Lancet, Guttmacher claim unsafe abortions rising

A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet claims that “unsafe” abortion rates are increasing and that abortion restrictions must be liberalized to decrease abortion and maternal mortality rates. The authors of the report, “Induced abortion: incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008,” led by Dr. Gilda Sedgh of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, write that the rate of “unsafe” abortion increased from 44 per cent in 1995 to 49 per cent in 2008. Writing about abortion in the developing world the authors claim, “the abortion rate was lower in subregions where more women live under liberal abortion laws.”

They also found that the global abortion rate between 2003 and 2008 was “stable” at 29 and 28 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 after falling from 35 abortions per 1,000 in 1995. The report estimates that one in five pregnancies were aborted in 2008.

“The substantial decline in the abortion rate observed earlier has stalled, and the proportion of all abortions that are unsafe has increased. Restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. Measures to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, including investments in family planning services and safe abortion care, are crucial steps toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” they conclude, speaking of one the UN’s stated goal in 1999 of cutting maternal health deaths in half by 2015.

John Smeaton, the director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in the United Kingdom commented on his blog that the researchers of the study are from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO), both pro-abortion organizations. “The report is pro-abortion propaganda, and should be dismissed as such,” he wrote.

Moreover, according to Smeaton, proponents of abortion repeatedly exaggerate the figures of “unsafe” or illegal abortion. “The late Dr Bernard Nathanson, the U.S. abortion pioneer who became pro-life, admitted that he deliberately exaggerated the estimated number of illegal abortion five-fold when campaigning for abortion legalisation.”

In fact, Smeaton wrote that countries with tough restrictions on abortion have lower maternal death rates. “Ireland, where abortion is banned, has one of the world’s best maternal health records. Legalised abortion does nothing to improve medical care.”

There is plenty of evidence to back up Smeaton’s assertion. In El Salvador, the maternal mortality rate was halved after abortion was criminalized in 1998. A 2009 WHO report shows that Mauritius, which accords more legal protection for the unborn than most African countries, boasts the lowest maternal mortality on the continent. Chile, which according to WHO statistics has the lowest maternal mortality rate in South America, “protects unborn life in its penal laws and constitution, and has seen the maternal mortality rate decline from 275 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1960 to 18.7 deaths in 2000, the largest reduction in any Latin country,” according to

Meanwhile, Ethiopia, which liberalized its abortion restrictions, has a maternal death rate 48 times greater than Mauritius. WHO statistics also show that Nepal, which has no abortion restrictions, has the highest maternal mortality in South East Asia. South Africa, “which has had one of the most permissive abortion laws in Africa since 1996, saw maternal deaths increase twenty per cent from 2005-2007,” LifeSiteNews has reported.

Jim Hughes, vice president of the International Right to Life Federation, told The Interim, that pro-abortion groups “routinely exaggerate illegal and unsafe abortion numbers as part of their concerted efforts to legalize abortion.” He said policy-makers in the developing world and aid agencies in the developed world “should not be fooled by these faulty studies to broaden the availability of abortion.”

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