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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Medical Students for Choice

Pro-choice group at UBC hard to locate, unless you're a fan.

This article originally appeared in the BC Catholic.
Reproduced with permission.

Greg J. Edwards*

. . .one might conclude that any journalist who is granted an interview with MSFC spokesmen must be a parrot for its cause: near-mandatory, if not mandatory, abortion training in medical schools.

Having to phone California to find out what is happening among Canadian medical students is galling, but that's what Medical Students for Choice insists Canadians do: phone California.

Reading the group's four-page brochure is just as galling; not only does it outline its goal to have all medical students train to be abortionists, it spouts statistics about American health care, thereby displaying an ignorance of Canada that's appalling. Alas, it's an ignorance that one comes to expect from a single-issue, pro-abortion, American lobby group.

Canada's universal health care plays a big role in the differences between Canada and the States, and the U.S. birth rate is significantly higher than Canada's; for teens it's double: 110 in 1,000 American teens give birth while only 60 in 1,000 Canadians do.

American women use less effective forms of birth control than Canadians, and Americans marry earlier than we do. There are differences in religious practices, such as the fact that almost twice as many American women attend church weekly, a practice that tends to support higher marriage rates and lower divorce rates.

The B.C. Catholic spoke twice with MSFC's executive director Lois Backus. The first time, she promised to put her Vancouver members in touch with the paper. The second time, she suggested they might be too busy with their medical studies to contact us.

When asked why The B.C. Catholic could not contact them directly, Backus claimed that that MSFC keeps its members' identities confidential out of concern for their safety.

However, Backus had no such concern for her members' safety when CTV's current affairs program aimed at youth, 21C, interviewed her Vancouver chapter this summer. When The B.C. Catholic suggested to her that she in fact picks and chooses among reporters so that only those favorable to abortion interview her members, Backus avoided any relevant response.

Later in the interview, when pressed, Backus said she would again ask her Vancouver members to contact The B.C. Catholic, but "frankly" she didn't think that the B.C. Catholic reporter was "talking the way a journalist normally would." As a result she was not sure she could in good faith recommend that her UBC students contact the paper.

Wondering how a journalist should talk with MSFC, The B.C. Catholic searched CTV's Web site to see when 21C would be broadcasting its episode about abortion training in Canadian medical schools.

The abortion movement couldn't have wished for a more enthusiastic plug than the one it got from 21C's official Web page: "In Campus in Conflict, Anne-Marie Mediwake reports from the University of B.C. on the fight to make abortion part of the required curriculum in medical school.

"While the medical procedure is legal in Canada, training is almost non-existent, and many students fear for their own safety and don't want to learn. However, with the average age of abortion providers hitting close to 60, and without newly trained doctors, access will become increasingly difficult.

"At UBC, a small group of pro-choice students is fighting for the right to learn how to perform abortions, but they are being met with resistance from the pro-life forces on campus. Show airs Friday, Oct. 4, at 9 p.m. ET on CTV."

From this, one might conclude that any journalist who is granted an interview with MSFC spokesmen must be a parrot for its cause: near-mandatory, if not mandatory, abortion training in medical schools.

There is also a more disturbing implication in 21C's plug: that abortion training is not currently available to undergraduate medical students.

The B.C. Catholic contacted Dr. Angela Towle, associate dean of undergraduate medical education at UBC, and brought to her attention by e-mail the ad from 21C's Web page. It was pointed out to Dr. Towle that the ad implies that UBC medical students are being denied the right to learn how to do abortions.

"It's [The B.C. Catholic's] understanding that your undergrad med students are taught how to care for women suffering from complications of abortions and that they can indeed learn how to perform abortions by seeking out the necessary instruction" if they want it. "Is our understanding correct?"

Dr. Towle replied that her "contacts with the people from CTV did not lead" her "to believe that they were likely to handle the topic in a non-inflammatory way," and in the end, CTV pulled the episode before the scheduled broadcast date.

Bree L. Triffin, 21C's associate producer, e-mailed those interviewed, stating that management had postponed the episode indefinitely. "We do not have an alternative date for the piece yet. If and when there is a new air date, I will e-mail all of you again. Thank you for the time and effort you gave us...."

Dr. Will Johnston, a Vancouver pro-life physician whom 21C interviewed, said he was wondering whether CTV management had "deep-sixed the production."

Dr. Peter Seland, deputy registrar of the B.C. College of Physicians, said that MSFC is "naive" if it thinks it can make abortion training mandatory in medical schools. "You cannot force a doctor to do anything he doesn't want to do."

Although there are no plans at UBC's medical school to make abortion training a required subject for undergrads, pro-life faculty members and students fear that making it so, even with the right to opt out as conscientious objectors, would end up making medical students feel they were compelled to take abortion training, especially the younger, more naive, less assertive, pro-life students.

Dr. Ellen Wasan, a doctor of pharmacology and a medical student, believes that MSFC's goal is to make "more people think they could be abortionists by having them desensitized by having them take the training as students."

As it stands, learning to perform abortions is voluntary, Dr. Wasan said, but not entirely without pressure: "it is an option, but it varies from preceptor to preceptor; which doctor they are following around determines how much pressure they feel" to participate in abortions.

Dr. Marg Cottle, who hosts weekly suppers for the Christian Medical and Dental Student group, said that MSFC ignores the fact that many medical students simply don't want to perform abortions. MSFC prefers to claim that "the flaming pro-lifers are ... making it so nobody wants to perform them because pro-lifers are threatening the lives of abortionists, which is just a bunch of rubbish."

Dr. Wasan, a member of Christian Medical and Dental Students, has formed a complementary group to counter MSFC's push to make abortion training mandatory: Respect Life Coalition of Medical and Dental Students, which also speaks out for the elderly and the mentally and physically challenged.

Lois Backus made a point of stating that, as well as promoting mandatory abortion training, MSFC offers medical students additional instruction on birth control and other topics relevant to women's needs.

However, she did not explain why MSFC needs to teach subjects already well taught in medical schools, nor did she explain why MSFC makes no effort to promote adoption as a choice open to women and their babies.


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