There are countless myths about abortion that are being presented as facts every single day. The more often they're repeated, the more people will believe them to be truth. For example, pro-life friends have messaged me links to studies that seem to say (but don't) that less women die when abortion is legal. The confusion is understandable. Often, unless one analyzes the study, a certain point seems to be proven, at least at first glance.
The same is true when it comes to the oft-repeated mantra that abortion is safer than pregnancy and childbirth. "There's a study in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Journal that proved it!" "TIME Magazine did a piece on it!" "I watched a video about it the other day." And every abortion provider repeats this claim like a refrain. Well, let's take a good look at it.
The first thing, I suggest, is that we use common sense. Yes, peer-reviewed research is important and I believe that we should follow the evidence wherever it leads—even if it's uncomfortable or challenges previously held beliefs. Science, when conducted properly, will reveal and confirm what is true, but that does not mean that the conclusion to every study is true. If so, how could there be conflicting research? Studies may be ideologically driven, use questionable methodology, or miss an important piece of the puzzle.
In other words, back to common sense. How is it possible that pregnancy and child birth, which are necessary for the survival of our species, are more dangerous than an artificial procedure invented to disrupt and end an entirely natural part of human development?
Imagine a woman taking a pregnancy test at her doctor's office. Would we ever expect her physician to sit down and explain that something potentially very dangerous is happening inside her body because she's pregnant? Imagine a nurse practitioner seriously informing her patient "that it would be much safer for you to have an abortion." Our culture may treat it as such, but pregnancy is not a disease. The circumstances can undoubtedly be very difficult—and we wholeheartedly endorse and provide support during such times—but a pregnancy is not supposed to end with a chemical, suction machine, or curette.
A pregnancy, as we all know, is naturally supposed to dissolve into birth, the difficult but worthwhile journey of the pre-born child into the world outside the womb. I've given birth to four babies so far and, while I think it's amazing that a woman's body is capable of doing so, it's also no picnic and complications do happen. However, if pregnancy and child birth in general are as dangerous as is claimed, why would anyone still have babies?
Now let's look at the actual comparison. The Obstetrics and Gynaecology study uses two data points from the American Center for Disease Control (CDC). In summary, by saying that 8.8 in 100 000 women die after childbirth and 0.6 in 100 000 women die after abortion, they claim that abortion is obviously safer. The question is whether the comparison is valid. When approached by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) with this very question, the CDC responded as follows:
The maternal mortality rate is computed as all maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In contrast, the measure used for abortions is a case-fatality rate which is computed per 100,000 legal abortions. These measures are conceptually different and are used by CDC for different public health purposes.
In other words, these measures are incomparable. Maternal mortality is determined by deaths per live births, not pregnancies, while abortion mortality is determined by deaths per abortions. It's comparing apples to oranges.
That's not all. While maternal death statistics following live births are highly accurate, abortion death statistics are not. Just like in Canada, the United States has no federal reporting requirements when it concerns abortion, and it is even more difficult to find reliable data regarding abortion complications due to stigma, social pressure to remain silent, and complicated reporting processes. An abortion-related death may even be reported as a maternal death to hide the true cause. How could one possibly make a legitimate comparison with such an incomplete patchwork of data?
A different study was done in Finland, as the ACLJ reports:
In Finland, for example, researchers drew upon national health care data to examine the pregnancy history of all women of childbearing age who died for any reason, within one year of childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage, between the years of 1987 and 1994 (a total of nearly 10,000 women). The study found that, adjusting for age, women who had abortions were 3.5 times more likely to die within a year than women who carry to term. Mika Gissler, et al., Pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland 1987-1994 -- definition problems and benefits of record linkage, 76 Acta Obstetrica et Gynecologica Scandinavica 651 (1997).
There is a plethora of medical literature that suggests that abortion is detrimental for women's health, especially as an alternative to child birth. It can cause physical harm during the procedure, such as a lacerated cervix, and increase the risk of substance abuse and suicide, to name just a few. There's much more research available. The deVeber Institute's Women Health After Abortion is based on over 500 medical articles that have appeared over the past twenty years that prove the adverse effects of abortion. None of these are included in the statistics that are the basis to the claim that abortion is safer than pregnancy or child birth. That's ignorant at best; deceptive, harmful, even lethal at worst.
While watching a video that promotes this myth, I wrote down the following quote, "If you're only looking at the safety of the mother, abortion is actually safer than child birth." We now know that isn't true. But that statement is quite telling because it implies that there's more to consider than the safety of the mother. After all, why is she called a mother? Because she has a child who is growing in the exact place (s)he is supposed to be.
It's high time for this unscientific, unhelpful myth to disappear forever for the sake of moms and kids. For even if abortion was safe for the mother, which it's not, what about her pre-born child?
Previously in this series: Abortion is not a human right.