National Post

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Monday, May 03, 1999

Court orders magazine to stop writing about abortion
Hospital staff fears for lives

Richard Foot
National Post, with files from The Canadian Press

A Calgary court has ordered Alberta Report magazine to cease publishing stories about genetic, late-term abortions at a city hospital, after the Calgary Regional Health Authority complained the stories were endangering the lives of its staff.

Link Byfield, whose Edmonton-based, weekly newsmagazine has published a series of articles on the abortions -- based on leaked memos and interviews with unnamed nurses -- says the health authority simply wants to censor Alberta Report while conducting a "witch hunt" to root out its sources.

Genetic abortions are usually carried out late in a woman's pregnancy after tests predict that her foetus has lethal genetic defects that would kill the infant within 30 days of birth. The mothers are then induced to give birth and the baby is left to die. Calgary's Foothills Hospital said it did about 40 such procedures last year.

Last month, Alberta Report, quoting unidentified nurses, said Foothills Hospital was forcing its staff to carry out "genetic terminations" without regard for individual moral qualms. In one case, the article said, a pregnancy was aborted five weeks before its due date. The baby was reportedly rocked and kept warm by nurses for 12 hours before it died.

A health authority spokeswoman says genetic abortions at the hospital follow guidelines set by the provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, and that the authority is going to court to protect the privacy of its patients and staff.

On Friday, hospital lawyers obtained a temporary injunction from Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench, preventing the magazine from writing additional stories based on information obtained from the health authority without its consent.

Mr. Byfield says health authority officials told him they fear information from the leaked documents may attract the attention of people who shoot abortion doctors. But Alberta Report has not revealed the names of any doctors in its stories.

Mr. Byfield says the hospital's real fear is that it could be prosecuted under the Criminal Code for practising what he calls infanticide.

"I think they're frightened of publicity because some attorney-general somewhere is going to feel obliged to enforce the Criminal Code," Mr. Byfield said.

Officials from the health authority did not return phone calls from the National Post.

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