BY ALISSA GOLOB
Sorry to say, I’m no friend of the NDP. Despite a furtive fascination with Tom Mulcair’s beard, his party’s no choice requirement that all members must be pro-“choice” sets us at irreconcilable odds. And yet, I have to admit to a near orange crush as the Ontario NDPs continue their charge against the Liberal “I Wynne, you lose” spending of taxpayer money.
Last week, rookie MPP NDP Peggy Sattler performed a parliamentary smack down on Health Minister Deb Matthews when challenging her during question period on a recent decision to slash money for cataract surgery. This, despite the fact that the need for such vital surgery is increasing across the province. As Windsor native Del Oxford noted, following the cancellation of cataract surgery for his wife, Rose, “It’s like a car insurance company saying we’ve had too many accidents this year, we’re cutting everyone off”.
Everyone indeed. From the middle-aged Rose Oxford to the two year-old Liam Reid, who has been persistently denied funding by OHIP for treatment of a congenital eye disease that could leave him blind, the Liberals have a big tent approach to the refusal of critical health services. Not that I don’t get it, mind you. Irresponsible spending needs to be recouped from somewhere, and a scorched earth approach to health care policy will assist in beating a retreat from our provincial government’s glorious energy vision. So by all means, continue delisting medically necessary procedures like autism funding, cataract surgery, various cancer treatments, dental and eye care, physiotherapy, and other non-gas plant related matters.
And, to be fair, there’s strategic sense in denying eye care when seeking to have constituents lose sight of the anti-democratic shenanigans of the party-in-charge. Just last May, the province quietly passed a bill that disallows the collection of data on abortion through Freedom of Information requests. Dr. Margaret Somerville, director of McGill University’s Centre for Medicine, denounced this stealth approach to denying empirical data. saying, “the government … just want[s] the issue of abortion to go away and hope[s] that secrecy of information will help to achieve that outcome.”
Instead of unhinged spending and political attacks on our freedoms, the Liberals could try another approach.
In addition to the delisting of medical procedures noted above, Ontario hospitals have drastically downsized: surgical wings have been closed and hospital layoffs have been in the hundreds. And yet, no matter how old she is, no matter what stage of pregnancy she’s at, a woman can have as many abortions as she wants at any hospital or abortion clinic in Ontario. This is all on the taxpayer’s tab, while those same taxpayers are denied any recourse to knowing how much is being spent on these elective procedures.
How much do abortions cost Ontarians? The last accurate available data was done by Project for an Ontario Women’s Health Evidence-Based Report (POWER), which,using OHIP billing records and several databases, concluded that 51,000 abortions were performed in 2007 in Ontario alone. Given that an abortion procedure costs on average around $1,000, taxpayers currently spend approximately $51 million annually to cover this medically unnecessary procedure.
If the eyebrows raised at reading “unnecessary”, consider that the go-to scenarios of rape and incest for pro-abortion advocates constitute less than 1% of abortions. As reported by the Guttmacher institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in North America) over 96% of abortions are performed as a back-up form of birth control. Joyce Arthur, Canada’s leading pro-choice activist, insists in her latest Rabble article, that “abortion must be there as a safety net”.
So why don’t Wynne and company stop hiding provincial spending and other data on abortion, and save some money? De-funding abortion will serve all those ends, and maybe leave a little money to dedicate to the medically necessary procedures required by Liam Reid and Rose Oxford.
Such a strategy would demonstrate a consistency that could educate our Prime Minister. Despite his refusal to “re-open the abortion debate,” repeated with all the charm of a broken record, our leader said during the 2011 debate over Rae’s Reproductive Motion that “Canadians want to see their foreign aid money used for things that will help save the lives of women and children in ways that unite the Canadian people rather than divide them”. Well, as it should be internationally, so it should be domestically.
Abortion in Ontario must be de-funded. No, it will not solve our debt problems, governmental profligacy, or the diminishment of our health system, but it will be one significant measure to assist with those challenges while reorienting spending toward medical necessities. Given that defunding abortion is more popular than any political party in Ontario at the moment, this proposal needs serious consideration
And, though I think it could be argued that it is a medical necessity, I’ll stand by the principles articulated here and will not seek public funding for treatment of my fascination with Mulcair’s beard.