WHO Study Finds 30% Drop in Deaths From Unsafe Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 3, 2010   |   6:18PM   |   New York, NY

A new study by researchers from the World Health Organization finds more evidence countering the argument that abortions should be legalized in other nations because illegal ones are unsafe.

WHO researchers Iqbal Shah and Elisabeth Ahman issued a report in the current issue of Reproductive Health Matters noting the number of women dying from unsafe abortion has decreased by approximately one-third.

They found a drop from 67,000 deaths in 2003 to 47,000 in 2008 — a decrease that shows unsafe abortions and abortion deaths at a lower number than estimated by abortion advocates.

The Shah-Ahman study also rebutted pro-abortion activists who say the number of unsafe abortions is on the rise and that should be a reason to legalize it.

“The latest estimates from the World Health Organization put the figure at 21.6 million unsafe abortions worldwide in 2008, up from 19.7 million in 2003,” they note, but they point out it is “a rise due almost entirely to the increasing number of women of reproductive age globally.”

Samantha Singson of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute wrote on the pro-life organization’s blog that the study is yet another reason against legalizing abortions.

“For years, abortion advocates have used the “unsafe abortion” argument to pressure countries to legalize abortion, arguing that legal abortion would reduce the number of deaths,” she writes. “Critics are quick to point out that “legal” doesn’t necessarily equate with “safe.””

This new study follows up on a United Nations report in September substantially lowering the total number of women who supposedly die from illegal abortions.

“This is specious,” Duke University’s Dr. Monique Chireau said of some of the inflated numbers of illegal abortion deaths put forward by abortion backers. “There were no data collected on deaths from abortion. We can’t even get good data on maternal deaths.”
The report says that only 63 of 173 countries studied had complete records on a cause of death. Twenty-four had no records at all.

Complete data is available for countries where abortion is illegal and maternal deaths low, such as Chile, Ireland, Malta, and Poland. Pro-life analysts say the research links tighter abortion laws with better maternal health. The new UN report, meanwhile, shows maternal deaths are higher than previously estimated in India, where abortion is legal and widespread.

In February, another study undercut claims that legalizing abortion reduces maternal mortality, a second reason given for allowing abortion in nations in South America and Africa.