The World Health Organization confirms what pro-choicers have always been saying: Outlawing abortion doesn’t lower the abortion rate, it just makes it more dangerous.
A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.
Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said.
In places where abortion is safe and legal, very, very few women die from the procedure — in the U.S., it’s statistically safer than a Penicillin shot. But when “pro-life” activists get their way and abortion is outlawed, it becomes far more dangerous. The WHO released the death statistics, but it’s even more difficult to account for the huge numbers of women injured and permanently maimed by clandestine abortion.
Contraception is a major factor as well:
The data also suggested that the best way to reduce abortion rates was not to make abortion illegal but to make contraception more widely available, said Sharon Camp, chief executive of the Guttmacher Institute.
In Eastern Europe, where contraceptive choices have broadened since the fall of Communism, the study found that abortion rates have decreased by 50 percent, although they are still relatively high compared with those in Western Europe. “In the past we didn’t have this kind of data to draw on,” Ms. Camp said. “Contraception is often the missing element” where abortion rates are high, she said.
Of course, “pro-lifers” are anti-contraception as well, and want to limit women’s access to it world-wide. But for now, they’re content to push their agenda at all costs:
Anti-abortion groups criticized the research, saying that the scientists had jumped to conclusions from imperfect tallies, often estimates of abortion rates in countries where the procedure was illegal. “These numbers are not definitive and very susceptible to interpretation according to the agenda of the people who are organizing the data,” said Randall K. O’Bannon, director of education and research at the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund in Washington.
He said that the major reason women die in the developing world is that hospitals and health systems lack good doctors and medicines. “They have equated the word ‘safe’ with ‘legal’ and ‘unsafe’ with ‘illegal,’ which gives you the illusion that to deal with serious medical system problems you just make abortion legal,” he said.
He’s right that more women are going to die from illegal abortions in countries with under-developed medical systems than are going to die from illegal abortions in countries with developed medical systems. But when abortion is illegal, more women are going to be having dangerous abortions in the first place. That their country has a solid medical infrastructure to treat them after the fact shouldn’t be an argument. Early abortions are relatively simple procedures, and when they’re done by trained professionals in sterile settings, they’ve very safe. And when we look at the death rates for illegal vs. legal abortions, we do see a correlation, even in countries with under-developed medical systems — so it’s very much true that “legal” does lead to “safe.”
And when you turn women into criminals, they’re a whole lot less likely to seek out medical care if something goes wrong.
But who are we foolin’? The anti-choice movement has never cared about the millions of dead bodies in its wake. As long as they can make women’s lives more difficult and punish women for having sex by trying to force them into childbirth, it doesn’t really matter how many of those women end up dead or injured.
The study indicated that about 20 million abortions that would be considered unsafe are performed each year and that 67,000 women die as a result of complications from those abortions, most in countries where abortion is illegal.
But yes, there’s no correlation between legality and safety.
And wouldn’t you know it: It’s the countries with the most pro-choice policies that have the lowest abortion rates:
The wealth of information that comes out of the study provides some striking lessons, the researchers said. In Uganda, where abortion is illegal and sex education programs focus only on abstinence, the estimated abortion rate was 54 per 1,000 women in 2003, more than twice the rate in the United States, 21 per 1,000 in that year. The lowest rate, 12 per 1,000, was in Western Europe, with legal abortion and widely available contraception.
We know that comprehensive sex education and access to contraception are the most effective ways to lower the abortion rate. As much as they say they want to end abortion, anti-choicers are far more concerned with a broader anti-sex and anti-human-rights ideology than they are about “life.” Illegalization isn’t stopping abortion and hasn’t stopped abortion (or even substantially decreased it) anywhere, ever. Legalization, however, has saved a whole lot of lives:
Some countries, like South Africa, have undergone substantial transitions in abortion laws in that time. The procedure was made legal in South Africa in 1996, leading to a 90 percent decrease in mortality among women who had abortions, some studies have found.
Abortion is illegal in most of Africa, though. It is the second-leading cause of death among women admitted to hospitals in Ethiopia, its Health Ministry has said. It is the cause of 13 percent of maternal deaths at hospitals in Nigeria, recent studies have found.
Congratulations, pro-lifers. Really. You should be proud.
- Illegal abortion killing and injuring women in the Philippines by Jill September 5, 2007
- Kenyan hospitals overwhelmed by women injured by illegal abortion. Thank a “pro-lifer.” by Jill April 22, 2007
- More Bad News for Repro Rights by Jill October 26, 2006
- Questionable statistics by zuzu October 18, 2007
- “Pro-life” laws kill women by Jill July 30, 2007