New studies show that those who argue that abortion is sometimes necessary to “save the life of the mother,” and that it lowers maternal mortality are flat out wrong. Abortion does not improve maternal health.
Let’s start with a brilliant recent study carried out by Elard Koch of Chile. Prof. Koch looked at maternal mortality rates in Chile before and after abortion was made illegal in 1989. He found that maternal mortality rates continued to decline at the same rate even after the law was changed, suggesting that the availability of abortion had no effect on falling maternal mortality rates.
The reason that maternal mortality rates continued to fall included better sanitation, better medical facilities, and especially higher levels of education among women. Chile currently has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world even as abortion remains illegal. Koch concluded that there is no causal relation between the availability of abortion and maternal mortality. We conclude from his study that, contrary to what abortion advocates claim, legalizing abortion will in no way improve maternal health.
Another prominent claim of the abortion lobby is that abortion is often necessary to save the life of the mother. They point to instances where the mother has cancer and refuses chemotherapy on the grounds that it may harm their unborn child. They advise abortion in such circumstances lest the mother die from lack of treatment.
But a recent study of cancer treatment during pregnancy concluded that it is a mistake to delay chemotherapy on the grounds that the unborn child may be harmed in some way. According to the study, “the placenta functions as a filter and protects the fetus against the toxic influence of chemotherapy.” Not only does the unborn child escape any physical harm from the poisons flooding its mother’s body, it does not suffer any neurological damage either. Children whose mothers underwent chemotherapy while they were in utero showed no signs of mental deficiency when tested throughout childhood and early adulthood.
Finally, we now have the newly announced Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health. The Symposium for Maternal Health, held in Dublin this past weekend, concluded that abortion in no way assists in the health of the mother. In the words of the Declaration:
As experienced practitioners and researchers in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.
We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.
We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.
In sum, the latest and best research shows that those who argue for the legalization of abortion on the grounds that “safe abortion” is necessary to lower maternal mortality rates and to improve maternal health in general are simply wrong.
And isn’t it ironic that those abortion-minded groups who claim to be interested in maternal health are in the business of destroying maternity? After all, an abortion not only takes the life of an unborn child, it also denies a woman her motherhood.
Elizabeth Crnkovich writes for the Population Research Institute.