Abortion and Maternal Health: The Great Falsehood

One of the great factual frauds that Justice Harry Blackmun and six other Justices propounded in deciding Roe v. Wade is the claim that abortion generally are safer than childbirth.   Justice Blackmun, for the majority, declared:

“Appellants and various amici refer to medical data indicating that abortion in early pregnancy, that is, prior to the end of the first trimester, although not without its risk, is now relatively safe.  Mortality rates for women undergoing early abortions, where the procedure is legal, appear to be as low as or lower than the rates for normal childbirth.  Consequently, any interest of the State in protecting the woman from an inherently hazardous procedure, except when it would be equally dangerous for her to forgo it, has largely disappeared.”

410 U.S. 113, 149-150.

Of course, that claim disregards entirely the effect of abortion upon the other living human being involved directly in the abortion procedure – the embryo, fetus, or unborn child in utero (however labelled) who is brutally, horribly killed.  It dismisses completely the inescapable and deeply disturbing moral consequence of the abortion act – deliberately causing the death of a living, innocent human being.

But putting that “minor” point aside for the purposes of this discussion, the claim about the comparative benefit of abortion over childbirth for maternal health is a common claim that is worth examining very carefully.

The Roe majority justices have not been alone in relying upon the “abortion-is-safer-for-pregnant-women-than-childbirth” claim.  That “safer” claim has been asserted by advocates of abortion-on-demand for decades, and it still is trotted out regularly.

For example, Carole Joffe recently asserted that: “From a public health standpoint, legal abortion has unquestionably benefited women and their families. Thousands of American women who sought abortions used to die before Roe, and now such women don’t.” Carole Joffe, Roe v. Wade and Beyond: Forty Years of Legal Abortion in the United States, Dissent Magazine (Winter 2013), available at http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/roe-v-wade-and-beyond-forty-years-of-legal-abortion-in-the-united-states (seen 150302)

The claim that “thousands of women” in America have been saved from death because abortion has been legalized and made available upon demand through at least the first three or six months of pregnancy is a feeble and misleading exaggeration of the truth.

For example, in 2012 two researchers published in a very reputable medical journal their study linking death certificates with medical records for all Danish women born between 1962 and 1991 who were alive in 1980.  Mortality rates were calculated based upon the first pregnancy outcomes (delivery, miscarriage, abortion, and later-term abortion).  Mortality rates (from one to ten years later) associated with both early abortions (in the first 12 weeks) and late abortions (after 12 weeks) were higher than mortality rates associated with birth.  David C. Reardon and Priscilla K. Coleman, Short and long term mortality rates associated with first pregnancy outcome: Population register based study for Denmark 1980-2004, 18(9) Med. Sci. Monitor PH 71-76 (2012), available at http://www.medscimonit.com/abstract/index/idArt/883338  (seen 150303).

An earlier study based on data from Finland analyzed by Finnish health experts revealed that total deaths of women who had abortions were nearly four times higher than for women who gave birth. M. Gessler, et al, Pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland 1987-1994 – definition problems and benefits of record linkage, 76 Acta Obsetricia et Gynecolgica Scandinavica 651 (1997), cited in Elliot Institute, AfterAbortion.org, available at http://afterabortion.org/2000/abortion-four-times-deadlier-than-childbirth/ (seen 150303).  Likewise, the rate of death by suicide was seven times higher, while the rate of deaths by homicide was over eight times higher.  Id. While the data is not complete or indisputable, and there are some studies that support alternative conclusions, there is good reason to be very concerned about the detrimental effects of abortion upon maternal morbidity and mortality.

Additionally, these maternal health arguments for abortion ignore and avoid considering the consequences of abortion for women’s mental health and psychological well-being.  Surely some people seem to be unfazed by causing the death of another human being, but many people are not.  Many women who have abortions have difficulty reconciling their action with their self-image as a caring, loving human being.  They later struggle with the realization of the moral magnitude of what they have done – especially since abortion providers and supporters try to euthanize their moral concerns with abstract rhetoric about how abortion empowers women.

While all of the relevant scientific questions have not been fully answered yet, there already is substantial evidence that abortion poses significant potential harms and risks for maternal life and health.  It behooves responsible pro-life scholars, students, and professionals, to make that evidence known and to respond – carefully, appropriately  and immediately — when the dubious claim that abortion is safer than childbirth for maternal mortality and morbidity is made.

