Campaign Life Coalition has criticized the federal government’s decision to limit access to abortion information from Statistics Canada record keeping.

The federal agency announced that abortion data will no longer be collected by Statistics Canada, but by the privately run Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). The CIHI was established in 1994 by merging two non-profit, non-governmental organizations. StatsCan is soon to release its 1994 abortion information, but all future data on the subject will be collected by the new institute.

Information on abortion has been maintained by the health division of Statistics Canada since 1969. The information is vital not only to Campaign Life Coalition and other pro-life organizations, but to health researchers throughout the country. Back in 1986, a StatsCan proposal to drop abortion information was met with a hail of protest from pro-life groups, sociologists and medical researchers.

The decision is eliminate abortion figures from Statistics Canada will make it more difficult to understand the nature of the practice in the country, says Lyn Smith, a pro-life researcher.

“These statistics are of vital importance to the health of Canadian women,” Smith told The Interim. “We must have full access to information if we are going to understand such problems as the link between abortion and decreased fertility, or abortion and breast cancer.”

Smith said Statistics Canada has been providing less information about abortion since 1986. The decision to devalue abortion statistics was based on budget factors and on the agency’s belief that abortion has lost social relevance in Canada.

“Why on such a vital women’s health issue have we started to receive less and less information?” Smith wondered. “We have to know how all the medical information breaks down,” she said. “Statistics Canada should continue with what used to be a very efficient record keeping system.”

In May, Smith prepared the research paper “Canadian Abortion Statistics and Statistics Canada Health Division”. In it, she outlined how even before the latest decision, complete information on women undergoing therapeutic abortion in Canada is readily available. In addition to providing only piece-meal information on abortion, Statistics Canada is now making it more difficult to appreciate the true nature of abortion in the country.

“It is impossible to assess the impact of the rising incidence of abortion among Canadian women because fewer and fewer statistics are being made available each year in the Statistics Canada Health Division Reports,” Smith said in the report.

Janet Hagey, director of Statistics Canada’s Health Services Division, denied that the agency is attempting to restrict abortion information. She said the transferring of abortion statistics to the Canadian Institute for health information will not limit access to women’s health research. “The move is just another way of meeting our recordkeeping needs,” Hagey told The Interim. “All the pertinent information, including that on abortion, will continue to be collected and made available.”

Statistics Canada recently came under fire from some quarters for its decision to discontinue record keeping on marriage and divorce. Many conservative groups said the decision indicates a declining respect for family issues on the part of the federal government.

The criticism of Statistics Canada coincides with recent complaints that the agency has moved away from its role as an objective fact-gathering service. Some critics suggest Statistics Canada has begun to slat its research to promote various social agendas, including a redefinition of marriage and family and support for a host of feminist concerns.