Abortion's Unhappy Medium 

January 11th, 2015 | R. Rados 

Abortion is always one of the most contentious debates in Canadian politics. It's a debate that never ends with a clear winner. The debate is similar in both Canada and the United States, but Canada's universally funded healthcare system changes the dynamics of the argument in the country. Canadian abortion laws differ from US abortion laws mainly due to the Canada Health Act, which requires all abortions to be covered by taxpayers.

The most minimal estimate puts the cost to Canadian taxpayers at $80 million per year. The average cost for a basic surgical abortion is $600. In Ontario alone, the annual cost to taxpayers is close to $30 million. Free and unlimited abortions have become the silent status quo in Canada, rarely addressed honestly by either side of the debate. Because abortions are indiscriminately covered by all taxpayers, the abortion debate has never been able to produce a happy medium for conservatives and liberals. Before we get to this unhappy medium, let's break down the actual costs of abortion in Canada.

In 2010, there were an estimated 64,641 abortions. At an average of $600 per abortion, the cost to Canadian taxpayers was nearly $39 million. These numbers have been accepted as inaccurate due to under reporting. Canada's actual abortion rates aren't commonly made public, mainly because it isn't mandatory for clinics to report abortions. What makes the 2010 numbers even less reliable is the fact that Quebec didn't report any statistics that year. Of the 64,641 abortions that were reported nationwide, about 18,000 were performed in Ontario. With a population of 8.18 million, we could estimate Quebec's abortion rate for that year to be about 11,000. This adds an extra $6.6 million to the taxpayer bill for 2010, bringing the national total to $45.6 million. This is only half of what many believe to be the actual annual cost of $80 million. With no laws forcing clinics to report abortions, there is little doubt that Canada's abortion rates are higher than the reported statistical rates.

In 2012, Alberta reported 13,287 abortions. With a population of 4 million, that means there were 3,321 abortions for every 1 million. If we apply this math to Ontario, we can estimate that the province had more than 43,000 abortions in 2012. This is close to the official average of 39,000 reported in Ontario every year since 2003. Since these numbers are so close, we can apply the same math – using 3,321 abortions per million – to the rest of Canada. With a population of 35 million people, there were approximately 116,235 abortions performed nationwide in 2012. This means that Canadian taxpayers were billed $69.7 million in 2012.

The Unhappy Medium

The idea that abortions or any medical procedures are free is a fallacy. As we've seen, all Canadian taxpayers are paying for someone else's medical treatments and surgeries. Since most Canadians don't have a problem with saving the lives of their friends and neighbours, universal coverage for life threatening ailments is rarely a point of contention. Few Canadians would want other Canadians to die on their watches. It's a part of what defines Canadianism.

With that being said, there is a large segment of Canadians who find abortion morally reprehensible. To a lot of Canadians, abortion is murder. The reasonable segments of Canada's pro-life population would understand the importance of abortions when it comes to rape, sexual assault and a mother's life. But they aren't obligated to understand or accept the fact that their tax dollars are being used to indiscriminately abort fetuses for any other reason.

To meet in the middle would mean moving Canadian policies away from the far left and infuriating the pro-choice movement. In doing so, the far right and the pro-life advocates could also express their own distaste and anger about “not going far enough”.

Moving to the middle on abortion in Canada would mean no longer categorizing abortions as medically necessary. It would also mean that Canadians would be required to pay for their own abortions individually, without the help of Canada's universal healthcare system. If you're on the left of this argument, this very notion makes you turn red with anger.

The Outrage And False Arguments Of The Left

A lot of arguments come to the minds of pro-choice advocates when someone suggests that patients should be required to pay for their own abortions. Although the Canadian healthcare system would save between $70 and $80 million annually, the pro-choice side will argue that many women would be put at risk. Others might argue that $70 and $80 million isn't that much in the grand scheme of things and that keeping current abortion laws in place would be worth more in the long term. Unfortunately, for them, none of these arguments actually stay relevant under honest scrutiny.

Pro-choice advocates would likely point to Chile as an example of high maternal mortality rates due to the criminalization of abortion. In Chile, abortion is illegal. The problem with comparing Chile to Canada is that criminalized abortion will never be a reality in Canada. Making couples and women pay for their own abortions isn't the same as making abortions illegal. Another serious problem with Chile is that abortions are still illegal in cases of rape.

One discrepancy that contradicts most of these arguments may exist in a 2012 study that actually puts Chilean maternal death rates below the Unites States and second behind Canada.

