An Environics survey that looks at Canadians’ attitudes toward abortion was conducted by telephone on behalf of LifeCanada between September 13 to 25, 2011. The survey, which included a sample of 2,000, has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The survey found that 72% of Canadians feel that there should be some form of legal protection for human life before birth, with 28% in favour of a law protecting human life from conception on (compared to 20% who think human life should be legally protected only from birth on). An overwhelming majority (92%) of Canadians think that sex-selection abortion should be illegal. Here are some of the major findings from the 2011 Environics Research Group survey on Canadian’s attitudes to abortion (from the reports Executive Summary, which can be found at www.lifecanada.org):
- When Canadians are provided with some information on the development of the foetus, and then asked at what point in human development should the law protect human life, a total of seven in ten say from conception on (28%), from two months on (17%), from three months on (17%) or from six months on (10%). Two in ten (20%) think human life should receive legal protection only at birth. Nine percent offer no opinion on this question.
- It is notable that the proportion of Canadians who think human life should be legally protected from conception on outweighs the number who think it should be protected only from birth on (28% vs. 20%).
- The survey finds that the view that human life should be protected at conception on is highest in Atlantic Canada (35%) and Manitoba/Saskatchewan (35%), and lowest in British Columbia (26%) and Quebec (25%), particularly in Montreal (20%).
- The view that human life should receive legal protection at birth is highest in Quebec (24%), particularly in Montreal (29%).
- When Canadians were asked whether abortion should generally be legal at the first, second and third trimester of a pregnancy, seven in ten (68%) think abortion should generally be legal in the first three months. This view is highest in Quebec (77%) and lowest in Atlantic Canada (55%).
- Six in ten (58%) say it should be illegal in the second three months. This view is higher in Alberta (67%) and Atlantic Canada (65%) and lowest in Quebec (50%). It is higher among women (62%) than among men (54%).
- Three-quarters (77%) say abortion should be illegal in the last three months. This view is lowest in Quebec (70%). It is higher among women (81%) than among men (73%).
- Canadians were informed about sex-selected abortions in other countries (e.g., India and China), which has led to a lack of women in these countries and related social problems, and told that India and China have banned such abortions. When asked if sex-selected abortions should or should not be legal in Canada, nine in ten (92%) Canadians think it should not be legal.
- Overwhelming majorities across all regions and demographic subgroups think sex-selected abortions should not be legal in Canada.
- When Canadians were informed that all hospital abortions and most abortions at private clinics are paid for through the taxpayer funded health care system, and then presented with three opinions on the funding of abortions, more than half (54%) think abortions should be financed using tax dollars, but only in medical emergencies, such as a threat to the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest. Three in ten (30%) think abortions should always be paid using the tax-funded health care system, while just over one in ten (13%) take the view that paying for abortions should be the individual’s responsibility. Three percent offer no opinion.
- Overall, the opinion that abortion should be funded using tax dollars only in cases of medical emergencies is the prevalent view across all of the country and nearly all demographic cohorts. Only among Bloc Québécois supporters do a plurality support public funding for all abortions. It is notable that there are no significant differences between men and women in response to this question.
- The view that abortions should always be paid using the tax-funded health care system is highest in Quebec (36%), particularly in Montreal (40%) and lowest in Atlantic Canada (20%).
- The opinion that abortions should be funded using tax dollars, but only in cases of medical emergencies is highest in Atlantic Canada (63%) and lowest in Quebec (50%) and British Columbia (49%).
- The view that abortions should be a private responsibility does not vary significantly across the country.
For more detailed analysis on these interesting findings, as well as reports on previous surveys dating back to 2003, visit the National Polls section of LifeCanada (www.lifecanada.org) at http://www.lifecanada.org/services/national-polls.
What do Canadians think about legal abortion?
Statistics from 2007
For the sixth year in a row, a strong majority of Canadians indicated in October 2007 that they do not support the current lack of legal protection for the unborn in Canada, in a national survey on abortion commissioned by LifeCanada. Women and young adults showed the highest levels of support for legal protection for the unborn, at 67% for both demographic groups. Overall, 62% of Canadians support some form of legal protection for the unborn. Only 33% of Canadians are satisfied with the current lack of any legal protection before birth.
- Two-thirds of Canadian women support legal protection for unborn children at some point before birth.
- More than one-third (34%) of women want to see protection from the point of conception onwards.
- An additional 33% would support protection for the unborn later in pregnancy, 21% after three months of pregnancy and 12% after six months.
- A smaller majority of men (57%) support legal protection, with 26% wanting protection for the unborn throughout pregnancy.
- Young people between the ages of 18-29 showed the highest level of support across all age groups, with 67% indicating there should be legal protection for unborn children at some point before birth.
- Support for protection from conception onward rose to 29% among this age group since they were last polled, from 26% in 2006.
- Canadians aged 60 or older showed the lowest support for fetal protection laws, with 38% indicating they were satisfied with the current lack of any protection for unborn children.
Across Canada, support for fetal protection at some point before birth was highest in the prairie region (65%), Quebec (64%) and the Atlantic provinces (63%). Residents of BC showed the lowest support at 58%, with Ontario a close second at 60%.
Residents of the Prairies and Atlantic Canada showed the highest support for protection from the point of conception onward, with 36% of Prairie respondents and 34% of people from the Maritimes indicating the unborn should be protected throughout pregnancy. B.C., Quebec and Ontario showed the lowest support from protection for the unborn from the point of conception onward, at 24%, 30% and 29%, respectively.
A majority of Canadians indicated support for abortion legislation on a wide spectrum of issues, including protection for the unborn at some point before birth, informed consent laws and parental consent for girls under 18, and fetal protection in the case of violent crime against the mother.
Almost three-quarters of Canadians (72%) indicated they would support a fetal protection law making it a separate crime to kill or injure an unborn child during the course of attacking the mother. That number rose to 75% among women. Sixty-eight percent of men supported the legislation.
The poll results were released as the family of a murdered pregnant woman in Toronto called for legislation to recognize the death of the woman’s unborn baby as a separate crime. Aysun Sesen was killed October 2 by repeated stab wounds to her abdomen. Her seven-month unborn baby girl died survived the initial assault but died before doctors could perform an emergency caesarian.
A strong majority of respondents would support informed consent laws for women seeking abortions. Such laws would require physicians and abortion clinics to give women certain information, such as the developmental stage of their unborn child including an ultrasound, the health risks and possible long-term side effects of abortion, and alternatives to abortion.
- Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents would support such laws.
- Only 29% opposed informed consent laws.
- Support for informed consent was highest in the Maritimes (72%) and Quebec (72%).
- Slightly more women (68%) were in favor of informed consent than men (66%).
- Young people age 18-29 showed the highest support for informed consent across age groups, at 70 percent.
Again, a majority of Canadians would support legislation requiring parental consent before abortion for girls under the age of 18. Fifty-four percent indicated they would like to see such laws, while 43% were opposed.
- Canadians continue to show support for the withdrawal of tax funding for elective abortions. Currently in Canada, most abortions are covered at tax-payers’ expense, regardless of whether or not the abortion is deemed medically necessary.
- When asked under what circumstances abortion should be funded by tax-payers, a strong majority (64%) said abortions should be paid for privately or only funded by tax dollars in the case a medical emergency, such as a threat to the mother’s life, or in the case of rape or incest. Of those, 17% said abortion should always be a private expense.
- Only 32% supported the current situation where abortion is paid for using the tax-funded health care system.
The Environics Focus Canada poll questioned 2,047 Canadians from Sept. 17 to Oct. 14. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus two per cent, 19 times out of 20.
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