In Misleading UN Testimony, FRC & C-FAM Claim 'Legalizing Abortion Endangers The Lives Of Women'

Yesterday, Wendy Wright, the vice president for government relations at the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), posted a story on the group’s blog about an upcoming meeting on combating the practice of child sacrifice in Uganda. Wright, of course, thinks that the practice of kidnapping children to be sacrificed in ritual murder is “terribly close” to the work of abortion providers:

Uganda will host a conference this fall to create a plan to combat child sacrifice. Attacks have risen recently as the country’s economy is booming. People are hiring experienced [witch] doctors to kill children, believing it will bring health and wealth.

Sound familiar? It’s terribly close to the claim that abortion will improve women’s health and prospects for the future.

So it’s no surprise that when Wright delivered testimony to a UN commission Tuesday on behalf of C-FAM, the Family Research Council and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians, she used any number of misleading and false arguments to urge the UN to fight for maternal health in a way that does not include access to legal abortion.

In her speech to the Commission on Population and Development, Wright downplayed the danger and frequency of illegal abortions, misled about the risks of legal procedures, and denied a link between the criminalization of abortion and unsafe procedures. She even argued that “legalizing abortion actually endangers the lives of women.”

After recommending a number of ways to improve maternal health worldwide, Wright moved onto claiming that legalizing abortion actually endangers women.

There is no quick fix here. And legalizing abortion will not improve maternal health. Mortality from abortion, estimated at less than 15 percent of all causes of maternal death, decreases proportionately with all other causes of maternal death if the right improvements to maternal health care are made, regardless of the legal status of abortion.

This means that complications from abortions, whether legal or not, can only be dealt with through adequate investments in maternal health care. Making abortion legal does not improve maternal health in any way. It only makes it safer for the abortionist. It does not make it any safer to the mother or her unborn child.

Ireland and Chile, which have highly restrictive abortion laws, are world leaders in maternal health, with lower maternal mortality rates than the United States and other wealthy countries. Legalizing abortion actually endangers the lives of women by exposing them to health risks they would not encounter if they were to carry their pregnancies to term.

In fact, as Guttmacher reports [pdf], “there is clear evidence that restrictive abortion laws are associated with a high incidence of unsafe abortion and its health consequences, and abortions in these settings contribute substantially to maternal illness and death.” The group estimates that 47,000 women die each year as a result of unsafe abortion and notes that restrictive abortion laws do not reduce the number of women obtaining abortions.

Wright’s citation of Ireland and Chile as places with low maternal mortality rates despite restrictive abortion laws is also misleading. Data on the incidence of unsafe abortion in Chile is disputed and women in Ireland commonly travel to England, where abortion is legal, to obtain the procedure.

Wright then cited false, misleading, and disputed statistics to claim that it is actually legal abortion that is dangerous.

Abortions often result in immediate complications, like massive bleeding, infection and death – even in countries where elective abortion is legal. In the United States, abortions carried out after five months of pregnancy are more likely to result in the death of the mother than carrying the pregnancy to term.

Over 130 studies show that elective abortion results in an increased risk of pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies. Women who abort have a greater risk of depression and suicide, as compared to women who give birth.

While Wright claims that “abortions often result in immediate complications,” even in countries where the procedure is legal, in fact surgical abortion conducted under proper conditions is one of the safest medical procedures. She then cites the risks of very late-term abortions, which constitute only one percent of the abortions performed in the United States.

Wright's claim that abortion leads to “a greater risk of depression and suicide” is also false. And while a study last year did find that there was a link in the past between repeated abortions and the risk of preterm birth, it also found that “with modern procedures the danger has all but vanished.”