Subscribe to IFRL

Contact the Media

GoodSearch cause banner

Option Line - 24 hour Pregnancy Hotline

IFRL Daily News

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Misreading the Facts About 'Safe' Abortions


NRLC’s note. The following is reprinted from the St. Louis Review with permission of the author.


The Guttmacher Institute, research affiliate of Planned Parenthood, has helped write a new study in a British journal called The Lancet, and the New York Times is excited.


The Times’ Oct. 16 story stated: "A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.


Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely."


Some news media tend to lose their critical faculties when presented with the opportunity for a breathless headline on abortion. In this case the basic finding of the study is reported accurately (though without the skepticism that should greet abortion news from the abortion industry), followed by two conclusions that are spin, not fact.


The Lancet study did find similar abortion rates in countries with anti-abortion laws and those without.


However, the former countries tend to be Third World countries with grinding poverty, an unstable society and an inadequate health care system, and these place enormous pressure on women.


Within the United States, where abortion is legal for all women, abortion rates are much higher among low-income and racial minority women — not because they are less moral, or care less about the law, but because they are seldom offered another choice.


This does not mean that abortion rates are unaffected by the law. The opposite has been proven again and again in the United States, as even very modest laws (laws for parental involvement in the case of minors, bans on public funding, etc.) have significantly reduced abortion rates in recent years. So the second half of the Times’ lead sentence is misleading and false.


Finally, the study did not find that legalizing abortion makes it safe. That was not the subject of the study.


The researchers found no reliable way to count unsafe abortions directly, so for purposes of the study they simply defined safe abortions as "those that meet legal requirements" in countries where abortion is generally legal. They never found legal abortions to be safe but assumed this to study something else.


In effect, safe became a euphemism for legal. A legal abortion was counted as safe even if it killed the woman; an illegal abortion was called unsafe and harmful even if no woman was harmed. This is stated explicitly in the study, which the Times perhaps did not bother to read.


In fact, studies in this issue of The Lancet note that Peru, the Philippines and Sri Lanka have all dramatically reduced maternal mortality in recent years without changing their strong laws against abortion.


Keys to success in Sri Lanka included an improved health system, skilled birth attendants, and improved status and literacy for women — factors long promoted by the Holy See at United Nations conferences. There are many ways to help women be "safe" without urging them to destroy their children.


The central finding of The Lancet study is actually that the total worldwide abortion rate, including unsafe (that is, illegal) abortions, went down between 1995 and 2003. Women globally are turning away from abortion, especially when they are offered better choices.


You won’t find that conclusion in the New York Times.


Mr. Doerflinger is deputy director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Contact: Richard M. Doerflinger

Source: National Right to Life

Publish Date: November 20, 2007

Illinois Federation for Right to Life

1104 Milton Road, Alton, IL  62002

Phone 618.465.7655, Web E-mail

Free Email Newsletter

Subscribe to our FREE daily email update to keep up with the latest news and updates to the IFRL site. 

Click here to

Subscribe today

Text Box: Illinois Federation for Right to Life

Read messages in an RSS reader, or a news 

aggregator, display IFRL articles in your web log...

Copy or Click the link below...