Is the Canadian abortion rate dropping?

By Jonathon Van Maren

According to Global News, the Canadian abortion rate may be dropping:

New data suggests the number of abortions performed in Canada’s hospitals and clinics declined significantly in 2018. The Canadian Institute for Health Information says clinics and hospitals reported 85,195 induced abortions that year — down 8,835 from the 94,030 procedures reported in 2017.

The findings continued a downward trend seen in previous years, but was more than twice the drop seen between 2016 and 2017 when the number fell by 3,734. In 2016, the 97,764 reported abortions was 2,340 fewer than those reported in 2015. The most recent drop coincides with the arrival of the abortion pill Mifegymiso which hit the Canadian market in 2017, but CIHI researchers said it was not possible to know how many of the reported cases involved the drug.

The pro-choice group Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights suggested Mifegymiso could at least partly explain the numbers, since any family doctor can prescribe the drug and women can take it in the privacy of their own home. “That was the period of time over which Mifegymiso became available,” says Laura Neidhart, director of communications.

These are the two the key problems with Canadian abortion statistics from a pro-lifer’s perspective—the fact that not all clinics report their numbers, and the fact that we do not know if the abortion pill has impacted the numbers dramatically, somewhat, or very little. It is obviously good news that the number of surgical abortions have dropped (and by thousands, too) but we cannot know how much the abortion rate itself has dropped until we can get numbers for usage of the abortion pill. More:

Most of the procedures reported — 80 per cent — were surgically induced abortions, while 11.8 per cent involved both surgical and medical procedures. Seven per cent were described as medically induced abortions, which involve pills but no surgery. Another factor could be that several barriers to abortion services persist, especially for people living outside urban centres, says Neidhart. She pointed to a paper the group published last November called “Access at a Glance” that found wide provincial variation in the number of abortion providers and the services they provided.

CIHI researchers said the data has several limitations making it difficult to draw conclusions or compare regions. For one thing, the clinical data — which amounts to more than half the numbers — does not include information from New Brunswick. Unlike hospitals, clinics are not obligated to report all procedures and only do so voluntarily.

In 2018, clinics reported 58,697 induced abortions, or 69 per cent of the total reported that year. That was a similar ratio to numbers seen in previous years. There were also inconsistencies in the way data was reported. For instance, data from Manitoba and Ontario clinics only include abortions covered by provincial health insurance. And patients who are covered by Quebec’s insurance plan but receive care in Alberta are reported by Alberta. Meanwhile, patients who are covered by Alberta’s insurance plan but receive care in Quebec are not reported by either province.

The factor that no media outlet will cover—and this is true for the United States, as well, where the abortion rate has been dropping steadily for decades—is the hard work of pro-life activists. The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform commissioned a study of the impact of abortion victim photography several years ago which revealed that abortion imagery has an enormous impact on the way that Canadians feel about abortion, leading to many changed minds and saved lives (CCBR reached an estimated 4.5 million views of abortion victim photography across Canada in 2019.) We have found that the abortion rate in specific areas where activism is concentrated has dropped significantly, but have not been able to establish an airtight correlation due to data that we do not have access to. That said, considering the daily anecdotes of people changing their minds on abortion wherever street outreach and other forms of pro-life activism are being employed, it is clear that boots-on-the-ground pro-life activism is having a powerful effect.

2 thoughts on “Is the Canadian abortion rate dropping?

  1. Glenda Diane Dollimont McGrath says:

    I think it’s better to educate people about abortion rather than make it illegal. Women sought illegal abortions before the process was legal. People need to be informed what a torturous practice abortion is. As much as I loathe abortion, I equally loathe the idea of women mutilating their own bodies with twisted coat-hangers or drinking Dran-o cocktails to induce abortion. When people are properly educated abortion becomes unthinkable and the laws become moot.

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