Abortion statistics don’t tell whole story

  • February 4, 2020

Recent data that shows the number of abortions in Canadian hospitals and clinics declined by more than 10 per cent in 2018 would be encouraging if not for the lack of statistics on the number of chemically-induced abortions, said Hanna Kepka.

Induced abortions in hospitals and clinics fell from 94,030 in 2017 to 85,195 in 2018, according to a report from Canadian Institute for Health Information. Kepka, an Ottawa lobbyist for Campaign Life Coalition, says that’s great news, but nowhere do the statistics show how many abortions took place using RU-486, or Mifepristone, the abortion drug that was approved by Health Canada in 2015 and has been available via prescription since January 2017.

“The very fundamental problem in assessing these situations is the way statistical information is collected regarding abortion,” said Kepka. “We have very poor information on the level of prescription and the level of use of the abortion pill.”

RU-486 is an anti-hormone taken in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy that blocks a woman’s body’s own progesterone, a hormone needed for a pregnancy to grow naturally. Its approval in Canada coincides with the declining numbers of abortions in hospitals and clinics. There had been slight decreases in abortion numbers dating back to 2015, when 100,104 procedures were performed, but the numbers declined more rapidly from 2017 onward.

Kepka suspects because RU-486 is so new in Canada, the numbers aren’t near what they would be in European nations that have allowed its use for many years. (Its use was approved in France in 1988 and is available in 60 countries worldwide.) She’s seen stats that show in many countries, these chemical abortions are the number one procedure for procuring an abortion, and expects Canada to move in that same direction.

“This is something we can be expecting to happen in North America as well. The proportion in the United States and Canada is definitely not high yet, but the abortion pill has been legal in Western Europe for much longer,” she said.

Researchers did not suggest any reasons behind the drop in abortions, but did note the introduction of the abortion pill and that they had no statistics on its use in Canada.

There hasn’t been any legislation on abortion in Canada since the Supreme Court struck down the abortion law in 1988. 

A new DART & Maru/Blue poll conducted for the National Post shows that seven in 10 people consider the current state of abortion in Canada — no legal restrictions, at any stage of pregnancy — acceptable. Only one in 10 found it unacceptable. The poll also showed that only 10 per cent of people identified as pro-life.

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