Research finds ending legal abortion does not risk women’s lives

I’ve met so many people through the years who are opposed to the idea of abortion. On some level they sense that it’s morally wrong to deny life to a helpless unborn child. Yet they endorse the practice of abortion because they say some women will always choose it and if it’s not legal they’ll just have unsafe abortions.

New research in Chile has proven this attitude to be wrong on both counts. Ending legal abortion in Chile had no impact on maternal mortality rates, and abortion rates have declined since restricitons were put in place. Researcher Elard Koch of the University of Chile set the stage for his findings by anticipating arguments for the medically-necessary abortion:

In Chile, therapeutic abortion was prohibited in 1989 since it was considered unnecessary for protecting the life of the mother and her baby. From the perspective of the Chilean medical practice, the exceptional cases in which the life of the mother is at risk are regarded as a medical ethics problem to be solved by applying the principle of double effect and the concept of indirect abortion.   Thus, in Chile, exceptional problems that require medical intervention to save the life of the mother are considered a decision of medical ethics and not a legal issue. Therefore, any kind of directly provoked abortion was prohibited in 1989, in agreement with Article 19 of the Chilean Constitution which protects the life of the unborn.

The details of his study include the fact that in 2008 there were 41 maternal deaths, and only 2 were related to clandestine abortion. Koch argues that the public health outcome of restricting abortion is, unsurprisingly, fewer abortions:

Chile exhibits today one of the lowest abortion-related maternal deaths in the world, with a 92.3% decrease since 1989 and a 99.1% accumulated decrease over 50 years.

Koch mentions improvements in women’s overall health care and the public health benefit of more children for Chile, and his bottom line couldn’t be stated more clearly:

…abortion prohibition is not related to overall rates of maternal mortality. In other words, making abortion illegal does not increase maternal deaths: it is a matter of scientific fact in our study.

Full interview here.

Years ago I read the story of Bernard Nathanson who admitted that he had “fabricated the results of fictional polls” about the public acceptance of abortion on demand and “fabricating figures” saying 10,000 women died each year as a result of illegal abortions, when he knew the number to be closer to 200-250 deaths annually. This was done as a strategy to turn public opinion toward abortion:

If you favor treating unborn humans as less than human as a matter of personal preference, you are entitled to your opinion. But please base your opinion on the evidence and not a midguided notion of what’s best for women based on sales tactics of the abortionists who watched their business soar as the public got on board.

I believe both sides want what’s best for women. I’m willing to accept that abortion supporters care about women as much as I do. I wish those who so vehemently defend a woman’s rights would just as passionately be also willing to help her do what’s right.

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