecouple or the caregivers, the fact of ending the life of a fetus capable ofsurviving a termination of pregnancy is a source of suffering.”

InCanada, abortion is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the CanadaHealth Act. In Quebec, abortion is regulated like any other medical procedureby the Health and Social Services Act, health insurance and professionalclinical standards. The report says there is no question of forcing healthprofessionals to provide abortions.“The limits of doctors must be respected, likethose of healthcare teams.But an institutional objection is not allowed.”

In theoffice of Minister of Health Danielle McCann, they are clear.“We want toprotect the right of women to abortion.It is for them to decide what theydo with their bodies, whether in the third, second or first trimester…. Weunderstand that the third trimester abortion is very delicate.It is anissue that we look at with respect and caution.” The Department, she says, isstill working to repatriate services that are available in the UnitedStates.Discussions in this direction are underway.

(Québec – Avortements tardifs: des services «désorganisés»et «discriminatoires», Des médecins

« stigmatisés, voire intimidés ». Des femmes refusées pardes hôpitaux. D’autres qui sont

« contraintes de poursuivre la grossesse », faute d’accès)

LaPresse, by Gabrielle Duchaine, 5 February 2020 ; PHOTO