Lack of accurate numbers turns Canada’s abortion argument in guesswork
Feb 18, 2013 8:19 AM ET
By Pat Maloney
There is a lot of confusion in Canada regarding statistics about abortions. This makes it very difficult to have a proper discussion when the facts are not readily available. And it shouldn't matter if you are pro-life or pro-choice; we need accurate information regarding abortion in Canada.
There are a couple of reasons for this confusion. The first stems from the fact that not all abortions are reported. As well, the reasons abortions are performed are not captured or reported. Another problem is that the gestational age of most abortions is unknown.
This means we have no idea how many abortions are performed, how many of them are late-term, and what the reasons are. Consequently, there is no way we can say Canada has very few late-term abortions, or that their reasons are for fetal anomalies, or danger to the mother, because of this lack of good information.
We do know that Statistics Canada reported 491 children died due to "termination of pregnancy" after being born alive from 2000 to 2009. We know this happened, but we don't even know the reasons it happened, except for the few women who wrote letters to the National Post, and other anecdotal information.
What else we know, is that in 2010 (the last year for which we have abortion statistics), the Canadian Centre for Health Information (CIHI) reported 64,641 abortions. This number is very under-reported for these reasons:
1) Quebec did not report any statistics in 2010 (We do know though, that there were 27,139 in 2009 in Quebec, so the 2010 numbers would likely be a similar or higher number).
2) It is not mandatory for clinics to report abortion data and clinic data is under-reported.
3) Abortions performed in private physician's offices are not published or reported at all. (There were 18,330 in Ontario alone in 2010 based on access to information from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long term care. We can assume that each province would have a similar proportional number of abortions performed in doctor's offices raising the numbers even higher.)
Of these 64,641 known abortions reported by CIHI, the gestational age was only reported for 22,668 abortions (8,300 performed on fetuses <=8 weeks, 11,191 on fetuses 9-12 weeks, 1,794 on fetuses 13-16 weeks, 846 on fetuses 17-20 weeks, 537 on fetuses 21+ weeks). These known gestational age abortions are reported for hospital abortions only--we have no gestational ages for those done in clinics or physician's offices.
Therefore, there were at least 41,973 abortions performed in 2010 with an unknown gestational age. This means all of those 41,973 abortions, or most of them, or some of them, or none of them, could be late term abortions--we just don't know. And we don’t know these gestational ages because most abortion providers don't report them.
If all of the unknown gestational age abortions were in fact late term, then the percentage could be as high as 65%.
Joyce Arthur, Canada's leading abortion advocate, frequently makes statements that all late-term abortions are done "for compelling reasons, such as fetal abnormalities incompatible with life or a serious threat to the woman’s health or life".
There is no way that Ms. Arthur, or anyone else in Canada for that matter, can make such a claim. Since there is no requirement to report or publish the reasons for late-term abortions, or for any abortions, no one including Ms. Arthur can assert this.
We don't know how many abortions are being done in Canada every year. We don't know how many abortions are late-term. And we don't know the reasons women are having abortions.
A couple of solutions to this problem are as follows. Make the reporting or all abortions statistics mandatory. This would include all clinics, private physician's offices and Quebec. Make it mandatory to report the gestational age of the unborn child and the reasons for the abortions. Then make the facts public, including the cost to the taxpayer.
Abortion is the only medical procedure where ready and accurate statistics are not available in Canada. So why not abortion? Then we can really start the discussion.