A new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows that countries with restrictive abortion laws are often the leaders in reducing maternal mortality, and those with permissive laws often lag. According to the report, the pro-life nation of Ireland has topped the global rankings once again with the best maternal health performance.
Abortion advocates have attempted to push an international “right to abortion,” claiming that restrictive laws force women to seek unsafe abortion, which in turn leads to high maternal mortality. In October, the Guttmacher Institute released a report on global abortion calling on states to “expand access to legal abortion and ensure that safe, legal abortion services are available to women in need.” Sharon Camp, president of the Guttmacher Institute, asserted that “in much of the developing world, abortion remains highly restricted, and unsafe abortion is common and continues to damage women’s health and threaten their survival.”
An examination and comparison of several countries included in the WEF survey show that legal abortion does not mean lower maternal mortality rates.
Both Ireland and Poland, favorite targets of the abortion lobby for their strong restrictions on abortion, have better maternal mortality ratios than the United States. Ireland ranks first in the survey with 1 death for every 100,000 live births. In recent years Poland has tightened its abortion law and ranks number 27 on the list with 8 deaths per 100,000. In the United States where there are virtually no restrictions on abortion, the maternal mortality ratio is 17 out of 100,000 live births.
Other regions of the world show similar trends. The African nation with the lowest maternal mortality rate is Mauritius, a country with some of the continent’s most protective laws for the unborn. On the other end of the spectrum is Ethiopia, which has decriminalized abortion in recent years in response to global abortion lobby pressure. Ethiopia’s maternal death rate is 48 times higher than in Mauritius. South Africa has the continent’s most liberal abortion laws and also a high maternal mortality ratio of 400 deaths per 100,000.
Chile, with constitutional protection for the unborn, outranks all other South American countries as the safest place for women to bear children. The country with the highest maternal mortality is Guyana, with a rate 30 times higher than in Chile. Guyana has allowed abortion without almost any restriction since in 1995. Ironically, one of two main justifications used for liberalizing Guyana’s law was to enhance the “attainment of safe motherhood” by eliminating deaths and complications associated with unsafe abortion.
Similarly in Asia, Nepal, where there is no restriction on the procedure, has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. The lowest in the region is Sri Lanka, with a rate fourteen times lower than that of Nepal. According to the pro-abortion public interest law firm Center for Reproductive Rights, Sri Lanka has among the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.
Pro-lifers emphasize that the WEF report reinforces their contention that skilled birth attendants and access to emergency obstetric care should be the focus of maternal mortality reduction efforts, rather than increasing access to legal abortion.