Tag Archives: ‘Multiple

Quebec pins all its hopes on the vaccine, but experts say action is needed on multiple fronts

The old saying holds that only fools and the dead never change their minds.

Health Minister Christian Dubé is neither of those things. Eighteen days ago, at a news conference about Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, Dubé insisted his hands were tied by Pfizer’s requirements that second doses of the two-dose protocol be held back to observe the prescribed 21-day interval between shots.

A course correction followed a few days later and this week, he announced second doses would be delayed up to 90 days.

“This is the best strategy,” he said, citing the urgency of the situation.

On Dec. 29, Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda sat next to Dubé at a news conference and alluded to the possibility that Pfizer could reduce its supply to Quebec if the province didn’t follow the recommendations, a prospect since echoed by federal officials.

Dubé this week: “We’re not asking permission.”

The reversal was sudden, it also represents an unusually aggressive move by a government whose response to the pandemic has been typified by cautious decision-making.

Going it largely alone on delaying doses for months suggests, above all else, that the Legault government is pushing its entire stack of chips onto the square marked “vaccines.”

The decision is based on the advice of experts from the province’s vaccine committee, the Comité sur l’immunisation du Québec, which studied clinical evidence. And it runs counter to guidelines from Pfizer and the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations.


Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube arrives at a COVID-19 press briefing Thursday, January 14, 2021 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

A high-stakes gamble

The contrast with other major decisions made since the turn of the year is informative. 

In the same week Dubé announced his department was going full bore on vaccination, it also announced an easing of restrictions on rapid testing.

And, last week, the province highlighted the portion of an expert panel’s report on air purifiers and filters in schools that confirmed the devices won’t interrupt the main causes of disease transmission — mainly, proximity of students — rather than the part indicating they help lower the number of viral particles in the air.


Police forces across Quebec handed out 750 tickets during the first weekend of the province’s four-week overnight curfew. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Take, as well, the provincial curfew that went into effect a week ago, which in effect relaxes a series of previously existing measures and does little to tackle what provincial statistics indicate are a key venue for transmission: workplaces, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sector.

The rationale has been that shutting down those industries on a large scale could imperil supply of essential goods.

It’s true there are few easy policy choices in the middle of a raging pandemic.

Why the unusual forcefulness and speedy action on vaccines, then? Perhaps because there is no discernible Plan B.

Still more that could be done

Many experts believe the new restrictions that went into place last Saturday won’t be enough — and argue more needs to be done in a number of areas including testing and contact tracing, stronger measures in schools and in the many workplaces that remain open.

The headline grabber of early 2021 is the curfew that requires people to stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Non-essential retailers, as well as non-essential offices, restaurants, bars and gyms, were ordered to remain closed, while manufacturing and construction sectors — both major sources of new outbreaks — were allowed to stay open, unhindered.

“If the manufacturing industry is accounting for ongoing community transmission, which I suspect that it is, then there needs to be more control to ensure public [health] measures there,” said Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre who is also a science advisor for the federal COVID-19 therapeutics task force.

Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet issued a statement Friday suggesting they may finally crack down. In a follow-up interview with Radio-Canada, he said inspectors will be “vigilant.”

“We won’t hesitate when there are violations of the health guidelines to hand out fines,” he said, though they have only handed out 21 at construction sites in the past week.

Schools, too, have been allowed to reopen. While the benefits of keeping them open are clear, Vinh said the government could still do more to get a handle on transmission, including a clearer stance on ventilation.

“If internally within schools there could be stricter public health measures, I think that would be helpful,” he said. 


Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet says certain construction sites can reopen on April 20, but strict sanitary protocols must be followed. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Premier François Legault has defended the measures by saying the curfew is a way to seize the public’s attention and to limit exposure to older people while they await the vaccine.  

He has pointed out, repeatedly, that 80 per cent of those hospitalized are over the age of 65.

But, it remains unclear whether the curfew, and the other measures in place, will be effective on that front.

Testing, testing

Then there’s the question of interrupting the contagion in the community.