-Posted 3 March 2015 by Lynn D. Wardle, Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

Professor Charles E. Rice, RIP

Professor Charles Rice–pro-life champion and long-time professor of law at Notre Dame Law School died last night. Here is a link to a book review of one of Charlie’s s most recent books.

Eternal rest grant unto him,  O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

tributes to Dr. Willke

Here are a couple of other tributes to Dr. Jack Willke.

Jack Willke, Witneess for Life,” by Chuck Donovan in First Things.

Father of the pro-life movement Jack Willke died on Friday,” on LifeSiteNews.com

Dr. Jack Willke, RIP

Dr. John C. “Jack” Willke, father of the pro-life movement and long-time UFL member, died on February 20th. While this is a sad day for the right-to-life movement, let us be extremely grateful for his enduring pro-life work. His obituary notice can be found here. An article about his achievements for the pro-life movement can be found at LifeNews.com. HT Jeff Koloze.

Wait and Think About It

Utah reportedly has the longest abortion waiting period in the country.  In 2012 the Utah legislature extended the mandatory waiting period before abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.  The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Utah called it “the most onerous law in the land.”

The sponsor of the Bill, Rep. Steve Eliason, rejected the assertion that the bill was “Pro-Life.”  Rather, he considered it a “Pro-Consumer” bill, protecting the right of a woman to understand her options and the consequences of abortion before making an abortion decision.

Waiting periods protect women against being rushed into having an abortion that many will later regret.  Certainly the tens of thousands (now probably millions) of women who have carried grievous regrets throughout the rest of their lives after having a hasty abortions can testify of the value of giving women with an unplanned pregnancy a little time to “wait and think” before they are rushed into an irreversible medical procedure that will kill a living human in utero.

The killing of one’s own living progeny, even if unborn, can haunt a person and can impact other family members and family relationships severely. The consequences are not merely immediate and temporary, but they are permanent and perpetual.  Later relationships and later children – persons not even born at the time of decision — will be affected by that lethal choice.

Utah’s waiting period requirement before abortion probably is one of the reasons why Utah has one of the lowest abortion rates in the nation.  In 2011, the rate of legal abortions in Utah was just 5.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-22.  That same year, the overall U.S. abortion rate was 16.9 – more than three times the abortion rate in Utah.

Nationally, the abortion rate for known pregnancies in 2011 was 18%.  In Utah that same year, only 5% of known pregnancies were ended by abortion.

Nationally, there seems to be a slackening of pro-life leadership. For example, despite huge Republican success in the November 2014 elections, Republicans leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2015 suddenly shelved a bill to prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks when they discovered that they were short of the votes needed to pass the measure. Instead, they pushed forward a bill permanently banning federal funding of abortion – which largely repeats prohibitions that have been enacted annually for many years.

“Wait-and-see” laws like Utah’s 72-hour waiting period requirement protect women’s right to make informed, carefully-considered decisions about very important matters like abortion.  Furthermore, it is easy for most people to see that opponents of such informed-choice laws that protect women who are in difficult circumstances because of an unexpected pregnancy have an agenda that subordinates the welfare of such women to partisan political objectives.

It is time to enact a law protecting all American pregnant women by insuring them the time to obtain and process all of the information that bears upon the abortion.  So how about passing a federal law requiring a 72-hour waiting period before abortion anywhere in the nation?

Sources: Dennis Romboy, Nation’s longest abortion waiting period …, Deseret News, 5/7/2012, at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865555360/Nations-longest-abortion-waiting-period-among-new-Utah-laws-taking-effect.html?pg=all  (seen 150212).

Guttmacher Institute, State Factions About Abortion: Utah, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/utah.html (seen 150212).


-Posted 12 Feb 2015

by Lynn D. Wardle,  Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

Young v. UPS Roundtable

The United States Supreme Court will soon be ruling on the question of when employers must accommodate the needs of pregnant employees under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Prolife Center at the University of St. Thomas joined with 22 other prolife organizations and Judicial Education Project in filing an amicus brief urging a broad interpretation. Watch the video to understand the arguments in the case. Comments by the Teresa Collett, President of UFL and the Director of the Prolife Center at the University of St. Thomas begin at the 45 minute marker. You can read the brief at http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/12-1226_tsac_23_Pro_Life_Organizations_and_Judicial_Education_Project.pdf.

 HT Prolife Center at the University of St. Thomas.