Mozambique May Legalize Abortion to Prevent Illegal Abortion Deaths

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 29, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Mozambique May Legalize Abortion to Prevent Illegal Abortion Deaths Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 29
, 2007

Maputo, Mozambique ( — Lawmakers in Mozambique are considering a bill that would legalize abortions in this nation in the southern part of Africa. They say they must make abortion legal to reduce the number of deaths associated with illegal abortions, even though making abortion legal doesn’t make it safer for women.

The law prohibiting abortions except to save the life of the mother dates back to the 19th century when Catholic Portuguese people led the nation.

Nowadays, abortion is seen as anathema to both African culture as well as the religious values of the people of the country, who are mostly Catholic or Islamic.

Should the country allow abortions, it would be one of the few nations in Africa to do so.

The push for the bill is coming from the Mozambican health ministry, which is concerned about the maternal mortality rates there.

The government tells Reuters that it estimates deaths from illegal abortions account for 11 percent of all maternal deaths at the main hospital in the capital city. More than 40 percent of the complications related to pregnancy have to do with illegal abortions, it claimed.

"These are only the cases of people who went to the central hospital," Graça Samo, executive director of the Women’s Forum, a group that doesn’t official support abortion but is fostering discussions leading to its legalization, told Reuters. "It does not count the people who don’t come in, who die in rural clinics. And often when someone dies, the family will never say what really happened."

Meanwhile, leaders of the Catholic Church, which is advocating the pro-life position and urging government leaders to keep abortion illegal, says they are getting shut out of the process.

Church leaders support reducing the mortality rate but say that will come with better quality health care and more access to it, not legalizing the destruction of unborn children.

"Despite that, we affirm that abortion is not the solution for these situations," Reuters reported a church leader saying in a recent letter. "Its liberalisation/legalisation on the one hand vulgarizes and objectifies women, and on the other hand corrupts youth and trivializes the sacred power of procreation."

Meanwhile, Dr. Randy O’Bannon, Education Director for National Right to Life, has said that the number of illegal abortions in developing countries is likely inflated.

According to the United Nations World Health Organisation, 68,000 women die annually due to unsafe abortions.

"The precision implied in such numbers is highly misleading," O’Bannon says. He adds that such figures "are based on meager data and a lot of assumption-laden extrapolations."

Many of these countries do not maintain detailed birth or mortality records, much less abortion statistics, making even the roughest of estimates problematic," he explained.

WHO also relies on what is calls "public source data" to provide illegal abortion death guesses. Typically, a "public source" is a journal article, report, or unpublished document, often from a pro-abortion organization, raising questions about its objectivity.

O’Bannon says these sources of information are unreliable.

In Uruguay, for example, the WHO relies on studies with samples sizes of 5, 14, and 23 individuals to extrapolate the number of deaths due to illegal abortions for the entire country. In addition, the studies were done in the 1970s and 1980s and are not current.

The data may provide anecdotal evidence of abortion-related deaths but does not validate the claims of thousands of such deaths, O’Bannon concludes.

David Reardon, Ph.D., director of the Elliot Institute and one of the leading researchers into physical and emotional damage caused by abortions, also points out that legalizing abortion doesn’t make it any safer. He points out that women still die from legal abortions, even in industrialized nations like the United States and England.

"I absolutely support the international goal of protecting women from unsafe abortions. This is why we must work diligently to prevent legalization of abortion because that only increases the number of women exposed to unsafe abortions. Legal abortion is inherently unsafe," Reardon explains.

Reardon says abortion is known to be linked to higher rates of maternal death, reproductive problems including subsequent premature deliveries and related handicaps among newborns, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and a host of other negative problems impacting women and their families.

"If the international community is serious about protecting women from unsafe abortions, it will work diligently to reverse the trend toward legalized abortion," Reardon concludes.