It’s an oft-repeated truism in ethics: “Good facts are essential for good ethics.” So surely we need the facts about an issue as ethically fraught as abortion. Yet not only do we not have them, but they are intentionally not gathered or, if some are or might be available, access to them is denied.
That allows two myths that favour the pro-choice stance on abortion to be propagated: That late-term abortion is rare and that there is a consensus in Canada on the public-policy regime that should govern abortion (which, at present, is the complete absence of any law).
Margaret Wente, writing recently in the Globe and Mail, articulates both myths in one succinct sentence. She states that “a broad social consensus shapes actual (abortion) practice … (and) there are virtually no late-term abortions.” But to the extent one can obtain the facts, the evidence is otherwise.
The facts on late-term abortions are intentionally made difficult to obtain. Some time ago, I contacted a staff member at Statistics Canada to ask about the numbers of late-term abortions. She told me they were instructed for political reasons not to collect statistics on the gestational age at which abortion occurs. She explained, however, that hospitals must report the number of abortions and about 45 per cent had continued to report gestational age. From these unsolicited reports, it’s known that at least 400 post-viability abortions take place in Canada each year and the actual number is most probably more than twice that. The Canadian Medical Association sets viability (some chance of the child living outside the womb) at 20 weeks gestation. Continue Reading