Good news regardless of which side of the debate you're on
A recently-released Stats Canada report should give Canadians with any amount of interest in the abortion debate reason to smile today, as it's been revealed that abortions in Canada declined in 2005.
In 2004, 100,039 were performed in Canada. In 2005, 96,815 abortions were performed -- a decline of 3.2%.
Most encouragingly, the number of abortions performed on women under the age of 20 continued to decline. In 2004 13.8 women in this age group out of every 1000 had obtained an abortion. In 2005, the number was reduced to 13 -- a reduction of nearly one abortion per 1000 women (it may not seem like much, but it does add up).
The abortion rate amongst this age group of women has been declining steadily since 1996 -- the year in which that rate peaked at 18.9.
This is good news for anyone with any amount of interest in the abortion debate, regardless of whether they hold pro-abortion or anti-abortion views.
However, the findings do have implications for the way the debate will continue to be framed. Previous studies reveal that the lower numbers are due not to teenagers having less sex, but rather due to teenagers having less unprotected sex.
Those who also oppose birth control will find their lives made significantly more difficult. After all, if abortion really is as morally repugnant as they insist it is, they should approve of -- or at least be willing to tolerate -- anything that leads to a reduction in abortion. It's very simple logic.
And while abstinence education certainly does have a place in sex-ed classrooms (but never at the expense of education on birth control and contraception), the idea of "programming" teenagers and regulating their lives so they cannot have sex will never work.
Where there's a will, there's a way. If teenagers are going to continue to have sex -- and in a society as sexualized (be it for good or ill) as ours we simply know they will -- we would be better served to ensure they're having it as safely as possible.
The continuing decline in abortion numbers is proof enough of that. It's something for all Canadians to feel encouraged about. Anti-abortion activists should feel encouraged that fewer abortions are being performed. Pro-abortion activists should be satisfied that birth control and contraception may one day make the abortion controversy itself obsolete -- although those days (if they ever arrive) are way off in the distant future.
And while abortion will continue to pose key ethical dilemmas to our society (dilemmas regarding, for example, how late women will be allowed to obtain abortions, and what methods can be used), it should be a source of comfort for Canadians to know the realities underlying the issue are moving in what very much should be a mutually satisfying direction.