Others will argue that child births are more costly than abortions, and by reducing abortions we would be effectively increasing child births. Fortunately, this argument probably wouldn't disturb a large segment of Canadians, even if child births do cost more than abortions. Again, it comes down to the general compassion of Canadians and the lack of perceived moral bankruptcy required for child birth compared to abortion. Furthermore  from a financial perspective  creating new Canadian taxpayers to fund our healthcare system isn't entirely terrible.

Abortion procedures cost money. Unlike child births, they are contentious, controversial and medically unnecessary. A certified doctor who has spent seven or more years in school must perform either procedure. An abortion requires expensive medical equipment, sanitation and supplies. To assume that anyone has the right to such a costly procedure – performed by a professional who has spent several years and dollars on an education – is not only fallacious but absurd.

Under the Canada Health Act, Canadians have a right to medically necessary procedures because they are forced to pay for them. Canadians have a right to these services only because their government allocates their taxes toward the salaries and expenditures required to cover such procedures. Doctors, like any labourers, can't be expected to provide their services for free. Since complicated procedures require professionals, they're only a right to those who pay for them.

Patient-paid abortions create a medium in which abortions remain legal, but are no longer the responsibility of all taxpayers. The idea that such maternal rights are the responsibility of taxpayers is firmly embedded in the minds of pro-choice advocates and feminists. Just as radical feminists try to fight for taxpayer coverage of contraceptives, many would launch well planned and funded campaigns against any such changes to Canadian law. 

The Outrage And False Arguments Of The Right

Infuriating the far right in this argument involves admitting that abortion will never be illegal in Canada. To make the far right even more angry involves telling them that abortion shouldn't be illegal because women should always have complete jurisdiction over their bodies. Whether we like it or not, our natural right to life doesn't extend beyond the choices of our mothers. We all exist because our mothers gave us permission to exist.

A woman should always have the final say over her own body. Under no circumstances should a government ever attempt to take this right away from women. The choice to have an abortion is her's alone, even if others might think it's murder. If you're on the far right of the abortion debate, you are probably turning red with anger right now.

Advocates of small government, many of whom happen to also be social conservatives, believe that their children belong to them, not to the state or government. Many conservatives believe that parental rights (spanking, strict discipline, dictation of modern norms) have been depleted in Canada by left-wing interests. Most conservatives believe in individual rights and responsibility. It becomes difficult to find consistency in some of these worldviews when we consider conservative opposition to same-sex marriage and other inherent individual rights. 

Many social conservatives won't ever grasp non-interventionist policies toward abortion. Since the government doesn't own us or our children, we should be able to accept a woman's individual right to revoke her potential offspring's right to exist while it's completely dependent on her. If conservatives truly believed in personal freedom and responsibility, they would allow women who opt for abortion to bear the consequences of their decisions.

As for abortion being the equivalent of murder, conservatives will have to let that argument go. The two sides will never agree on when human life actually begins, but they can agree on when independence begins.

A fetus is entirely dependent on its mother until it comes out of her womb and begins breathing oxygen. After that point, the baby is still completely dependent on a mother – but not necessarily on its own biological mother.

While a fetus is alive in a mother's womb, we have to accept the decisions the mother makes as a parent. While we are in our mother's womb, our life depends entirely on her choices and her parental decisions. Sometimes a mother may feel that non-existence is a more responsible or necessary alternative to her child's life. If she decides otherwise and we come out of her womb alive, only then do we become permanently separate from her, making it possible for others to assume responsibility over us.

The Final Say

When we calculate the costs of our cellular phone bills, our utility bills, our luxury expenses and our various unnecessary indulgences and debts, the cost of terminating a human life for $600 is insignificant. We take out loans for houses, cars, debt consolidation, furniture, cosmetic surgery and various unnecessary expenditures. Because a majority of women who have abortions only do so once in their lifetimes, there is no reason for taxpayers to continue covering medically unnecessary procedures they find morally reprehensible. The monetary cost of one abortion over an individual's lifetime is insignificant and affordable. It's more affordable than sharing the burden collectively and reducing resources within our healthcare system that could be used for medically necessary procedures.

By no longer forcing pro-life advocates to foot the bill for abortions, pro-choice advocates will be taking complete ownership of abortion. Not only will women retain their inherent right to have the final say over their bodies, pro-life advocates will lose an important advantage. Although they'll find other ways to claim that their moral rights are under attack, pro-life advocates will no longer have a financial stake in the debate.

Those on the far left of the debate still won't understand the concept of paying for a medically unnecessary procedure. They're no different than those on the far right who don't understand the importance of keeping abortion completely legal. Both sides will continue struggling with ideas of personal responsibility and freedom. The role of government is to find a solution that best neutralizes or appeases both sides.