The world’s largest anti-abortion group has issued a call for legislation outlawing contraception.
And they’re coming to Toronto.
Human Life International, a rabid anti-gay group which will hold its annual conference in Hogtown next month, has charged the US government with “contraceptive imperialism,” saying that the need for population control in Third World countries is a myth and contraception should be criminalized.
“The use of contraceptives is something worse than pornography,” HLI president Richard Welch has said. (He will not and neither will anyone at either HLI’s US headquarters or here in Canada actually speak to Xtra). “Sometimes [the pill] work[s] after fertilization. The baby is expelled without the mother even knowing she had conceived.”
That’s “ludicrous,” says Cathy Columbo, assistant to renowned abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler.
A doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explains why: HLI is saying that the pill prevents an egg-and-sperm combination from implanting itself in the uterine wall. But most women don’t produce eggs when they’re on the pill, and the pill changes vaginal mucous so that it is incompatible with sperm, she says.
HLI also targets homosexuals, Jews, and Communists as threats to conception.
Activists point to a horrifying trend of murders, assassination attempts, clinic bombings and mail terrorism in the US and Canada that could be connected to exaggerated language.
There are dozens of extremist groups on the Internet. A quick browse using the search terms Army Of God, the infamous title of a 136-page manual outlining strategies for harassing abortion clinic employees and patients, yields sites like War Zone, A Call To Place Threatening Messages To Abortion Clinics, and The Last Day, A Fictional Story (about the death of a doctor who provides abortions).
Many such sites have been disabled or require passwords to enter, making it impossible to determine who is behind them. But one of the trademarks of such groups is “leaderless resistance.” That is, there’s no membership in these groups, just a series of untraceable affiliations.
There’s no evidence to support that HLI is guilty of inciting or
committing violent activity, although the group’s US spokesperson, Don Treshman, was convicted last month for his participation in the anti-abortion web site Nuremberg Files, a site that, among other detailed information about abortion doctors, listed the names of their children.
Three of the physicians listed have been killed.
Treshman is also reported as having told the CBC after 57-year-old Vancouver gynecologist Garson Romalis was shot at by a sniper in 1994: “That [shooting] was certainly the superb tactic. It was certainly far better than anything that we’ve seen in the States because the shooting was done in such a way that the perpetrator got away.”
And there are less visible effects of such fear mongering. In the US, the number of doctors performing abortions dropped almost 15 percent between 1980 and 1992. During those years, that number plummeted 55 percent in rural areas.
After 1993, when the first abortion doctor was murdered, 25 percent of clinics reported employees quitting due to violence, reports the Village Voice.
But such declines are not necessarily the case in Canada, says the Ontario Coalition For Abortion Clinic’s Carolyn Egan. Egan insists the “greying of physicians” is the only factor affecting the number of abortion doctors in Canada.
As for fears that medical students will be intimidated about entering the discipline, quite the opposite is true, Egan says. There’s “a real interest among medical students to go into the abortion field,” she says, noting that several groups of medical students have formed in the wake of the death of Dr Barnett Slepian, the Buffalo abortion doctor shot last year. “The students don’t want his death to be in vain,” Egan adds.
But the executive director of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, Marilyn Wilson, says it is increasingly difficult to find abortion doctors, especially in small towns.
“There are fewer providers, partially due to the dangers, partially due to hospital mergers, and partially due to the aging of doctors,” she says. “There’s not a good number of doctors being trained in abortions. Medical students for choice do exist but it’s too soon to see the effects.”
There will be two demonstrations during HLI’s conference: The Ontario Coalition Of Abortion Clinics will bus people to a demonstration at the International Plaza Hotel on Wed, Apr 7. Call (416) 969-8463. Eight buses in total have already been booked; organizers are shooting for 10. The cost is expected to be $5.
And Anti-Racist Action will protest during HLI’s youth day on Sat, Apr 10. Call (416) 631-8835.