OTTAWA – The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is urging governments to stop hiding or in some cases failing to collect, information on publicly-funded abortion.
An EFC report, entitled Black Holes: Canada's Missing Abortion Data and released Aug. 21, shows how governments have suppressed public access to accurate abortion statistics.
Blocking access to information deliberately obstructs Canadians from being able to participate fully in the democratic process, EFC legal counsel Faye Sonier said in a statement accompanying release of the report.
It permits politicians to carry on, without accountability to voters, Sonier said.
The missing data gap was discovered in a 2010 Freedom of Information Request in Ontario.
The government response to the request revealed there had been at least 44,091 abortions in Ontario according to OHIP billing records.
However, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the publicly-funded body tasked with collecting abortion-related statistics, reported only 28,765 abortions in the province for the same period.
Recent amendments to Ontario's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act limit the public's ability to use FOI requests to gain information about abortion rates.
"As there appears to have been no debate of this amendment in the legislative assembly of Ontario, the motives of the Government of Ontario are unclear," said Don Hutchinson, EFC vice-president and general legal counsel.
"In response to recent questioning by the media, government spokespersons stated the amendment was necessary because abortion-related information is 'highly sensitive.'"
"What does 'highly sensitive' mean and what are its limits?" Hutchinson asked. "Does the Government of Ontario think some topics are too difficult for the electorate to consider? Is knowing the number of abortions performed in the province more intrusive than knowing the number of mastectomies or prostate removals?
"Do they really think, as was suggested, the release of general statistical data might lead to someone getting hurt?"
The EFC study says abortion-related data is not released out of a fear that abortion services would become less available because abortion providers fear attack, harassment or intimidation, he said. The EFC study points out that abortion-related violence – from either side of the debate – has been rare in Canada and none has taken place in the last 10 years.
"Crime carried out by extremist abortion opponents is virtually non-existent in Canada," it says. Pro-life Canadians use peaceful means to advance their position, such as the annual March for Life in Ottawa and various provincial capitals.
The EFC recommends information collected from hospitals should be publicly available and legislation should require private abortion clinics to report as well.