As Eastern Townships Public Health Director Dr. Alain Poirier said this week, the virus “is everywhere.” Quebec has been reluctant to more widely employ rapid tests as a way to better understand exactly where the virus is spreading.

On Thursday, after 200 Quebec scientists published an open letter calling on the province to make more use of rapid tests, Dubé retreated from comments on Monday that the tests were unnecessary. 

Based on a report from a panel of internal experts issued that same day, Quebec will start using rapid tests to bolster its regular testing capacity on a limited basis, in highly specific circumstances.

Is the change of heart enough? Not in the view of Dr. David Juncker, a testing expert who is chair of biomedical engineering at McGill University and a scientific adviser to Rapid Test and Trace Canada, which advocates for a large-scale implementation of the technology.

“It’s a step in the right direction … but it’s a little bit too little, too late,” Juncker told CBC’s Quebec AM. “That’s the real risk, that we’re trapped in cycles of too little, too late here.”


Photo: Radio-Canada\ Ivanoh Demers Images pour illustrer le déconfinement économique. Photo prise dans Lanaudière, Québec, Canada. Sur la photo: (Gauche à droite) Le Costco À Terrebonne est toujours aussi populaire…. File attente, Le 28 Avril, 2020 2020/04/28 (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

He likened the government’s approach to rapid testing — which it plainly views as unreliable and a major drain on human resources — to the discussion surrounding face masks in early 2020.

Provincial public health officials initially opposed masks, before realizing they could be a key tool in preventing the spread of the virus. 

The National Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, which issued its first report Friday, suggests rapid antigen tests could be exactly another useful tool, given the ability to test frequently and obtain instant results. 

In a technical briefing this week, officials with Quebec’s Health Ministry defended their approach to rapid tests, saying the current testing regime is perfectly adequate, and that, in any event, they don’t have enough people to deploy them at scale.

What’s frustrating to experts like the signatories of the open letter is there doesn’t appear to be a plan to develop that capacity any time soon.

‘We need to kickstart now’

Frontline doctors remain concerned about the coming weeks, with intensive care wards in Montreal at risk of being overwhelmed.

As COVID-19 cases surge in Ontario and Quebec, hospitals in both provinces are preparing in case they can’t treat everyone and laying out the criteria for determining who gets prioritized for critical care. 1:47

Even if hospitals are able to hang on until Feb. 8, when the measures are set to lift, the province isn’t expected to begin vaccinating older people outside care until the middle of the month.

Vinh said Quebec’s situation is rendered “tricky” by the fact vaccine procurement and supply are out of its control.

The announcement from Pfizer on Friday that it would temporarily reduce shipments of its vaccine to Canada due to issues with its supply chain underscored the risks involved in the Legault government’s plan.

The pharmaceutical giant is pausing some production lines at its facility in Puurs, Belgium, in order to expand long-term manufacturing capacity.

The move means Quebec will receive 8,775 doses instead of the 46,800 originally scheduled for the week of Jan. 25, and 39,000 of the 82,875 doses expected the following week.

The disruption is far from catastrophic, given the doses will be replaced in later deliveries and Quebec is also receiving tens of thousands of vaccines from Moderna. But it will have an impact. 

That was the week the province was supposed to begin vaccinating in private retirement homes.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Dubé said the supply chain hiccup merely reinforces Quebec’s decision.

“The strategy remains the same: we need to kickstart now and vaccinate as many vulnerable people and health-care workers as possible, as quickly as possible,” reads the statement.

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CBC | Health News

Multiple people injured as car drives into protesters in New York City

Several people were injured when a car drove into a street protest in midtown Manhattan on Friday, the New York City Police Department said.

The protest march was passing through the intersection of 39th Street and Third Avenue at around 4 p.m. when the car went through, said Tom Ella, who was there documenting the demonstration.

“It just starts high-speed, just plowing through people,” he said.

The New York Fire Department said six people were taken by ambulance to local hospitals. Police and fire officials said the injuries didn’t appear to be life-threatening.

