What can be said about the state of abortion statistics in Canada that has not been said before? The statistics are incomplete and therefore inaccurate. In the past, abortion statistics were the responsibility of Statistics Canada. This task has now been assigned to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Following the 1988 court decision in Morgentaler, abortion clinics began to appear and most submitted only abortion numbers to Statistics Canada. Other medical case data such as gestational age of the child, age of the mother, method of abortion, complications and any previous abortions were not reported except by clinics in Alberta. Since then the quality of abortion statistics has declined substantially.
Some clinics did not even submit their numbers to the Canadian Institute for Health Information for the statistical years 2006 and 2007.
Abortion clinics in Manitoba had not reported the number of abortions performed in their facilities at the time of release of the 2007 and 2008 abortion statistics. The designation Unknown appeared in the tables. CIHI acknowledged the deficiencies with abortion statistics but said that no legislative requirement exists for clinics to report their figures whereas hospitals are obliged by their provincial /territorial Ministry of Health to report all hospital activity. A revised table now available on CIHI’s website shows a number of 1,134 for Manitoba clinics for 2007.
The revised official statistics for 2007 as reported by the Canadian Institute for Health Information give a total of 98,762 abortions performed in Canada.
47,281 abortions were performed in hospitals. 51,481 abortions were performed in clinics.
Figures below report gestational age for abortions performed in Canadian hospitals in 2007 (excluding Quebec).
30.2% of hospital abortions (9,976) were performed at 8 weeks and under.
40.6% of hospital abortions (13,399) were performed at 9 to 12 weeks.
7.4% of hospital abortions (2,442) were performed at 13 to 16 weeks.
3.1% of hospital abortions (1,015-1,023) were performed at 17 to 20 weeks.
1.7% of hospital abortions (549) were performed at over 21 weeks.
17.1% of hospital abortions (5,641) have an unknown gestational age.
Excluding the 14,251 abortions performed in Quebec hospitals, we have a total of 33,030 hospital abortions. Please note that the percentages and numbers listed above for gestational age are based only on data for 27,389 hospital abortions out of a total of 33,030 hospital abortions.
Number and percentage distribution of Induced Abortions performed in Canadian Hospitals (excluding Quebec) in 2007 by Number of Previous Induced Abortions
50% had no previous abortions
19.2% had had one previous abortion
10.7% had had two or more previous abortions which means that 29.9% of women undergoing an abortion had at least one previous abortion.
The previous abortion rate is unknown for 20.1% of abortions in hospitals.
CIHI tells us that “Information on the number of previous induced abortions is not available from clinic data or from Quebec data.”.
An analysis of an Ontario group’s study, Project for an Ontario Women’s Health Evidence-Based Report (POWER) found that abortion numbers in Ontario for 2007 are higher than reported in official statistics. While the POWER study does not provide the actual numbers of abortions, it provides the abortion to live birth ratio. Calculation of the data provided in the POWER report found that the actual number of abortions in 2007 in Ontario may be close to 51,000 abortions, almost twenty thousand more than the figure of 32,000 reported by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Statistics Canada gives the number of live births in Ontario as approximately 138,000. Using the POWER report ratio of 37:100 abortions to live births, this would suggest that were 51,060 abortions in Ontario in 2007
The Power study also revealed that 52% of women aged 25 to 29 years who had an abortion in a hospital in 2007 reported having at least one previous abortion. “Overall in Ontario, 40% of women having a hospital induced abortion reported having had a previous induced abortion.” The rate of repeat abortions for clinics was not included in this calculation.
The Power study used OHIP billing records and several databases making their data more reliable. They explain that the induced abortion rates they present “differ from the rates reported by Statistics Canada for a number of reasons. Among these is the following: “Unlike Statistics Canada, which receives Ontario data only on abortions performed by hospitals and clinics funded directly by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long term Care, our data used province wide billing data and therefore also captured abortions billed to the provincial insurance plan, including those performed in other clinics or private offices.”
Overall, incomplete abortion statistics means that the actual numbers are higher than the official statistics. One can safely assume that there were more than 100,000 abortions in Canada in 2007.