The silence is deafening. Every year that abortion statistics have been released there has been some commentary in the mainstream news media. When the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released its 2010 figures last week, citing 64,641 abortions – a 40% decrease since 2004, there was not a peep.
Perhaps the numbers are so woefully incomplete, the pundits are at a loss for words. Unlike hospitals, private clinics, which are also publicly funded, are not stipulated by law to report the number of abortions they perform. The clinics seem to be more and more brazen about not reporting, making it ever more difficult to get an accurate count.
How shoddy are these statistics? In 2004, the CIHI reported 100,039 abortions performed on Canadian women. This was the last time that it reported over 100,000 abortions in Canada, but even then they admitted the numbers were at least 10% below the actual number of abortions performed. There was incomplete data from several private clinics, and the number of abortions performed in Manitoba clinics went completely unreported.
Not only are private clinics exempt from reporting, but entire provinces seem to be off the hook too. Quebec, a province that usually accounts for nearly 30,000 abortions annually, reported none in 2010. British Columbia’s reporting was “incomplete” according to the CIHI, which stated that “there is no such legislative requirement for clinics to report their activity (reporting is voluntary). For 2010, clinic data for British Columbia is incomplete.”
In Ontario, a freedom of information request made to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, indicated that there were 18,330 abortions carried out in doctors’ offices, 16,055 in private facilities and 9,612 in hospitals, for a total of 43,997 abortions. The request was made by Patricia Maloney, the blogger of Run With Life. The CIHI reported 28,765 abortions for Ontario in 2010.
The simple math of 15,232 missing abortion reports in Ontario and 30,000 missing in Quebec plus another hugely underreported amount from B.C. and the other provinces puts us at well over 110,000 abortions. It’s undoubtedly Canada’s great national shame, and perhaps this is what precipitates the hiding of numbers. The CIHI’s reporting of 64,641 abortions is so obviously incomplete, it’s just plain embarrassing.
This article first appeared in the National Post’s Full Comment.