Police said the driver, a woman, was stopped near the area. She was taken into custody and was being questioned. It wasn’t clear if she would face charges.

WATCH | Woman detained by NYC police:

New York City police said a driver plowed a vehicle into a crowd of protesters Friday afternoon in Manhattan, causing multiple injuries. 0:28

In a video from Ella showing the car’s movements, a small group of protesters could be seen gathered around the car on 39th Street as it slowly approached the intersection with Third Avenue, with one person seemingly leaning over the front of the vehicle.

The car suddenly accelerated, knocking aside both the people who were blocking it and people who were in the intersection.

“Suddenly you hear the engine roar, you see them accelerate,” Ella said. “Just watching them actually hit people, it’s traumatizing, it’s horrifying.”

A participant in the protest, Sofia Vickerman of Denver, Colo., said that when the car hit the crowd it tossed people and a bicycle in the air.

“I hear people screaming in the front, I look behind me, the woman is plowing through,” she said. “I see bodies flying.”

She said the march started in Times Square and the aim was to draw attention to an ongoing hunger strike by immigration detainees at a jail in New Jersey.

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CBC | World News

Former Vancouver Whitecaps and Team Canada soccer coach charged with multiple sex offences

Former Vancouver Whitecaps and Team Canada women’s soccer coach Bob Birarda has been charged with several sex offences against four individuals, according to the B.C. Prosecution Service.

The charges include six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring.

The offences are alleged to have occurred over a 20-year span between Jan. 1, 1988 and March 25, 2008, at or near North Vancouver, Burnaby and West Vancouver.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and the names of the complainants are protected by a publication ban.

Whistleblower and former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack said she was shocked to hear Birarda had been charged. 

“It’s obviously been a very long journey for a lot of us,” she said. “There’s still a part of me that’s very upset about all the cover-ups that went on for years and allowed him to be on the field, and all the lives that were negatively impacted by him.” 

McCormack is not a complainant in the case but she did bring the story to light in Feb. 2019 in a blog post titled “A Horrific Canadian Soccer Story,” which alleged abusive behaviour and harassment on the part of Birarda a decade earlier.

WATCH: Ciara McCormack said she was “suprised” but “grateful” to hear Birarda had been charged:

Former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack said she was “surprised” but “grateful” to learn former women’s soccer coach Bob Birarda was charged with multiple sex offences in December 2020. McCormack was among the first to publicly raise allegations of abuse on the part of Birarda. (She is not a complainant in the criminal case.) 2:25

Soon after, a dozen former Team Canada players published a joint statement alleging Birarda had sent sexualized text messages to players, made sexual comments to players, touched players inappropriately and used his position of power to make sexual advances.

Fan backlash

The allegations triggered a public backlash against the Vancouver Whitecaps, with fans staging walkouts during MLS games at BC Place Stadium to protest the club’s inaction in addressing the accusations.

“I’m so incredibly grateful,” said McCormack. “Because if they hadn’t done what they did, our voices wouldn’t have been amplified and I don’t know if these charges would have even happened.”

Birarda was released from his duties as head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team and the U-20 Canadian women’s team in 2008 with little explanation. 

At the time the Canadian Soccer Association called it a mutual parting of ways.

Within months he was back coaching girls at a club team in Tsawwassen, B.C.

He continued coaching girls soccer until February 2019, when he was suspended from Surrey, B.C., club Coastal FC after McCormack’s blog when viral. 

‘The system failed us’

McCormack says the Canadian Soccer Association and Whitecaps still have a lot to answer for.

“The individual behaviour of people within both those organizations was disgusting,” she said. “The Canadian Soccer Association has not addressed it and his coaching licence has not been suspended.”


Ciara McCormack playing for the Republic of Ireland in 2010. She also played for the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team. (submitted by Ciara McCormack)

“The system … failed all of us and it’s still failing players because nothing has changed.”

Birarda coached the Whitecaps and U-20 Canadian team in 2007 and 2008. He was also an assistant coach with the Canadian Olympic women’s soccer team in 2008.

