Number of Quebec Abortions Doubled in Past 20 Years

Montreal, Canada -- March 2000 -- The number of women seeking abortions in Quebec has doubled in the last two decades and the situation may soon surpass the national average, experts agree.

"It's very disturbing," ministry of health and social services demographer Madeleine Rochon said Friday. She pointed out that Montreal alone has twice the number of abortions than in the rest of the Canadian province.

"It's always going up and not just with adolescents but with all women" of child-bearing age, said Rochon, who is heading a provincial study aimed at developing a method of collecting data on the Quebec statistics. The increase is seen particularly among women age 25 years and younger, she added.

Rochon could not explain the difference between Montreal and the rest of province in terms of the number of abortions. Rochon was also wary of interpreting statistics recently published by the Quebec Statistics Institute, showing 38 abortions per 100 live births in 1998.

That ratio put Quebec on par with the United States, which registered 37 abortions per 100 births in 1997, but higher than Ontario's at 33 as well as most of Europe, particularly the Netherlands at 12 abortions per 100 births.

Only former Eastern-bloc countries where abortion is used as a method of contraception had higher ratios. For example, in 1995 Romania had 212 abortions per 100 births and Russia had 179.

But in Quebec where the birth rate has plummeted, calculating the abortion rate in comparison to the birth rate gives a false impression, Rochon noted.

Rochon prefers what she considers a more equitable method of comparing the number of abortions per 1,000 in women age 14 to 44. In 1980, Quebec registered nine abortions per 1,000 women. per 1,000 women.

"We used to lag behind Canada, now we're exactly the same and the fear is that we will exceed (the national average," Rochon said.

In comparison, the United States, where the fertility rate is higher than in Quebec, registered 23 abortions per 1,000. Europe (except former eastern-bloc countries) had an average of 17 abortions per 1,000 women. The Netherlands had the lowest rate of six per 1,000.

According to Rochon's data, an estimated 31,000 abortions were performed in Quebec in 1998. However the institute had pegged the 1998 abortions at 28,333.

"We don't have complete statistics," said Institute demographer Louis Duchesne, since the official figures were based only on bills sent by abortion practitioners to the Quebec medical insurance board.

Nonetheless, both Rochon and Duchesne agree that abortion in Quebec is increasing at an alarming rate. "I have no explanation for the increase. Maybe people are considering abortion as a normal contraceptive method to avoid birth," said Duchesne.

Several women who had abortions done Friday at a private Montreal abortion facility bristled at the suggestion.

"Why would anyone want to have an abortion?" said a 20-year-old psychology student at the clinic's recovery room. "The price is so high, and I mean emotionally." She wants to complete her degree before embarking on motherhood. "I had the contraception (method) and I have the education. But you're in a naive state. And you think this isn't going to happen to you," she added.

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