Public opinion polls reveal, time and again, that a significant percentage of Canadians need their minds changed on this issue:
- According to a 2001 Gallup poll, a 52% majority believes abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. An additional 32% of Canadians believe abortions should be legal in all circumstances, while only 14% would make abortion illegal in all circumstances (2% have no opinion).1
- A year after the aforementioned Gallup poll, Leger Marketing Omnican and LifeCanada polled Canadians by asking, “In your opinion, at what point during human development should the law protect human life?” 30% of Canadians responded from the point of birth (practically matching the 32% who believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances), 6% said after 6 months, 13% said after 3 months, while 37% responded from conception on (14% don’t know).2
- That same year, 2002, Leger Marketing revealed in a separate poll that 42% of Canadians defined abortion as immoral—as opposed to 89% who defined shoplifting as immoral.3 In 2006 when Leger Marketing did another poll the percentage dropped: only 34% considered abortion immoral.4 Therefore, one can deduce that a majority of Canadians, 66%, consider abortion moral to some degree or do not have an opinion.
- In 2005, LifeCanada commissioned Environics Research Group to poll Canadians’ attitudes toward abortion. When Canadians were asked at what point in human development should the law protect human life, 33% said from the point of birth, 11% said after six months of pregnancy, 19% said after three months of pregnancy, and 30% said from conception on (7% had no opinion on the question).5
- The following year, LifeCanada commissioned Environics Research Group to do yet another poll on Canadians’ attitudes toward abortion. The results were virtually identical to the year before: 30% of Canadians supported legal protection for human life from birth onwards, 10% after six months, 23% after three months, and 31% from conception (6% had no opinion).6
- In 2007, LifeCanada commissioned another poll. Given the track record of previous years, Canadians’ opinion about the point in human development that the law should protect human life was unsurprising: 33% said from the point of birth, 11% said after six months, 21% said after three months, and 30% said from conception on (5% had no opinion). These numbers show, in comparison to the previous year, that public opinion has actually worsened.7
- LifeCanada’s 2008 poll showed similar results as the year prior: 33% said human life should be legally protected at birth, 9% said after 6 months, 20% said after 3 months, and 28% said from conception on (10% offered no opinion).8
- In June 2008, the Angus Reid Polling Group reported that 49% of Canadians think abortion should be legal under any circumstances. What of the other 51%? The results are devastating: Only 5% think it should be illegal in all circumstances. 3% aren’t sure and 42% think it should be legal in certain circumstances.9
- In February 2010, the Manning Centre Barometer conducted 1000 telephone interviews with Canadians, asking them several questions on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 is totally disagree and 7 is totally agree). The report states that 60% of Canadians “strongly agree” that abortion is morally wrong (43% totally agree). But they do report that individuals aged 18 to 30—the age group that most often has abortions—were more likely to “totally disagree” with that statement.10
- In the Spring of 2010, EKOS surveyed Canadians and found that 52% identify themselves as pro-choice, 27% as pro-life, 10% as neither, and 11% as don’t know/no response.11
- In August 2010, an Angus Reid Poll was released. When respondents were informed there were no restrictions on abortion in Canada, only 27% supported the status quo while 63% thought there should be some regulation. The views about “some regulations” varied, and only 6% said there should be no abortion under any circumstances.12
It appears from these polls over the past decade that anywhere from 5% to 43% of Canadians hold an authentically “pro-life” view (that is, against abortion in all cases). That, of course, cannot be said with total assurance as the questions varied in each poll. What can be said with reasonably greater confidence, however, is that a majority of Canadians accept abortion to varying degrees.
Some pro-life advocates will interpret these polls as showing a majority of public support for protecting human life at some point prior to birth. These advocates are theoretically correct concerning support for legal protections during the second and third trimesters, but they are misguided when they trumpet that as a public-opinion victory.
Nothing in any poll would indicate majority support for protecting human life within the first three months of pregnancy, when the overwhelming majority of abortions occur.13
And so, based on the most recent poll that asked for opinions on abortion at different stages of pregnancy, over 70%—over two-thirds—of Canadians do not believe in protecting pre-born human beings when the majority of them are killed.
And so, when it comes to public opinion, the pro-life movement is winning where it matters least (later in pregnancy) and losing where it matters most (early in pregnancy).
Having said that, it is even questionable whether we’re “winning where it matters least” as there is no outcry by the Canadian public to make late-term abortions illegal. Given that life begins at fertilization, it is essential that Canadians come to the conclusion that any abortion is immoral. That, however, is far from the reality.
Some pro-lifers may even be tempted to take comfort in the possibility (an unlikely possibility when all the polls are reviewed) that over 40% of Canadians are of the opinion that abortion is wrong, but the question remains: what are those Canadians actually doing to make abortion unthinkable if they truly believe abortion takes a human life?
Back to Challenges Facing the Pro-Life Movement
- “Fewer Canadians Favour Legalized Abortion Under Any Circumstance,” by Dr. Thomas Hartley and Dr. Josephine Mazzuca, Volume No. 61, No. 85, December 12, 2001.
- “Canadians’ Opinion on Abortion,” Omnican Report LifeCanada, October 2002. www.legermarketing.com.
- “Canadians and Immorality,” Leger Marketing Report, 2002. www.legermarketing.com.
- “Pedophilia, adultery top immorality poll,” by Dene Moore, Toronto Star, June 11, 2006, Viewed online July 26, 2006 at www.christianity.ca/news/.
- “Canadians’ Attitudes Toward Abortion,” Environics Research Group, October 2005, 3.
- “Canadians’ Attitudes Toward Abortion,” Environics Research Group, October 2006, 3.
- “Canadians’ Attitudes Toward Abortion,” Environics Research Group, October 2007, 4.
- “Canadians’ Attitudes Towards Life Issues,” Environics Research Group, October 2008, 8.
- “Half of Canadians Want Abortion to Remain Legal,” June 21, 2008, Angus Reid Strategies, Viewed online at http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/half_of_canadians_want_abortion_to_remain_legal/ on August 13, 2010.
- “Manning Centre Barometer 2010,” available from http://www.manningcentre.ca/resources, viewed online August 13, 2010.
- Canadians Decisively Pro-Choice on Abortion: No Change Over the Decade, EKOS Politicis, viewed online at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/majority-backs-abortion-rights/article1519823/ on August 13, 2010.
- Susan Martinuk, “Ignorance on Abortion is Far From Bliss,” August 6, 2010, viewed online at http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Ignorance+abortion+from+bliss/3365799/story.html on August 13, 2010.
- It is difficult to obtain detailed Canadian abortion statistics that identify the number of abortions performed in each trimester. However, Alberta does provide detailed records of its abortion statistics. In its report, “Alberta Reproductive Health: Pregnancies & Births,” Alberta Health & Wellness 2006, p. 44, it says, “In 2004, 85.8% of induced abortions occurred before 13 weeks gestation, and 13.4% occurred between 13 and 20 weeks gestation.” Childbirth by Choice Trust reports that “In 1993, 92% of abortion [sic] in Canada took place in the first trimester of pregnancy” (“Abortion: The Medical Procedure,” viewed online February 12, 2007, available at www.cbctrust.com/medical_proc.php).