Friday, January 28, 2011

Abortion Statistics: Despotic Secrecy or a Right to Know?

How many abortions are performed in Canada every year? We don’t know (exact numbers). How much do we pay for them? We don’t know. Where are they being done (exactly)? We don’t know. What is the gestational age of the babies being aborted? We don’t know.

Pierre Trudeau once said:
"Democratic progress requires the ready availability of true and complete information. In this way people can objectively evaluate their government's policy. To act otherwise is to give way to despotic secrecy ."

In 2006 the Conservatives promised--via their Federal Accountability Act--that:
"Government will become more transparent and more open.”

This Act was supposed to increase government accountability, but as it relates to abortion statistics, government accountability has actually decreased to the point where abortion statistics are grossly under-reported and completely unreliable.

Before 1988 it was mandatory for hospitals and abortion clinics to report abortions performed to Statistics Canada. With the Morgentaler ruling in 1988 when abortion was decriminalized, Statistics Canada deemed abortion reporting to be “voluntary”.

Allowing abortion reporting to become voluntary, resulted in a decreased level of clinics reporting. Statistics Canada who collects and publishes all sorts of statistics has always prided themselves on the quality of their statistics. But since abortion statistics were now unreliable, SC didn’t want their name associated with numbers that weren’t accurate. So in 1995 the responsibility for abortion data collection was transferred to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). CIHI is funded by federal, provincial and territorial governments but is not a government department.

In 2010 CIHI took over complete responsibility for the collection and publication of the abortion statistics. Because CIHI is not one of the government organizations covered under the Access to Information Act, not only have the abortion statistics become unreliable, but possibly more worrisome, Canadians can’t ask pertinent abortion related questions to CIHI under Access To Information rules.

This is goes against what the Conservatives' Federal Accountability Action Plan was supposed to accomplish:
“Allow Canadians and organizations to participate more fully in public policy development and better assess the Government of Canada’s performance in order to hold it to account...Government will become more transparent and more open.”

Part of this Plan includes the Office of the Information Commissioner
“Who is committed to ensuring that individuals' rights to information under the Access to Information Act (ATIA) are respected and that government operates within a culture of transparency and fairness.”

But so what? Since CIHI is not ATIPable, an increase in getting access to information is meaningless.

Yet the Information Commissioner's website says we have a “Right to Know”:
"In a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in Dagg vs. Canada, Justice GĂ©rard La Forest wrote:
'The overarching purpose of access to information legislation, then, is to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry."

So what do we know?

- We know that Access to Information is about transparency, openness, accountability and our right to participate in democracy.
- We know we had the vehicle to collect and produce the information with Statistics Canada.
- We know abortion statistics are now voluntary.
- We know that CIHI who now collects the abortion statistics, is not ATIPable.
- We know that the Conservatives promised better access to information.

So how can Canadians “objectively evaluate their government's policy” on our any-time, any-reason, no-reason, taxpayer-funded abortion policy--when we don’t know how many tax payer funded abortions are done every year, how much we are paying for them, where they are being performed, what the gestational age of the babies being destroyed is, what the complications are, the type of abortion procedure, the age of the girl/woman, how many are repeat abortions, and the reasons for the abortions? And we aren’t allowed to ask abortion related questions to the very organization who is collecting the few statistics we do have?

We can’t.

Abortion reporting must again be made mandatory for all hospitals and all clinics. The responsibility for abortion collection must be returned to Statistics Canada.

Otherwise, it’s despotic secrecy.

1 comment:

  1. We are working on trying to combat this...go to our blog at: we also have a facebook group too!