In a written statement sent to CBC on Thursday evening, Vancouver Whitecaps CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster called the women who have come forward “brave,” writing “we should have been better, and for that we are sorry.”

“We maintain our commitment to the Safe Sport process we began last year to fulfill our responsibilities and do everything possible, so this never happens again,” the statement read in part.

CBC News has also reached out to the Canadian Soccer Association.

Birarda made his first appearance in North Vancouver Provincial Court on Wednesday. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2021.

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Scientists Detect Multiple Underground Lakes on Mars

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In 2018, scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express project reported Mars may have a liquid water reservoir under its barren surface. The evidence was interesting but not completely convincing. Now, Mars Express has confirmed the detection of that original underground lake and discovered three more. Naturally, this has scientists excited about the possibility for life. 

Mars Express reached the red planet way back in 2003. After entering a stable orbit, Mars Express deployed the Beagle 2 lander, which sadly did not survive to reach the surface. It was rediscovered in 2015, though. Mars Express has gone on to make up for that early failure by reliably studying the planet in the intervening 17 years. The possible discovery of liquid water hiding under the southern polar ice cap is just the capstone for an already stellar mission. 

Scientists made this detection using radar data from the orbiting spacecraft’s Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS). This instrument allows researchers on Earth to peer into the layers of material under the frigid surface. The way the signal bounces back denotes what kind of material reflected it. The team detected several areas of very high reflectivity that likely point to lakes more than a kilometer below the polar ice sheet. 

The three bodies of water identified so far are spread over about 46,600 square miles (75,000 square kilometers), just a little smaller than the state of New York. The largest of the three lakes is in the middle, measuring roughly 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) across. The other three bodies of water surround that lake, but each is just a few miles wide. The team is confident its conclusions will be more convincing this time around — it incorporates data from 134 observations between 2012 and 2019. The previous announcement only used data from 29 radar passes. It’s up to other teams to verify these observations, but that could take time. A 2021 Chinese mission called Tianwen-1 might be able to confirm or refute the discovery. 

We can only guess at the nature of these lakes right now, but the team says it’s likely the water is an extremely salty brine. That would explain how it has remained liquid even at the low temperatures on (and inside) Mars. Liquid water is believed to be necessary for the development of life as we know it, so these lakes will probably be a target of intense research in the future. Determining the salt content of the lakes will be vital in assessing their ability to support life. A high salt environment will kill most plants and animals on Earth, but there are some extremophile organisms that can thrive in up to 30 percent salt content. Maybe Mars is home to alien creatures that evolved to tolerate those salty conditions.

Now read:

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Rickey Smiley Interviews Daughter After She Was Shot Multiple Times

Rickey Smiley Interviews Daughter After She Was Shot Multiple Times | Entertainment Tonight

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Golden State Killer suspect pleads guilty to multiple murders, kidnappings across California

An ex-police officer accused of being the Golden State Killer, a serial predator who terrorized much of California with a string of slayings, rapes and break-ins over 10 years, pleaded guilty on Monday to multiple murder and kidnapping charges.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, entered the plea as part of a broader agreement with prosecutors from 11 California counties to admit to all allegations against him, charged and uncharged, in a crime wave dating back to the mid-1970s, prosecutors said at a hearing.

Under the terms of the plea deal, as outlined by prosecutors and a judge at the hearing, DeAngelo will face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While sparing the defendant from a potential death sentence, the deal also saves a dwindling number of aging survivors, victims’ families, witnesses and law enforcement officers involved in the case from prolonged legal proceedings, prosecutors said.

The plea hearing was held in a ballroom at Sacramento State University, rather than a courthouse, to allow for more distanced seating space amid the coronavirus pandemic.

DeAngelo, dressed in orange jail garb and slumped in a wheelchair with his mouth agape, answered “guilty” in a raspy voice when the judge asked his plea to the first of 13 counts of first-degree murder and kidnapping charges he faced, most of which also encompassed rape allegations.

