CBC Ombudsman: Balance and Controversial Issues
The complainant thought an interview with a doctor critical of the rules for dispensing the abortion drug RU-486 was one-sided.
By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman
The complainant, Patricia Maloney, thought an interview with a doctor critical of the rules for dispensing the abortion drug RU-486 was one-sided and failed to acknowledge the dangers of the drug or the controversy around abortion. Even with hot button issues like abortion, balance and a range of perspectives and aspects of the controversy are achieved over time. There was no violation of policy.
You thought an interview regarding the issue of accessibility of Mifepristone (RU-486) for Canadian women, a medication legalized in Canada this past July for medically induced abortions, was biased. You said that only one person was interviewed, Dr. Wendy Norman, whom you described as “the abortion doctor/researcher.” Dr. Norman was critical of the rules Health Canada put in place for the dispensing of the drug.
You said she called it “bizarre” but that it was no different from the protocol in the United States.
In fact, there are actually a truckload of dangers associated with RU-486, especially in remote areas. But when Hiscox asks Dr. Norman why these dispensing precautions, Dr. Norman has no idea. I am not kidding. She basically she says she doesn’t know why, that this is “very strange”.
You added that there was no discussion of the dangers of the drug or the reasons why the rules were in place. You pointed out that abortion is a “politically and emotionally charged subject” and it should not be discussed without providing alternative perspectives. Anything less, you added, is bias and the segment should have included a discussion of the dangers of the drug which would explain the Health Canada rule that it must be dispensed by physicians, and not pharmacists.
When Dr. Norman stated that the restrictions are unusual and bizarre (and CBC reiterated these adjectives in their tweet on the show when they stated: “It’s very strange.” reproductive health expert reacts to “bizarre” restrictions on #RU486 home abortion pill @cbchh), it seems clear to me that the CBC should have asked someone else to please explain this “strange bizarre unusual” behaviour, since Dr. Norman in the seven minute interview couldn’t explain it.
The Managing Editor for CBC News Network, Jennifer Harwood, replied to your complaint. She stated that the interview was not a debate about the safety of the drug. Rather it was about the issue of accessibility. She said that in “that context, it is my view that the coverage was fair and balanced.”
Continue reading this story on the CBC website, where it first appeared.