Anti-Abortion Groups Say They Were Defamed

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A Christian group and a Crisis Pregnancy Center claim in court that a pro-choice group defamed them in a report that claimed they provide false medical information to women.
     The Christian Advocacy Society of Greater Vancouver and the Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Vancouver Society sued Joyce Arthur and the Pro-Choice Action Network, in B.C. Supreme Court.
     They claims defendants defamed them in a 2009 report, "Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in British Columbia."
     Pro-Can is an unincorporated association which "lobbies and advocates in political, media, legal, and other contexts, inter alia, for universal access to fully government-funded abortion on demand at any time of pregnancy up until birth, and without legal restriction whatsoever, whether for sex-selection abortion or otherwise," the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs say the report was widely disseminated online and was funded by (nonparty) Status of Women Canada.
     The report accuses plaintiffs of giving false medical information to clients about abortions, according to the complaint, but the societies claim they offer "nonmedical" information about alternatives to abortions.
     "A significant number of women choose to receive pregnancy information and support from the plaintiffs' Centres rather than, or in addition to, from doctors and abortion clinics," the complaint states. "There are various reasons for this - some women are (like the plaintiffs) pro-life in orientation; some women prefer to obtain information outside of a medical setting; others would like to hear about their other, 'non-medical' options such as adoption and parenting."
     According to the complaint, the report falsely accused the plaintiffs of using graphic imagery to "horrify young women about abortion," which amounts to "practically a form of terrorism."
     "While certain pro-life political advocacy organizations use graphics in their political and education campaigns, the plaintiffs restrict themselves to providing information to women in crisis pregnancies," the complaint states. "The only photos used at the plaintiffs' centres with their clients are those showing healthy fetuses at various stages of development in utero. No photos of aborted fetuses are shown or have ever been shown to pregnant women at either of the plaintiffs' centres."
     The plaintiffs say the report also falsely accused them of hiding their religious affiliation, even though their websites and other materials state that the crisis centres are run by the "Christian Advocacy Society of Greater Vancouver" while members of their board of directors are include a pastor, a theologian and an archbishop.
     Plaintiffs' phone book advertising is in the "Abortion Alternatives" section, the complaint says.
     The report "taken as a whole" was meant to show that plaintiffs "consider the 'ends to justify the means' and are willing to engage in unethical, deceptive, harmful, or illegal conduct in order to prevent women from obtaining an abortion" and "do not care about the wellbeing of the women they serve, but only about preventing women from obtaining an abortion," according to the complaint.
     The report has been widely read and disseminated online and republished by other organizations and used in media coverage, including a three-part investigative series by CTV News in Vancouver.
     In May this year, the societies sued the television network, alleging defamation based on similar claims.
     The societies claim the defendants knew that some of the information in the report was false, but published it maliciously and refused to remove or correct the report after plaintiffs complained.
     "The results of the harm done to the plaintiffs' reputation have included, inter alia, adverse impacts on the plaintiffs' relationships with, and ability to engage in its non-profit and funding activities in respect of, prospective clients, donors, and community partners," the complaint states.
     The societies are represented by Geoffrey Trotter, with Gudmundseth Mickelson, of in Vancouver.