Is a high abortion rate a sign of social decay? Or is it a sign of progressive social policy with respect to freedom of choice and access? Or none of the above?
These sorts of questions went completely unasked in the english-Canadian press this weekend. On Friday, Statscan released a study which reported the seemingly innocuous fact that
Canadian women obtained 105,154 abortions in 2002, down 1% from 106,270 in 2001. The rate of abortion has also marginally fallen from 15.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2001 to 15.4 abortions per 1,000 women in 2002. These numbers exclude data related to residents of Nunavut.
Almost every report I could find in english media more or less just reprinted this press release. In contrast, La Presse made it an issue of some concern. Why? Because in Quebec, close to one out of every three pregnancies ends in abortion. To find that out, you have to dig a bit through the tables that Statscan provides, to get a breakdown of the ratio by province.
Quebec’s rate of 42.6 abortions per 100 live births (La Presse reported it as 43.7, though I can’t find where they got that figure) is the highest in the country. BC has the next closest, at 39.9, while PEIs is 9.8.
So, does this mean anything?
According to nurse Carole Vallee, who works at an abortion clinic in Laval, “Ce que disent les statistiques, c’est que les services d’avortements sont plus accessibles au Quebec qu’ailleurs au Canada.”
That is: Quebec’s high abortion rate is a sign that it is simply more accessible in Quebec.
Laura-Julie Perrault at La Presse has actually done her homework, and found that this rate in Quebec
“classe la province dans le meme club que le Vietnam, la Hongrie, le Kazakhstan, la Lituanie et la Moldavie, plutot que dans le groupe des pays industrialises comme la France, les Pays-Bas et les Etats-Unis.”
Are Lithuanie and Moldavia more progressive on the abortion front than France and Holland? Maybe, what do I know. But I’m skeptical.