WATCH | ‘Golden State Killer’ Joseph DeAngelo admits guilt in court:

Forty years after terrorizing parts of California, 74-year-old Joseph DeAngelo plead guilty to the first of several charges of murder and sexual assault. 1:00

He went on to plead guilty and admit to additional charges and allegations as prosecutors from 11 California counties took turns presenting “factual basis” statements graphically detailing every rape, murder and home invasion of which DeAngelo was accused.

The hearing wore on for more than three hours before the judge recessed the proceedings for a lunch break.

DeAngelo’s arrest in 2018 capped more than 40 years of investigation in a case that authorities said was finally solved by comparing crime-scene DNA evidence to information on genealogy websites that track ancestry.

In addition to 13 murders and kidnappings, prosecutors said DeAngelo was known to have committed nearly 50 rapes in all and more than 120 burglaries in and around Sacramento, the eastern San Francisco Bay area and Southern California.

The crimes spanned an 11-year period — from 1975 to 1986 — and began while DeAngelo was a police officer, authorities said. He served on two small-town departments during the 1970s.

The breakthrough came about two months after the case gained renewed national attention in the bestselling book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, which was published posthumously two years after the author’s death and has recently been made into an HBO documentary series. 

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‘Price Is Right’ Announcer George Gray in Stable Condition After Suffering Multiple Heart Attacks

‘Price Is Right’ Announcer George Gray in Stable Condition After Suffering Multiple Heart Attacks | Entertainment Tonight

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49ers acquire Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams among multiple NFL Draft Day trades

The San Francisco 49ers acquired one Pro Bowl left tackle and said goodbye to another.

The defending NFC champion 49ers acquired seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams from the Washington Redskins on Saturday for a pair of draft picks and later announced that six-time Pro Bowler Joe Staley is retiring.

The Niners sent a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and a 2021 third-rounder to acquire Williams, who still must pass a physical for the trade to be finalized.

The 49ers had a big need at left tackle because Staley informed them he planned to retire. He announced it later Saturday, saying a deteriorating neck injury led to his decision to retire after 13 seasons.

Eagles acquire WR Goodwin

The Philadelphia Eagles have acquired wide receiver Marquise Goodwin from the San Francisco 49ers.

The teams flipped sixth-round picks with Philadelphia getting No. 210 and San Francisco receiving No. 190.

Goodwin spent his first four seasons with Buffalo and past three in San Francisco. He has 140 receptions for 2,323 yards and 13 TDs in his career.

Goodwin has been plagued by injuries and played 16 games only once in 2017 when he had career highs in receptions (56) and yards (962).

The Eagles selected TCU wideout Jalen Reagor with the 21st overall pick. The 29-year-old Goodwin joins veterans DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Reagor, 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward, among others.

Dolphins add a RB

The San Francisco 49ers traded running back Matt Breida to the Miami Dolphins for a fifth-round draft pick on Saturday.

Breida, 25, rushed for 623 yards and one touchdown and caught 19 passes for 120 yards and one score in 13 games for the NFC champion 49ers last season.

Undrafted out of Georgia Southern in 2017, the speedy Breida rushed for 1,902 yards and six TDs and added 67 receptions for 561 yards and four touchdowns in 43 games with San Francisco from 2017-19.

The 49ers received the 153rd overall pick in return and selected West Virginia tackle Colton McKivitz.

Jets acquire CB Quincy Wilson

The Indianapolis Colts dealt cornerback Quincy Wilson to the New York Jets on Saturday for a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Indianapolis used the pick (No. 211 overall) to tab Massachusetts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers.

Wilson was a second-round draft pick in 2017 (46th overall) but failed to make an impact in three seasons with the Colts. He had 61 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery in 29 games (10 starts).

The 23-year-old Wilson played in nine games in 2019 and had 11 tackles.

Rodgers had 11 interceptions in four seasons at UMass and returned three for touchdowns. He had four interceptions (including one for a score) in 2019.

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Pressure to have multiple babies putting surrogates ‘at risk’

After Elizabeth Roberts had her two kids, the 39-year-old knew she wanted to help someone else build a family. Having watched a friend volunteer to be a surrogate, Roberts signed herself up in 2016.

