A prominent OB-GYN refuted claims that legalizing abortion helps reduce maternal mortality rates during testimony Thursday before a U.S. House committee.
Dr. Monique Chireau Wubbenhorst, a former U.S. Agency for International Development official and professor at Duke University School of Medicine, told lawmakers that some studies show the opposite to be true.
Her testimony contradicted the core focus of the Democrat-led hearing, “Examining the Harm to Patients from Abortion Restrictions and the Threat of a National Abortion Ban” in the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Asked if abortion is necessary to reduce maternal mortality rates, Wubbenhorst said no
“It’s not true based on any science,” she said. “There are no studies that show that increasing rates of abortion decrease maternal mortality.
“In fact, until recently in countries where abortion was criminalized and prohibited, I’m thinking particularly of Chile, Ireland and, I think, Cyprus had the lowest rates of maternal mortality in the world. For several years consecutively, Ireland had zero maternal mortality at a time when abortion was completely illegal,” Wubbenhorst continued.
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Claim at hearing today: Abortion is necessary to reduce maternal mortality rate
Dr. Monique Chireau Wubbenhorst: It’s not true based on any science. There are no studies that show that increasing rates of abortion decrease maternal mortality. pic.twitter.com/qG0nsFovFc
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At another point in the hearing, she questioned the claim again, noting how African Americans have both high abortion and maternal mortality rates in the U.S., CNS News reports.
“It seems to me to be difficult to reconcile the fact that black women have the highest rates of maternal mortality and the highest rates of abortion at the same time,” she told lawmakers.
Wubbenhorst said the collection of abortion data is “extremely flawed” in the U.S., so there is no “certainty” to abortion activists’ claims.
“For many years, there’s been an assertion that abortion is safer than childbirth, and this has been used to defend the right to abortion. Because of the incompleteness of data, it is not possible to make this assertion with any certainty,” she said. “Indeed, there are some studies that suggest that abortion-related mortality is equal to or almost equal to maternal mortality when abortion is conducted at later gestational ages.”
One recent study about maternal abortion deaths in Ethiopia found that women’s deaths to abortion already had been going down and did not drop significantly after the country legalized abortions in 2005. According to the research, in the 10 years after the country legalized abortions, maternal deaths to abortion remained about the same.
“If abortion legalization had a significant impact on mortality, we would expect a disproportionate decrease in deaths from abortion,” but that is not what the data shows, the study found.
Looking at other countries, the study found that in the Netherlands and Rwanda, women’s abortion deaths actually increased proportionately after abortions became legal. In contrast, “deaths from abortion and maternal deaths in general fell” after Poland and Chile banned abortions.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, another British scholar cast doubt on a widely-cited University of Colorado Boulder study that suggested a U.S. abortion ban would lead to increased maternal mortality rates.
Citing abortion data from Europe, Dr. David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre and professor of bioethics at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, said many European countries have more strict abortion laws than the U.S. but their maternal health records are much better.
“There is no significant difference in maternal mortality among countries in Europe on the basis of how restrictive their abortion laws are. Indeed, if anything, more restrictive states seem to be safer for women,” Jones found. “Poland, which has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, has the lowest rate of maternal mortality in Europe: only two deaths per 100,000 births.”
Other studies also have found that legalizing abortion does not reduce maternal mortality rates, and abortions may, in fact, be more dangerous for mothers than childbirth.