Study Claiming 70,000 Women Die From Illegal Abortions Relies on Dubious Facts

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 14, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Study Claiming 70,000 Women Die From Illegal Abortions Relies on Dubious Facts

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 14
, 2009

New York, NY ( — The Guttmacher Institute released a study on Tuesday claiming 70,000 women die from illegal abortions every year worldwide. However, the statistics appear to be based on disputed figures and claims from pro-abortion groups and abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood.

As reported yesterday, the Guttmacher Institute study is based on the work of numerous organizations that have as their main agenda promoting the legalization of abortion on a global scale.

Today, pro-life advocates analyzed and commented on the report and found it to be so polemic that they referred to it as a propaganda piece.

Still, the mainstream media is taking the Guttmacher report as gospel and showering it with headlines proclaiming the 70,000 figure.

However, it appears the number is based on very sketchy reports.

According to Guttmacher, the claim of 70,000 illegal abortion deaths comes from WHO guesses of the number of illegal abortions as old as 1998 and not any new corroborating information.

Dr. Randy O’Bannon, Education Director for National Right to Life, has talked previously about how the WHO estimate is merely a shot in the dark.

"The precision implied in such numbers is highly misleading," O’Bannon has said.

Figures given for developing countries and regions, where researchers report the vast majority of "unsafe" abortions and abortion-related deaths, "are based on meager data and a lot of assumption-laden extrapolations," said O’Bannon. "Many of these countries do not maintain detailed birth or mortality records, much less abortion statistics, making even the roughest of estimates problematic."

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 Typically, a "public source" is a journal article, report, or unpublished document, often from a pro-abortion organization — which raises questions about its objectivity.

O’Bannon says these sources of information are unreliable.

In Uruguay, for example, the WHO data Guttmacher relies on is based 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, has said before that that legalizing abortion doesn’t make it safer.

"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.

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