The Halifax nurse filled out an online application for one of the biggest surrogacy agencies in the country, and within days, her profile was live.

“I didn’t quite understand what I was sinking my teeth into. I just knew that I wanted to help people,” Roberts said.

In the years since, Roberts has been a surrogate twice. And while her pregnancies have been relatively uneventful, she is now preparing for a hysterectomy, which she believes is because of her back-to-back pregnancies. 

Dr. John Kingdom, a high-risk obstetrician at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital and professor at the University of Toronto, said it’s possible that Roberts’s complications could have been caused by having pregnancies in quick succession.  

But he’s even more concerned that Canada does not have mandatory wait times for surrogacies. He said that leaves women like Roberts vulnerable to manipulation.

“I think we should recognize that surrogates are altruistic, kind people who are at risk of power imbalances,” Kingdom said. 

‘Like online dating for surrogacy’

Roberts said as soon as her profile went live in 2016, she was flooded by parent profiles and it broke her heart.  

“It was like online dating for surrogacy,” she said. “There are so many intended parents out there and only so many surrogates.”

Roberts connected with one couple right away, prepared her body with painful progesterone injections and estrogen patches and hoped for the best. 

“I had put a lot of pressure on myself, because literally all their eggs were in my basket. And I was just hoping that my basket would hold onto them.”


Two-time surrogate Elizabeth Roberts said there needs to be better medical standards for surrogates to prevent women from pursuing back-to-back pregnancies while they are emotionally vulnerable after giving birth. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

The embryo transplant worked, and nine months later she delivered the couple’s baby girl. Roberts remembers the birth like it was yesterday. 

She recalls “looking over and seeing the parents hold their daughter, and the dad looked up at me and he just had tears streaming down his face, and he just said, ‘Thank you.’ Any questions that I had ever had through the entire journey just disappeared in that moment.”

CBC News spoke with dozens of surrogates as part of an exclusive investigation, and nearly every woman described the intense emotional high they experienced right after giving birth to surrogacy babies, some describing it as addictive.

“I think that is the thing that you’re searching for when you go into this,” Roberts said. “We’ve done this huge, incredible, amazing thing — what are we going to do now? And so I knew right away that… I was going to have to do it again.”

Surrogates say they’re ‘hounded’ to do it again

During CBC’s three-month investigation into surrogacy, multiple women said their agency sent them new, heart-wrenching parent profiles within days of giving birth. Some of the women said they felt “hounded” to commit to a new couple right away.

The demand for surrogates in Canada far outweighs the number of women willing to carry a baby for someone else, which can cause women to feel pressured to commit to subsequent pregnancies. And there’s a financial imperative for the agency — every couple the company connects to a surrogate represents thousands of dollars of revenue from consulting fees.

One woman, who CBC has agreed not to identify because she fears backlash from the surrogacy community, said she delivered one surrogate baby and was pregnant with another less than four months later.

The first birth ended in a C-section, and within two months she was taking hormone injections to prepare her body for another round of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The second pregnancy ended in twins for an American father less than a year later. 

She said she was initially shocked by the tight turnaround, but it didn’t really make her nervous.

“Honestly, I was OK. The dad was OK. Clinics were on board,” she said. “You know, there was no forcing matters of any sort.”

CBC spoke to another woman who pursued surrogacy after having three children of her own. She has given birth to three babies through surrogacy since 2016, and was pregnant with a fourth that ended in a miscarriage. She is currently pursuing her fifth surrogacy in under four years.  

‘A lot of surrogates feel lost’ 

Roberts was transferred with an embryo for a second couple six months after the first surrogate birth, and delivered the second surrogate baby nine months later. 

Reflecting on her decision to pursue the second surrogacy so quickly, she said the speed between pregnancies didn’t concern her much at the time. But she now admits she was in an emotionally vulnerable state in the initial weeks after giving birth.

