A woman mourns her sister’s death through a late-term abortion during a protest outside a Planned Parenthood facility in Washington. CNS photo/Lisa Johnston

How does late-term abortion differ from MAiD for babies?

  • April 27, 2023

A 2022 poll conducted by the Angus-Reid Institute revealed 52 per cent of Canadians think abortion should be available at any time during a pregnancy. In the absence of a legal framework that places term-limits on the procedure, Canada is one of the handful of countries where women can procure elective abortions up to the moment of delivery.

Until recently, however, the issue has been one of access, not permissibility. Despite over half of Canadians believing late-term abortions should be available here, Canadian women seeking abortions for non-medical reasons after 24-weeks gestation were sent to one of the few U.S. clinics that performed the procedure after viability.

In Quebec, prior to pandemic border closures, an average of 20 women a year were sent out of country for late-term abortions. But even before 2020, the Quebec Ministry of Health was organizing to “repatriate” abortions performed after 24 weeks. Though the overall abortion rate dropped in Quebec during the pandemic, the number of late-term abortions has doubled. In 2021-2022, according to health agency data, 39 third trimester abortions were performed in the province.

Recent events in Montreal suggest that though Canadians might in principle support unlimited access to abortion, some are uncomfortable when confronted by the grim reality.

In February 2023, The Catholic Register reported that a Quebec nurse had contacted the pro-life group Montreal Against Abortion after she learned that a 38-week-old unborn baby was scheduled to be aborted at Sacré-Cœur Hospital in Montreal.

The response was one of disbelief.

On Twitter, psychologist and social commentator Jordan Peterson asked the question many were asking, “Is this true?”

When the president of pro-life group Quebec Life Coalition George Buscemi took to social media to share the information, critics quickly leapt into the thread. The majority did not question whether such a procedure should take place, but if it was taking place at all.

“We should be able to prosecute people who spread fake news,” wrote one. Another jeered, “There are people who have time to waste inventing and publishing such stupid stories.”

Media outlets, including The Register, attempted to verify the allegations, but the CIUSSS Montréal-Nord, the group of health care facilities that includes Sacré-Coeur Hospital, either did not respond or would not confirm.

A week later, in a Feb. 10 e-mail sent to Quebec Life Coalition, Marie-Hélène Giguère, the CIUSSS media relations spokesperson, denied a “feticide” took place on Feb. 2 at the hospital, and added that no such intervention takes place there. She requested QLC stop spreading “false information.” The organization removed from their website posts referring to the abortion.

Then the narrative shifted. A journalist from Le Journal de Montréal asked QLC if they were aware Sacré-Cœur Hospital had received “aggressive” phone calls about the abortion. In a March 15 article, Le Journal reported that the hospital had called the police after receiving several such calls on Feb. 1. At the story’s end, the reporter noted, “The medical procedure took place the next day as planned.” 

In February, the story was the impossibility of a full-term, healthy baby being aborted. By March, it became one of anti-choice activists threatening to curtail a woman’s right to that abortion.

Dr. Jean Guimond, described in Le Journal as the physician responsible for late abortions in Montreal, is quoted, “We cannot tolerate this. The right to abortion is guaranteed. It’s that simple.”

Guimond’s rhetoric masks the method by which the simple “medical procedure” is accomplished.

In a Live Action video on Youtube, former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino describes a third-trimester abortion. Levatino explains that Digoxin, a drug typically used to treat heart problems but that in large doses causes cardiac arrest, is injected into the baby.

“The abortionist inserts the needle with the Digoxin through the women’s abdomen or through her vagina and into the baby, targeting either the head, torso or heart. The baby will feel it,” he says.

Only last October, Dr. Louis Roy and the Quebec College of Physicians made headlines when Dr. Roy recommended to a Commons’ special committee that Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) could be appropriate for infants up to a year old born with severe malformations or syndromes. The suggestion of euthanasia for gravely ill babies was widely condemned in the domestic and international press.

Now, Canadians must explain to themselves why termination of a born baby with malformations is unconscionable, but injection of a full-term, healthy baby in utero with a lethal dose of Digoxin is acceptable.

(Farrow is a writer in Montreal.)

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