An Environics Research poll prepared for Campaign Life Coalition reveals the majority of tax payers are opposed to seeing abortion covered under the Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan (OHIP).

The poll, completed in November, asked Ontarians their opinions on the following question: “Keeping in mind that the funds must come from taxpayers, do you think the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) should pay for a) annual health examinations for all adults, b) in-vitro fertilization, c) abortion, d) reversal of sterilization procedures, e) cosmetic procedures.

A total of 57% of the respondents across Ontario said OHIP should not pay for abortions. Only 27% said the province should pay for the procedure, while 14% said payment depends on certain conditions.

According to the Campaign Life Coalition poll, the largest population segments supporting OHIP funding of abortion were the unemployed (39%) and New Democrat Party supporters (40%). Other groups strongly in favour of tax-funded abortion services were middle-aged single males, high-income earners, and residents of larger cites.

Surprisingly, 43% of NDP supporters are opposed to tax-funded abortion services. Greater access to abortion has long been an NDP policy objective.

OHIP coverage of abortion received the he least support among respondents in northern Ontario. Opposition was also high among young people aged 18-24, Progressive Conservative supporters and those living in communities of 10,000 or fewer.

Men and women were practically equal in their opposition to OHIP funding for abortion (56% for men, 57% for women).

A summary by Environics Resources said of the four main items in the poll (in-vitro fertilization, abortion, reversal of sterilization procedures and cosmetic surgery), public opinion is most divided on abortion. Yet the poll results show that except for three categories (university graduates, the unemployed and NDP supporters), more than 50% of respondents remain opposed to OHIP coverage of abortion.

There is even less support for OHIP coverage of in-vitro fertilization (22%) reversal of sterilization procedures (15%) and cosmetic surgery (6%). Ontario residents, however, like the idea of coverage of annual health exams for all adults. Nearly 80% supported the idea while only 19% were opposed.

Campaign Life Coalition researcher Sabina McLuhan said the poll confirms finding in other provinces. “We think it reveals there are very few people on the doctrinaire, pro-abortion side” McLuhan said. “There is a mushy middle-ground who won’t take a firm pro-life position except when their tax dollars are at stake. In these cases, they don’t want the government paying for abortions.”

The poll results come as Ontario and other provinces respond to budget cutbacks in a number of social services, particular education and healthcare. A number of provinces are closing or merging hospitals and looking at other ways of delivering health services more efficiently. Some have argued non-essential services, including abortion, should be dropped from tax-supported medical coverage.

The Saskatchewan provincial election of 1991 included a plebiscite in which two-thirds of voters supported de-funding abortions. A 1995 poll found similar results.

A group of pro-life Progressive Conservatives in Alberta recently sought to have abortion removed from the list of procedures covered under the province’s medical insurance platform. The Committee to end tax-funded abortions took up the matter last fall. In March however, the group was thwarted in its bid to hold a province-wide referendum on abortion funding.

Meanwhile, debate will soon begin in the House of Commons on a motion by Reform Party Member of Parliament Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville), calling for a binding national referendum on federal funding for abortion on demand.

Although the motion has been declared “non-votable” by the ruling Liberal party, Breitkreuz has circulated a petition seeking support for the referendum. He estimates 70,000 abortions preformed in hospitals each year cost Canadians up to $44,000,000. Another $7.5 million is spent on 30,000 abortions performed in free-standing clinics.

McLuhan is now preparing a CLC discussion paper on the overall cost of abortion in Canada. She suggested the dollar figures cited by Breitkreuz may be under represented by as much as 50%.