The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) recently released its abortion data for 2020. The goal of the pro-life movement is to reduce the abortion rate as far as possible, so we want to take note of the statistics. Are we being successful? The short answer is that, even after reading the numbers, we don’t really know.
CIHI Underreports Abortion
CIHI reported that there were 74,155 abortions at hospitals and abortion clinics in 2020, compared to 83,576 in 2019. This figure has been trending down in the past 25 years, which seems very encouraging. But we need to add an important caveat: these numbers do not include all abortions. In the past, we’ve emphasized the fact that some private clinics don’t report their numbers, and in more recent years we’re noting an even greater disparity between reports and actuals due to the advent of the abortion pill.
This year CIHI notes the omission of abortions using the abortion pill. They acknowledge that “[i]n recent years, medical abortions have become more accessible in primary care settings (e.g., nurse practitioner and physician offices, community and public health clinics), and most of these are not included in the data tables. Therefore, volumes reported underestimate the true number of induced abortions in Canada.” CIHI makes no attempt to track the use of the abortion pill across Canada, making their data woefully inadequate.
This would be an omission to note in normal years, but in 2020 we also had COVID-19 restrictions and reluctance to go to hospitals. CIHI notes this likely contributed to even more missing abortion statistics: “Measures to maintain early access to abortion services during the pandemic (e.g., virtual visits, extending gestational age limit for medical abortion) may have further shifted abortion volumes to primary care settings.”
Abortion Pill Numbers Are Missing
Patricia Maloney is an expert on abortion statistics in Canada. She puts a lot of time and energy into requesting abortion information from provincial governments (which fund most abortions) and she reports her findings on her blog. Maloney reports that Quebec, Alberta, Ontario have all confirmed that their numbers do not include the abortion pill. British Columbia is one of the few provinces where abortion pill statistics are available and they reported 4,562 prescriptions in 2019. That number represents 36% of all abortions in the province that year. We don’t know whether other provinces would have similar percentages.
Rising Abortion Pill Numbers Means Increasing Isolation
The abortion pill has shifted the landscape for how abortions are performed and treated. The pro-abortion movement has long raised the bogeyman of back-alley abortions, but in many ways that is what they are promoting now. Abortion is physically, emotionally, and morally a grave procedure. It is now being done with fewer safeguards and less professional involvement, and we aren’t even bothering to track the numbers.
In our new position paper on the abortion pill we break down how the pill works and call for greater, more compassionate involvement that honours both mother and child. Increasing abortion pill access and prescriptions without updating statistics means neither these women nor their children are counted. We advocate for an approach that informs women about the real effects of the abortion pill, that protects the physical safety of women, and that ensures they have access to support such as counseling. We need to be wary of a system that pushes a woman into isolation while she undergoes an abortion, and even more wary of statistics that fail to count what they claim to count. Abortion statistics that do not include medical abortions tell only half the story.
We do know that abortion rates are not dropping as much as the CIHI statistics make it seem, as much as we would like that to be true. We need to continue to work to change hearts and minds, to open eyes to the precious humanity of the pre-born so that they can be valued and protected no matter what means of killing them is made available and accessible.