“I think a lot of surrogates feel lost. I know I felt lost afterwards,” said Roberts. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

In the period leading up to her second surrogate pregnancy, Roberts said neither the doctors overseeing her care nor anyone from the surrogacy industry questioned the quick timing or warned her of any risks that could come from a back-to-back pregnancy. 

While she said she never felt direct pressure from the parents, she believes she could have benefitted from someone who asked tough questions about why she was committing to another pregnancy so soon.  

She doubts it would have changed her mind, but she said her own internal pressure should have been challenged.

“I didn’t want to waste anybody’s time or money. I wanted to make sure that we had a result,” she said. “I could have said, ‘No, I’m done.’ I didn’t want to. I kept telling the mom, ‘It’s not over until this baby comes out, until I have your baby.’ I was bound and determined to help this family.” 

While the pregnancy went off without a hitch, the second surrogacy birth left Roberts with severe physical complications and she will need to undergo a hysterectomy. As she waits for the surgery, she’s often in so much pain she takes painkillers to help her get through the day.

“I think that every single surrogate at some point in their journey questions what they’re doing,” said Roberts. “I think we are a certain brand of crazy, to put it kindly, but we do this because we want to help, and it is worth every second of it.”

Doctor says surrogates are ‘vulnerable’ 

Kingdom said any IVF pregnancy is complicated right from the start, and it’s even more risky for surrogates, for a variety of reasons.

“IVF is an unnatural mode of conception,” he said. Surrogates are being implanted with genetic material that is completely foreign to their body, and this can cause higher-risk pregnancies and potential complications.


Dr. John Kingdom, a high risk obstetrician, says the lack of medical standards for surrogacies is leaving women vulnerable and open to risk. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

Kingdom said the risks of IVF are compounded for surrogates because these women are often older, and since they’ve likely had multiple births, there is a greater chance they’ve had at least one C-section.

General guidelines from the Society of Obstetrics and Gynecologists suggest women should wait a minimum of six months after a natural birth before embarking on another pregnancy — longer if the previous pregnancy ended in a C-section. However, the society does not establish mandatory guidelines specific to surrogate pregnancies.   

Since most surrogacies are managed through the private fertility industry, Kingdom said there should be mandatory pre-pregnancy counselling built into the process.

Counselling might result “in a decision not to be a surrogate, or to delay it for further investigations or to reflect more carefully on whether they really want to embark on those risks,” said Kingdom. “That’s what informed choice is, and really, every woman in this country deserves a really good, informed choice.”

Health Canada is responsible for administering and enforcing the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, the legislation that governs surrogacy. The agency says the AHRA does not provide the authority to prescribe the amount of time a surrogate must wait between giving birth and having an embryo transfer.

Determining whether a woman is medically fit to undergo a transfer is a medical decision, which Health Canada says is regulated by the provinces and territories.

Surrogates aren’t ‘breed mares’ 

Dr. Tom Hannam, the lead doctor and founder of Hannam Fertility in Toronto, said in the absence of a national medical standard for surrogacy pregnancies, his clinic has established its own standard of a nine- to 10-month wait period between a surrogate birth and a subsequent embryo transfer. 

“If you were going to have shorter wait times, it would be incumbent on you as a clinician doing the extra work with the individuals involved to make sure that was really the right choice for everyone involved,” Hannam said. 

“Choosing to get pregnant again just four months after that is a big choice — one that is being made with a series of choices all at the same time. Sometimes a pause is the more appropriate course of action.” 

As Roberts awaits her surgery this summer, she’s advocating that surrogates become better informed about the risks of back-to-back pregnancies. 

“As unfortunate as the term may sound, surrogacy is an industry,” Roberts said. “It’s insensitive not to consider what the surrogates go through. They’re not breed mares — we’re people.”

Send tips on this story to chelsea.gomez@cbc.ca or call 416-475-5778

 

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Jane Fonda’s Climate Change Protests: A Timeline of Her ‘Fire Drill Fridays’ and Multiple Arrests

Jane Fonda’s Climate Change Protests: A Timeline of Her ‘Fire Drill Fridays’ and Multiple Arrests | Entertainment Tonight

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