[This is a letter written to the Alberta Lottery fund on November 19, 2014, by Celia Posyniak, Executive Director, Kensington Clinic, Calgary. Some background on her concerns can be found in our series on public funding of three Alberta crisis pregnancy centres: Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre, Medicine Hat Pregnancy Support Society, and West Yellowhead Pregnancy Care Centre (Hinton). Links to CAPSS added.]
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to express my concerns regarding the awarding of lottery funds to so-called crisis pregnancy centres (CPC) in Alberta.
Specifically, my concerns are with the Hinton Crisis Pregnancy Association, the Medicine Hat Pregnancy Support Society and the Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre Society in Red Deer, all of which were awarded Community Spirit Donation Grants in 2011/12 totalling $34,000.
At least two of these organizations are members of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS), a “Christ-centred national ministry “whose primary mission is to discourage women from having abortions through the operation of crisis pregnancy centres and to share their faith in the process. CAPSS is the umbrella organization that provides training and resources for CPCs and members must agree to adhere to CAPSS mission and service delivery guidelines. For your convenience I have attached a copy of their “Core Documents”.[pdf]
CPCs exist to discourage vulnerable women from obtaining abortions and have been known throughout North America to use misinformation and scare tactics to achieve this goal. In fact, the Red Deer centre was once publicly exposed in an undercover operation by CTV’s W5, describing surgical instruments used in abortion as similar in appearance to “barbecue forks”. While they claim to assist all pregnant women and new mothers in need, through donations of clothing etc., the most recent issue of the CAPSS newsletter which I have enclosed, appears to lament this outcome as the majority of recipients were not “abortion minded or abortion vulnerable”.
CPCs generally do not employ health professionals or professional counsellors as these people would not be able to operate under CAPSS governing principles without violating their own professions code of ethics. CPCs claim they provide accurate information about abortion, but their code of counselling ethics forbids them from providing referrals. How can they be trusted to provide accurate information about a healthcare service in an unbiased manner, when they refuse for ideological reasons to tell clients where to obtain those same services?
It is difficult to understand how the government can on one hand support comprehensive reproductive healthcare services for women in the province, and then hand out money to organizations who would like to take fundamental reproductive rights away from women, promote junk science, refuse contraception information to unmarried people, and beyond advocating sexual abstinence*, make no contribution in the education of Albertans on safe sex practices.
To give this another perspective, would an anti-vaccination group be awarded public funds to promote their agenda against immunizations? Could a Jehovah Witness group be given funds to counsel the public on their ideological objections to blood transfusions while proselytizing?
Does the ALF have any eligibility criteria regarding an organization’s mission? What due diligence did the Alberta Lottery Foundation do to ensure that these CPCs were legitimate community assets and not religious organizations with a clear agenda of dissuading women from accessing a legal medical service and sharing their faith?
Thank you for taking the time to consider this and I look forward to your response.
Executive Director [Kensington Clinic, Calgary, Alberta]
Celia reports that as of today there's been no response, but she promises to keep us informed.
If you'd like to pose some questions of your own, here's the contact information for Alberta Lottery Foundation.
* Link to Kathy Dawson's open letter to the mayor of Hinton about those "sex-ed" presentations.