March 2, 2012

Barriers, shortages: looking at reproductive rights and access across Canada

Women face many barriers to access to abortion, women's reproductive rights advocacy group Canadians For Choice (CFC) says.

The group has created a leaflet providing an overview of abortion services throughout Canada that can used as a quick reference tool.

(Download the PDF document from there site by clicking here)

The leaflet highlights the numerous barriers to abortion services and provincial/territorial differences in the delivery of services, and provides information that is not readily available from one source, CFC says. They have compiled this province- and territory-specific information `to educate and empower people to exercise their reproductive rights` CFC says on there website.

The leaflet follows-up from a 2010 Toronto Star investigation which revealed a shortage of abortion providers in Canada, where fears of violence, lack of training and other obstacles prevent physicians from providing the procedure. The CFC website also reprints the following facts which come from the Daily Women's Health Policy Report (2010).
  • Abortion was legalized in Canada more than 20 years ago, and it remains one of the most common medical procedures for women.
  • About one in four Canadian women undergoing the procedure within her lifetime. There were about 91,377 abortions -- about 25 for every 100 live births -- in Canada in 2006, the last year for which cross-Canada data are available.
  • A 2010 survey by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada found 21 of the country's 33 abortion clinics -- including hospital and free-standing facilities -- were experiencing some degree of protest activity, and 16 reported that the protests negatively affect patients and staff.
  • In the U.S. the number of providers has dropped by 40% since the early 1980s.
  • A 2006 Canadians for Choice report found that 16% of the country's hospitals provide abortion services, which is about 2% less than in 2003. Since 2006, at least five other hospitals have notified the group that they no longer have doctors willing to provide abortions.
  • Rural areas face a severe shortage of reproductive rights services -- for example Kelowna, British Columbia, has 120,000 residents but no abortion provider, while women in Ottawa, Peterborough and Sarnia have to wait up to six weeks for an abortion.
  • Most of Canada's abortions are performed before 12 weeks' gestation, while 9% are performed between 12 weeks and 20 weeks. A shortage of doctors willing to perform abortions later in pregnancy is an "added complication" to the country's growing shortage.
  • Another factor that contributes to Canada's declining number of abortion providers is the lack of medical school curricula on abortion and reproductive health services.
  • According to a 2009 survey published in the journal Contraception, only 67% of Canadian medical schools included abortion as a sexual and reproductive health topic in preclinical courses.
  • About 50% of Canada's ob-gyn programs routinely included abortion in their training, and a minority of students felt competent in performing the procedure, according to a 2006 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study also found that more residents would go on to be providers if they attended programs that integrated abortion training. 
Canadians for Choice is a pro-choice, non-profit charitable organization dedicated to ensuring reproductive choice for all Canadians. CFC envisages a world where individuals – regardless of age, ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, place of residence, or socio-economic and other status – have access to the information, resources and services required to make and exercise informed choices on all aspects of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

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