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Worldwide Illegal Abortion Study Relies on Bogus and Biased Statistics

by Steven Ertelt | WASHINGTON, DC | LIFENEWS.COM | 10/12/07 9:00 AM

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by Steven Mosher
October 12, 2007

LifeNews.com Note: Steven Mosher is President of the Population Research Institute.

The abortion fundamentalists at the Alan Guttmacher Institute have an ax to grind. Guttmacher styles itself the "research arm of Planned Parenthood," but it may more properly be called its lobbying arm.

In its new report on abortions worldwide, Guttmacher makes several claims. These fall into two broad, overlapping categories. The first consists of ploys to raise more funds for the population control-abortion crowd. The second, intended to pander to radical feminists, consists of veiled pleas to legalize abortion, couched in the form of arguments.

Guttmacher claims that the number of induced abortions worldwide declined from nearly 46 million to under 42 million between 1995 and 2003. "Significantly, the abortion rate for 2003 was roughly equal in developed and developing regions … despite abortion being largely illegal in developing regions."

In actual fact, neither Guttmacher nor anyone else knows how many abortions have been performed worldwide in this year or any other year. Guttmacher’s numbers may be reasonably accurate for countries with socialized medicine, like Great Britain, where accurate records are kept. But for other developed countries, like the United States, they are at best educated guesses. Abortion may be legal, but its proponents have kept it deliberately shrouded in secrecy.

As far as the numbers given for the developing world, they are simply bogus. Take the case of Columbia, for example. In the hysteria surrounding the effort to legalize abortion there, the feminists kept advancing higher and higher numbers. The numbers of illegal [hence "unsafe"] abortions spiraled upward at a dizzying pace–250,000, 300,000, 450,000. All fantasy.

I interviewed the Vice Minister for Health of Columbia on September 28th of this year. She informed me that, since the legalization of abortion in that country on May 10th of last year, the Ministry for Social Protection’s health clinics had performed approximately 50 abortions. Not 50,000, or 5,000, or even 500. Fifty. This is several orders of magnitude smaller than predicted.

Why, you may ask, does the Guttmacher crowd play fast and loose with zeros? Because they are deliberately exaggerating the magnitude of the problem in order to create a "health crisis." After all, the more women they can claim have "unsafe" abortions, the more women they can claim die as a result. The numbers are merely chips in a high-stakes poker game to legalize abortion-on-demand worldwide.

Another Guttmacher claim is that the number of abortions has "fall[en] most where abortion is broadly legal." "On the whole, the abortion rate decreased more in developed countries, where abortion is generally safe and legal on broad grounds … than in developing countries, where the procedure is largely illegal and unsafe." This statement is speculative at best, since there are no hard numbers where clandestine abortions are concerned. Again, Guttmacher invents absurdly large numbers of "unsafe abortions," which then enable it to claim that the abortion rate plummets with legalization (and the collection of real statistics).

"We know, and the new evidence confirms yet again, that the best way to make abortion less necessary is to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place." Or so says Guttmacher. Yes, well, in China the number of abortions has declined from 15 million to only 9 million, not because of the wider availability of contraceptives, but because so many women have been sterilized. The same is true in Vietnam and several other countries which have seen government-run sterilization campaigns.

Guttmacher’s final claim is that "unsafe abortion remains a major global health challenge." Dr. Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Institute, maintains that " … we know that the crucial first step in making abortion safer is to legalize the procedure, ensuring that it is performed by skilled providers under the best possible conditions. It’s high time for policymakers worldwide to renew their commitment to women’s health by addressing these crucial issues."

Legalized abortion is never "safe" for the baby being aborted, of course. Neither is there any reason to assume that the legalization of abortion will instantly bring medical facilities up-to-date and start money pouring into rural clinics. Abortion, legal or not, is an invasive medical procedure with the potential for many complications and health risks.

This is Guttmacher’s first global review of abortion since 1995, perhaps because its numbers the first time around were so risible that they were disinclined to attempt it again. But with pro-aborts in the Congress determined to kill the Mexico City policy, and to give money to International Planned Parenthood Federation and other abortion-performing groups, it probably seemed like an excellent time to trot out the same old tired arguments.