Paper Shows Ireland’s Maternal Mortality Half of England’s Without Abortion

International   |   Paul Stark   |   Jun 20, 2013   |   3:23PM   |   Dublin, Ireland

A new paper published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons contrasts maternal and neonatal health in Great Britain, which has legal elective abortion, with Ireland, which prohibits abortion. The data from these countries refute three myths about abortion that are prevalent in the international (and domestic) debate.

Myth #1: Legalizing abortion reduces maternal mortality; prohibiting abortion increases it. False. In their paper (“Maternal and Neonatal Health and Abortion: 40-Year Trends in Great Britain and Ireland“), Byron C. Calhoun, John M. Thorp and Patrick S. Carroll note that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (both of which prohibit abortion) have very low maternal mortality rates—typically lower than England, Wales and Scotland (which permit elective abortion). This is consistent with other evidence from around the world showing that maternal mortality is determined by the quality of maternal health care and not by the legal status of abortion.

Myth #2: Prohibiting abortion in one country only causes women to travel to neighboring countries to obtain abortions. Many women do, of course, but most don’t. The total abortion rate in 2011 among women in England and Wales was four times greater than the rate among women in the Republic of Ireland and 6.5 times greater than Northern Ireland. The low Irish abortion rates included all Irish women who traveled elsewhere to obtain abortions. Calhoun, Thorp and Carroll observe, “Single parents choose in Northern Ireland to have additional children when their contemporaries in Great Britain tend more often to have abortions. And in Ireland expecting couples often choose to marry while their British contemporaries are more prone to have abortions.”

The evidence from Great Britain and Ireland suggests that abortion law does affect the number of abortions—that legalizing abortion increases and prohibiting decreases its incidence.

Myth #3: Abortion doesn’t increase the risk of subsequent preterm birth (which is linked to cerebral palsy) or cause other harm to to the health of women and children. The connection between abortion and preterm birth is demonstrated by a wealth of research. A 2009 meta-analysis of 22 studies, for example, found a 36 percent increased risk of future premature birth following abortion. This is further supported by the examples of Great Britain and Ireland. Preterm birth is more common in England, Wales and Scotland than in the Republic of Ireland, which also boasts lower rates of stillbirths and low-birthweight babies.



Calhoun, Thorp and Carroll conclude:

Over the 40 years of legalized abortion in the UK there has been a consistent pattern in which higher abortion rates have run parallel to higher incidence of stillbirths, premature births, low birth-weight neonates, cerebral palsy, and maternal deaths as sequelae [aftereffects] of abortion. In contrast, both Irish jurisdictions consistently display lower rates of all morbidities and mortality associated with legalized abortion.

Legalized abortion offers no benefit to the health of women or their children. Note: Paul Stark is a member of the staff of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a statewide pro-life group.