In addition to the claim that abortion restrictions do nothing at all to reduce the abortion rate, abortion advocates state that restrictions force women underground to seek illegal, unsafe abortions, resulting in a higher rate of maternal death. Legal abortion, they assert, saves lives. This assertion has often been touted by pro-choice activists as a completely factual claim. When the facts themselves, however, are brought to the table, results are not exactly what they are said to be.
First of all, it is important to note that accurate numbers are extremely difficult to come by. How, exactly, do we keep track of a procedure that is illegal? Former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson confessed in his book Aborting America, that while advocating for abortion he and his associates at National Abortion Rights Action League had fabricated both the number of illegal abortions performed before Roe vs. Wade and the amount of deaths occurring as a result of these abortions. They claimed that one million women received illegal abortions per year, while a more accurate number could be estimated at about one tenth of that, approximately ninety-eight thousand abortions per year. Further, Nathanson and his colleagues claimed that five to ten thousand women died from these illegal abortions every year. However, research also confirms that this number is a fabrication, as Nathanson outlines in his book. Before abortion was legalized in the United States, the number of women dying from illegal abortions averaged at about two hundred and fifty a year.
From this information, we can establish two points. Firstly, the numbers that abortion advocates present us with are objectively false, blown up in order to make safe abortion appear to be the more compassionate option. These claims can be refuted not only by pointing out the inaccuracy of the numbers, but by clarifying the words: safe abortion. There is no such thing as a safe abortion, as every abortion violently ends the life of an innocent, living human being. Abortion is never safe for pre-born children, and therefore cannot be labelled as a safe procedure.
The second point we need to take note of is that women do die from unsafe abortion. Though the number is far smaller than abortion advocates would have us believe, they happen. Desperate women in desperate circumstances do seek abortion, and these women need compassion and help. However, just because a procedure may become unsafe, that does not mean that we should make it legal. For example, there are homeless people who struggle to buy food every day. If it could be made safe and legal for them to rob banks, they would be able to purchase food. As a society, we would agree that making bank robbery safe and legal would not be a reasonable solution. Essentially, the answer to maternal mortality is not to help mothers do away with their children, but rather to provide them with the adequate health care and resources to deal with their situation.
Finally, the claim that maternal mortality rates increase as a result of illegal abortion is completely false. Ireland has heavy restrictions on abortion, and has some of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world. South Africa’s maternal mortality rate has increased over the past decade, despite legalizing abortion in 1997. Finally, Chile, which criminalized abortion in 1989, has had a steadily decreasing maternal mortality rate since then. Rather than abortion being a contributing factor to women’s health, Chile’s example reveals that increasing levels of education are instrumental in reducing maternal deaths. Similarly, Poland has severe abortion restrictions and has, as of 2015, along with Finland and Greece, the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world (3 deaths per 100 000 births).
The pro-choice claim that more women die when abortion is illegal is nothing more than a myth meant to distract from the fundamental question of the abortion debate: are the pre-born human?
Previously in this series: Does abortion produce adverse psychological effects?