Joanna Alphonso:

Upon researching health-related abortion statistics in Canada, I stumbled on a larger issue: Canada does not gather adequate statistics on health information. How does a nation evaluate its health when it simply doesn’t know enough about how diseases interact with its population?

Evaluating the health of a nation is done through the critical analysis of thorough data on all parameters directly relating to health. This includes the diseases that the nation endures, procedures and treatments sought, as well as the proportion of the population that suffers with these diseases. Properly analyzing this requires compiling thorough statistics on the age, location, ethnicities, family history, and other details that might genetically impact the way individuals are affected by a given disease. Canada has no available genetics-related statistics for a vast majority of diseases and treatments sought.

Knowing abortion statistics is important for the pro-life and pro-abortion movements alike. For pro-lifers, like Josie Luetke, director of education and advocacy at Campaign Life Coalition, tackling the root of the problem is difficult without knowing its full scope. “It’s harder to hold our government and other individuals accountable,” she commented, “or to counter the lies of the abortion industry if you’re missing a lot of the hard data.” According to Luetke, pro-lifers need “a better understanding of who is getting abortions, when, and why; pro-life advocates can tune their messaging accordingly, and better change minds and save lives.”

When legal abortion was beginning to take root in Canada, the pro-abortion lobby needed adequate statistics on the supposed barriers women faced with accessing a medical tribunal to approve their “therapeutic” abortions. Women in remote locations, such as Indigenous women in the territories had a particularly difficult time with this. From 1969 through the early 1980s, most provinces released information relating to abortion according to gestational age, age of the mother, number of previous pregnancies/abortions, and hospital locations.

From a neutral perspective, it is vital to record statistics on as many parameters as possible. British Columbia passed the Anti-Racism Data Act in June 2022 to understand how barriers to accessing healthcare affect populations on the basis of race. The purpose of this law is to improve access to services as needed for racialized groups.

“Even if abortion really is ‘health care,”’ Luetke questioned, “should we not be keeping better track of these procedures, at least to better understand whether access is sufficient and to monitor women’s health?” She continued: “If a private abortion facility is receiving taxpayer funds to commit abortions, should it not be required to publicly report what it is doing with those funds?”

In an information request made to the Ontario Ministry of Health, a spokesman shared that “the ministry does not track demographic data for any service, abortions included. Service information is only tracked by fee code at the ministry and is used for claims payment purposes

only.”  The requested data related to the race, marital status, gender, gestational age, education level, reason for abortion, previous abortions, or other comorbidities and health conditions at the time the abortion was performed, and any other abortion-related statistic simply does not exist at the ministry.

The only information available was already published on the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) website. The parameters included were only the bare minimum across numerous published health statistics online: provincial location, age range, method used, and methodology from physician billing codes.

Healthcare statistics are indicators of life and death. Abortion statistics are of special interest because these procedures are taking place, and are only successful, at the death of the preborn child. Abortion is a matter of interest in human rights from either side of the issue. The next question to ask is, why are there insufficient statistics on such an important issue?

Luetke commented insightfully, “if you understand abortion as a shameful human rights injustice, then the desire to cover up or obscure the extent of this tragedy—and our own culpability—makes sense.” She called for legislation to be passed mandating the “detailed and comprehensive reporting on every abortion.”

Other countries compile more thorough statistics on abortion to advance the pro-abortion goal of better understanding and combatting barriers to abortion access and to track success of so-called reproductive health efforts. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute has the most extensive statistics on countries with the most restricted abortion access, all in the name of “reproductive justice.”

Health Canada published a news release in 2023 proudly announcing the $4.2 million funding to the University of British Columbia and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (SRH) to analyze abortion access and other reproductive health services. This research will be conducted with Indigenous, racialized, LGBT-identifying groups, and youth as the focus for the purpose of addressing “barriers to abortion access and information for underserved populations in Canada.”

This research funding began in 2021 and a new wave of $36 million over the span of three years, beginning this year, will renew the SRH fund. With tens of millions of taxpayer dollars invested in statistical analysis for abortion, physicians, the public, and pro-life advocates eagerly await its publication.