Challenges: Abortion Statistics

Examining the number of abortions over the last ten years, for which statistics are available, reveals a relatively steady trend: the number of abortions from 1994 to 2005 was consistently around 100,000 per year, the highest being 111,709 in 19971 and the lowest being 96,815 in 2005.2

Although this decrease in numbers is good, there are several factors which call into question if there has been any positive change at all.

Firstly, over that decade, the number of abortions per 100 live births increased. This is the ratio between the number of women who had abortions compared to the number of women who gave birth. In 1994, there were 27.6 abortions per 100 live births. In 2005, there were 28.3.3 There may have been fewer women in total getting abortions but only because there were fewer women getting pregnant.4

Granted, from 2002 to 2005 that rate was improving (32.1 in 2002, 31 in 2003, and 29.7 abortions per 100 live births in 2004v ), but the numbers were still higher than the 1994 rate.

Secondly, it is important to realize there are pre-born babies being killed in Canada who aren’t factored into the available statistics so the number of abortion deaths is much higher.

There are a variety of reasons for this:

  • In Canada, pre-born children can be killed by methods of birth control which act after fertilization (chemical abortifacients). However, it is impossible to determine how many lives are lost this way.
  • Some reproductive technologies result in the creation and destruction of human embryos.
  • There is no legal requirement for the collection of data on induced abortions performed in Canada. The Supreme Court struck down such a law in 1988. This has resulted in incomplete reporting with some clinics not reporting the abortions they perform.

Because of these problems, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) “has estimated that as of the 2000 data year the Therapeutic Abortion Survey database represents approximately 90% of all abortions performed in Canada on Canadian residents.”5

Moreover, Statistics Canada even admitted that their statistics for the number of abortions in 2006 must be used “with caution.” That’s because they can’t provide the number of abortions that year for New Brunswick, Manitoba, and British Columbia saying the information is “too unreliable to be published.”6 All of this tragically indicates little to no change in behaviour towards abortion.

Finally, it is interesting to note that a government agency that can accurately count the number of privately paid for toilets in Canada,7 cannot count the number of publicly-funded abortions.

Back to Challenges Facing the Pro-Life Movement

  1. “Pregnancy outcomes 2003,” Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-224-XIE, 9 and “Pregnancy outcomes 2004,” Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-224, 9. N.B. In the 2004 document a footnote reads, “In 2004, information on induced abortions performed in clinics in Manitoba was not submitted to the Therapeutic Abortion Survey.”
  2. “Induced Abortions,” The Daily, Statistics Canada, Wednesday, March 21, 2008.
  3. Therapeutic Abortions,” The Daily, Statistics Canada, Wednesday, November 5, 1997, viewed online at on August 11, 2010.
  4. In 1994, there were 385,114 live births. In 2005, there were 342,176 live births (Source: CANSIM table from Statistics Canada: Table 106-9002, Pregnancy outcomes, by age group, Canada, provinces and territories, annual).
  5. “Pregnancy outcomes 2003,” p. 56 with the source given as “Canadian Institute for Health Information. Privacy impact assessment of the Therapeutic Abortion Database. June 2003. Page 4.” P. 56 of “Pregnancy outcomes 2003” also states the following: “Caution should be taken when comparing data for 1999 and later with data from earlier years. As of 1999, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care no longer maintain a system for the collection of detailed information on abortions performed in clinics in Ontario. Ontario now uses the billing system of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) to provide counts of clinic abortions to the Therapeutic Abortion Survey. As a result, information is no longer available for clinic abortions performed on non-residents of Ontario or on Ontario residents who do not submit a claim to OHIP. A comparison of the data collected using both sources for the years 1995 to 1998 shows that the new data source underestimated clinic abortions performed on Ontario residents by an average of 5.4% (950 cases) per year, or approximately 1% of all abortions performed in Canada. The new source does not include abortions performed on non-residents that averaged 70 cases per year or .4% of total clinic abortions performed in Ontario.” It also states, “In January 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the 1969 abortion law which had contained a clause requiring the collection of data on all induced abortions performed in Canada. Some hospital and provincial ministry respondents interpreted this action as the basis for no longer having to report to the Therapeutic Abortion Survey. While Statistics Canada surveys (including the Therapeutic Abortion Survey) are mandatory unless otherwise specified, Statistics Canada chose to treat the Therapeutic Abortion Survey as ‘voluntary’ but encouraged respondents to continue to supply data for health-related purposes. Over the years, with the absence of any legal requirement to provide data to provincial ministries of health on induced abortions, some respondents began to submit only counts of abortions rather than detailed records on each abortion.” It is worth pointing out that Statistics Canada’s document, “Therapeutic Abortion Survey,” record number 3209, “Detailed information for 2005,” under “Data accuracy” says “There is a possibility of some over-coverage in the Therapeutic Abortions Database. It is not possible to track a patient once they have been discharged. As such, if a patient is released but later requires another procedure as a result of complications, for example an incomplete abortion, it is possible that she would be counted twice in the database. This issue is particularly relevant with the growing popularity of medical abortions in Canada, which have a higher rate of incomplete abortions than do surgical abortions. If a woman seeks treatment in a clinic and then requires further intervention elsewhere, that case will be counted twice in the database.”
  6. Induced abortions by province and territory of report,” Statistics Canada, Viewed online at on August 11, 2010.
  7. Household and Environment Survey”, Statistics Canada, Viewed online at, Viewed on Aug. 12, 2010.