Hockey wives and abortion
Senators spouses charity gift routed to anti-abortion group
>by Heather Mallick
December 4, 2007
I hate picking on women. We're born at a disadvantage and in our wild flailing to stay afloat, we make such easy targets. But really, do the wives and girlfriends of the Ottawa Senators have to dress up in matching pink team sweaters and call their ad hoc union “The Better Halves?”
It's bad enough that these women have hooked up with bruised artist-athletes with careers of inevitably brief span, sold by hockey corporations as if they were cans of Spam, shipped around the continent without notice, thus dooming their wives' careers from the start. But must The Better Halves bully young pregnant women during their own brush with greatness? I'd like to ask the nice ladies about this, but these shy creatures are as hard to track down as the tiny, near-extinct, muntjac deer.
The Better Half way
The Better Halves are giving a third of the proceeds of this year's $50,000 Christmas Tree raffle to First Place Pregnancy Centre, an Ottawa anti-abortion group run by Pentecostal Christians.
Planned Parenthood Ottawa is upset, in its customary polite way, and sent out a press release protesting charity money going to a group that is not what people might think it is.
Here's the context: There are thousands of these centres across North America. They're known in the business as CPCs, as they usually have names resembling Crisis Pregnancy Centre. They have cute websites designed to appeal to teenage girls, lots of advice about boys — giggle — and sites on MySpace. They take great care to look like kindly counselling centres. In fact, they exist solely to prevent abortion.
Planned Parenthood told me it frequently talks to women who went to these apparently welcoming places for counselling on the three options — abortion, adoption and parenting. The group says women report feeling badly treated.
The problem is worse than just some hockey fans inadvertently donating to a cause they may oppose — that is a personal issue between a fan and her team (in my case, the Canadiens). What irks is that our tax dollars are involved.
The raffle money is channelled through the Sens Foundation, the team's registered charity arm, which is matching every dollar raised by The Better Halves.
Not only does the foundation, which normally does good — make that wonderful — things appear to be breaking Revenue Canada's rules for charities, it is breaking its own rules.
Both the taxman and the foundation agree that donations can only support registered charities. They can't support “political or lobby” or “advocacy or special interest groups.” And they shouldn't.
As a pro-choice woman, I write and speak about abortion rights and donate money. But I don't get a tax break and would ridicule the suggestion. Half the joy of activism is its utter lack of reward. The other half is the cold rain leaking down your spine and into your cold, sodden jeans at a demonstration on a wet Wednesday on the Legislature's muddy lawn. There's no life like it.
First Place link lesson
I had an initially cheerful phone interview with Sens Foundation president Dave Ready, who said the Better Halves, when asked to choose three charities, chose:
• First Place.
• Kids Help Phone.
• Harmony House (a women's shelter).
“Did you check on the links?”
We went through the First Place site links together. There's a standard disclaimer but First Place hopes we'll find them “helpful.” I told Ready that some of the news headlines appeared to be libellous, particularly the ones linking corporations that make birth control drugs to the Jewish Holocaust and one drug itself to Nazi death camps. Others were grotesque: “One baby in 30 left alive after medical abortion” turns out to be an absurd, unsubstantiated anonymous “news story” in a British entertainment magazine.
You're also guided to a donation page for the American Life League, a hardline group based outside Washington. There's a shop, admittedly very funny, that sells “Abortion is mean” T-shirts for two-year-olds.
They offer booklets explaining that abortion is wrong even in the case of incest. They tell members to scare away raped children outside abortion clinics. They call RU-486 “the anti-human pesticide.” They offer sample letters to the editor to send to outlets that employ, I imagine, columnists like me. One begins: “Planned Parenthood is not 'a good guy.'”
Ready gets more and more quiet as we track this. Soon he is desperate to get off the phone. He will not let me talk to a Better Half, who might well explain that she hadn't known that First Place is financed by the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Ottawa and its mission — declared on the Bethel website but nowhere on the First Place site — is not just anti-abortion but anti-birth control.
Who says what
Revenue Canada tells me that First Place is not a registered charity.
Terri Mazik, executive director of First Place, sent out a press release attacking “our colleagues at Planned Parenthood” for their press release. She says First Place makes its position clear by saying it doesn't do “abortion referrals,” ignoring the fact that no one does. Referrals aren't necessary; all anyone needs is to be guided to a phone book.
Her website and her press release are full of fact-concealing cotton puffery. But why conceal them? This is Canada. Say what you want, but on your own dime.
I don't know how the Sens Foundation got itself into this mess, which will surely lead to some hard questions from Revenue Canada.
CBC TV is about to show a new soap/drama series similar to Britain's notorious Footballers' Wives, called MVP. It's about the women known as — sorry — “puck bunnies.”
Were the Better Halves abortion hardliners or innocent bunnies when they offered their money to this weird organization? Does the Sens Foundation's “due diligence” include Google searches?
This whole matter is a soap opera, and I expect the Foundation and Revenue Canada to call a halt. But, unlike in a soap opera, everyone came out of this with real damage: the Better Halves, the Sens Foundation and its wonderful Roger's House for dying children, the unaware raffle ticket buyers, Kids Help Phone, Harmony House and most of all, the confused, friendless young women who may want to consider the option of abortion but are going to be lied to and maybe bullied out of it.
I saw Neil Young for the first time, in concert at Toronto's Massey Hall. In an extraordinary display of ethics, an e-mail friend of mine named Andy Strote gave me at cost a ticket he'd found. I sat among fans who had paid thousands per seat. Neil Young fans are like their idol; they're rock 'n' roll purists.
Young hadn't played Massey Hall for 36 years and the concert was inspired. Two years after the aneurysm that nearly finished him off, this stylish slob, this beautiful mess of a guy, sang in that thin voice that we know by heart and yes, it was far, far beyond beauteous and good.
Editor's note: Ms. Mallick clearly states that Revenue Canada told her First Place is not a registered charity. Links on the website's donation section show that it operates under a different name as a registered charity: Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Ottawa, registered as number 890251382RR0001.
Heather Mallick appears regularly in rabble.ca. This column is printed with permission from CBC.ca where it first appeared.