The pro-life movement appears to be making itself felt in Saskatchewan as the number of abortions dropped by 21% in the province last year, according to the Medical Care Insurance Commission’s annual report. The numbers though, for the year ending Mar. 31,1984, don’t tell the whole story.
A Regina gynecologist says the same numbers of younger women are having abortions, but they’re leaving the province for the procedure. “A massive number of younger women – and older women – go to the United States,” he said. While some groups estimate two thirds of Saskatchewan women having abortions drive down to freestanding abortion clinics in North Dakota and Montana, the physician said the percentage is closer to four fifths of the women.
According to Medicare statistics, there were 1264 therapeutic abortions performed in Saskatchewan hospitals in 1983-84, compared with 1565 for 1982-83, which was a drop of only 1.25% from 1981-82.
Why the sudden, sharp decrease? A Citizen for Reproductive Choice spokesman pointed out the biggest obstacle. “It’s almost impossible to find a doctor to do an abortion,” she said. The conservative political mood in the province is affecting both physicians, who are making fewer referrals for the procedure, and hospital committees, which are approving fewer abortions, she said. Health Minister Graham Taylor’s committee to study hospital therapeutic abortion committees probably affected the numbers, though not much because it was started late in the year. As well as investigating whether or not abortion committees approve too many abortions, Mr. Taylor, who personally supports the pro-life movement, is considering cutting Medicare money for abortion. It was under the right-wing Progressive Conservative government in Saskatchewan that the anti-abortion lobbyists, Saskatchewan Pro-Life, received money for the first time. The educational group received $60,000 in each of the past two years to promote abstinence as a means of birth control.