Friday, April 06, 2007

Counting late-term abortions in Canada

In my research on late-term abortion, I've been a lot of reading from government bodies regarding congenital anomalies in Canada, which are invoked to justify late-term abortion.

One of the issues that I am confronted with is that we do not know exactly how many late-term abortions there are in Canada, or the reasons that used to justify them. We often speculate based on the American situation, and piecemeal information, but we really don't know, and this information is not easily available to the public. I've blogged many times, that according to the 2003 statistics, there were 325 late-term abortions in Canada, based on a sample of 46 000 of 105 000 or so abortions. It does not appear to be obligatory for clinics to report these numbers, although the conventional wisdom is that clinics don't normally do late-term abortions because of the potential complications.

The Canadian Congenital Anomalies Surveillance System tracks the prevalence of congenital anomalies in both born and unborn children whose gestation age is past 20 weeks. Its parent body is the CCASN -- the Canadian Congenital Anomalies Surveillance Network. According to a 2005 report on the incidence of oral cleft palates (1989-2000), published by the CCASN on its website:

An important limitation is that CCASS does not capture spontaneous abortions neither elective or therapeutic terminations. The analysis, based on live and stillbirths, showed that most oral clefts ocurred without concurrent congenital anomalies. However, since spontaneous abortions and therapeutic terminations are often associated with congenital anomalies, which may include non-isolated oral clefts, the findings may underestimate the true ocurrence of clefting following conception.

It would be very useful for the public to know the real incidence of abortions of babies with congenital anomalies (often late-term) for a couple of reasons.

First, we could have an informed public policy discussion on the issue of late-term abortions in Canada. There is some information, but a lot of assumptions and speculation that pass for truths. We need hardcore research on this matter to get a good understanding of the reality.

Second, if we want to prevent abortions of congenital anomalies, it would be a very good idea for researchers to know the real incidence of unborn babies who have these anomalies. If half the unborn babies with a given anomaly are aborted, and those cases are not counted in health statistics, researches cannot have a true picture of the prevalence of that anomaly.

I encourage anyone who wants to have a public policy discussion on late-term abortion in Canada to help out in the research. There is so much out there to find out.

I plan to publish more information. I will try to keep the blogposts short, because it's a lot of information to absorb.

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