The Minister responsible for Statistics Canada, Monique Vezina, has announced that StatsCan will retain responsibility for compiling abortion statistics. Complete statistical data will be published every three years, with less detailed information published in the intervening years.
Statistics Canada cancelled its Therapeutic Abortion Programme completely in Late August, citing the need for budgetary cutbacks, and the knowledge that the statistics were not valid because they did not include the growing number of illegal abortion, performed mainly in the province of Quebec. The situation became known to the pro-life movement in October, when Alliance for Life board member Nina Ross received a copy of the letter to health care administrators canceling the data collection programme. A press release issued by the national organizations of the pro-life movement calling for the re-establishment of the programme met with immediate reaction from MPs. Many Members of Parliament wrote to the Minister, echoing the views of the pro-life groups. This, combined with statements and questions in the House of Commons, and letters from pro-lifers across the country, resulted in the decision being at least partially reversed.
Statistics Canada will now gather complete abortion data from hospitals, including socio-demographic and medical data, in every third year. In other years, data will be gathered from payments to physicians for abortions under provincial Medicare plans. These figures will not include much of the socio-economic or medical data, but will include the numbers of abortions performed illegally in Quebec CLSC clinics.
It is not yet known whether abortions will be specifically categorized statistically as “legal” or “illegal.” Representatives of the pro-life movement will work to ensure that this classification is made. Betty Smith, Executive Director of Action Life in Ottawa, notes that simply referring to “abortion” legitimizes those abortions performed outside of the parameters laid down in Section 251 of the Criminal Code. Mrs. Smith sees this as another step in the process of making abortion seem more socially acceptable to the Canadian public.
It is expected that pro-life programmes will continue to protest the lack of priority given to the numbers of unborn Canadians killed each year by abortion.