The federal government released Canada’s 1998 abortion stats in December 2000, figures which show a small decline form the previous year in the number of unborn children killed in this country. Quebec, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Yukon, however, showed a year-over-year increase in abortions.

Pro-lifers are always glad when governments release abortion statistics because of the ammunition it provides against the killing of unborn babies, even though the argument that even one abortion is too many is hardly dependent on these figures. The stats are so questionable, however, that one has to wonder to what degree they represent reality. This question will become even greater as abortifacient “contraception” such as the “morning-after pill” and RU-486 become increasingly popular. Any statistics released by Canadian governments can only be treated as the tip of the iceberg in terms of the real abortion numbers in this country.

There is political significance to the figures, though. Most fundamentally, they continue to point to the sharp contrast between the numbers of abortions before and after the practice was legalized. They also bear witness to the failure of the modern sex education industry. Certainly, pro-abortion forces see the numbers as significant, and not in a way that is favourable to their cause. This was most evident in the spring of last year when Ontario’s stridently pro-abortion health department received media coverage for trying to block the release of abortion numbers in the province.

As reported in the May 2000 issue of The Interim, the health ministry claimed that there was a risk that the figures might inflame abortion opponents, leading to violence against abortion providers. Whether they truly believed this unsubstantiated assertion, or were simply acting as an arm of the abortion industry is not clear, but after more than a year of fighting to keep the figures secret, a senior adjudicator with the Information and Privacy Commission ruled against the provincial government, granting access to the figures as requested by the National Post.

The new national figures continue to show Ontario way out in front, contributing more than a third of the total number of babies slaughtered in Canada in 1998. The official numbers, however, show a drop of 3.62 per cent from 1997 to 1998 for a national total of 110,331. The sharpest decline in numbers was in the Northwest Territories. A drop of 7.89 per cent in that jurisdiction produced a death toll of 292. Manitoba saw a decline of 4.94 per cent.

The Yukon saw the greatest jump (23.97 per cent) for a total of 150 abortions in 1998. Quebec’s increase of 4.71 per cent translated into a total of 31,673 deaths. “Two-thirds of all therapeutic abortions in 1998 were performed in hospitals, and the remaining one-third took place in clinics,” noted StatsCan.

The number of abortions in Ontario is partly a factor of the size of its population, although it also has one of the highest death rates per capita – 16.43 abortions per “1,000 population” (StatsCan’s per capita rates are calculated using the female population aged 15 to 44). The national rate of abortions per 1,000 population is 16.13. The actual number of abortions in Ontario in 1998 is recorded as 42,452.

Quebec kills a greater proportion of its population through abortion than any other province or territory, with a rate of 19.38. The Yukon follows close behind at 19.17. The Northwest Territories has a rate of 18.00 and British Columbia’s rate is 17.08.

Even Prince Edward Island, where abortion is not locally available, has a rate of 4.95 abortion deaths per 1,000 population. This is based on a figure of 149 abortion deaths, down by one from 150 in 1997. Newfoundland and New Brunswick post the second- and third-lowest abortion rates in Canada, 6.38 and 6.51 respectively.

Even Alberta, with its reputation as Canada’s last great haven of conservatism and a region of above-average religious piety, produced 10,355 abortion deaths in 1998, up 0.17 per cent from the previous year. This translates to a per capita rate of 15.10 deaths per 1,000 population.

According to StatsCan, “Abortions were most common among women in their twenties, who accounted for half of all women who obtained abortions in 1998. On average, 27 women out of every 1,000 in their twenties obtained an abortion.” This is the age bracket in which most men and women are trying to set up their own homes and establish themselves financially. Often among those who are married this means both spouses working outside the home.

This statistic, therefore, gives credence to the observation from many pro-lifers that many if not most abortions are performed because the new baby is seen as a liability or inconvenience by his or her parents. As pro-lifers have often pointed out – in the face of hostile denials from abortion activists – this amounts to using abortion as a form of birth control.