The real story of Savita’s tragic death
Last year the death of an Indian woman was exploited as an example of Ireland’s “archaic” abortion laws. But the under-reported inquest tells a different story.
The inquest into the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar has reached a verdict of “medical misadventure”. However, this was not the view of opponents of Ireland’s pro-life laws and those with an anti-Catholic or militant secular agenda. Catholic dogmatism, they have claimed, was responsible for the death of a pregnant woman from sepsis.
The media narrative is that Savita Halappanavar died because she was denied a life-saving abortion. The right to life of her unborn child trumped her own right to life. One tweeter produced the evidence: a religious statue outside the hospital where Savita was treated.
Whilst the Irish constitution guarantees to respect and defend the life of the unborn child, stating that the lives of mother and child are of equal value, Ireland is also one of the safest places in the world in which to give birth. It boasts maternal death rates that are 33 times lower than Savita’s home country of India, and 3.5 times lower than the US. Pro-life Chile has the lowest maternal death rates in Latin America, and Poland, another pro-life country also fares well. Countries which respect the life of the unborn also ensure the highest standards of medical care for pregnant women.
The progress of septic shock
Savita Halappanavar died from septic shock resulting from an E.coli bacterial infection which had entered her bloodstream via the urinary tract. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has attributed most of the deaths of pregnant women in the UK with a baby under 24 weeks gestation, from sepsis, as being due to “substandard care… in particular a lack of recognition of the signs of sepsis and a lack of guidelines on the investigation and management of genital track sepsis”.
Severe sepsis of the type that killed Savita has a mortality rate of 60 percent. The RCOG’s 2012 green top guidelines note that early recognition of symptoms and initiation of treatment are vital when it comes to increasing patients’ chances of survival. The diagnosis of sepsis must be confirmed by blood cultures and early swift administration of broad spectrum antibiotics is the key to the survival of the patient, together with regular monitoring.
Savita Halappanavar first presented at University College Hospital Galway on the afternoon of Sunday, October 21, with backache but she was sent home following an examination. Savita had a history of back problems. She returned later that evening having experienced blood loss and was admitted. A blood sample was taken.
Crucially, the results of the blood tests, which showed an elevated white blood cell count indicating that an infection was present, were never followed up. The inquest heard that though the results were processed almost instantaneously, the first time they were accessed was some 24 hours later by an unidentified member of staff, and later by Dr Katherine Astbury, the consultant in charge of her care, at 11.24 on the Wednesday morning. This was five hours after she had been diagnosed with sepsis and after her condition had rapidly deteriorated.
Speaking at the inquest, Dr Astbury stated that if she had had access to the blood results earlier, she would have taken measures to terminate Savita’s pregnancy on the Monday or the Tuesday. However, she had been judging Mrs Halappanavar on the basis of clinical signs only and it had been her opinion that Savita was “distressed, but not unwell”.
Delay, not dogma, was the problem
It is difficult to see how Irish law, let alone Catholicism, should be held to account for this delay in diagnosis. Irish law allows for an unviable pregnancy to be terminated in the event that a mother’s life might be at real and substantial risk; sepsis would certainly fall into that category. A real and substantial risk does not need to be immediate, as with an ectopic pregnancy. The question is whether the woman will die if an abortion is not performed.
A bacterial infection needs to be aggressively targeted by broad spectrum antibiotics administered intravenously. Following her admission into hospital, Savita’s membranes had spontaneously ruptured very late on the Sunday evening. Her cervix was thought to be fully dilated, leading the staff to believe that delivery was imminent. The ruptured membranes put Savita at a 30-40 percent increased risk of infection and on Monday she was given a course of oral antibiotics as a precaution.
The burden of proof for infection in this situation is low. However the inquest discovered that vital four-hourly observations were missed, in addition to the failure to monitor her blood results. Regular blood tests to identify trends in white blood cell count and observations of her vital signs would have constituted optimal care, but this did not occur.
Furthermore, it was not until 1pm on Wednesday, October 24, that the correct broad spectrum antibiotics to target the infection were administered. Prior to this, Savita had been given erythromycin, a variant that was resistant to the E.Coli infection which was rapidly spreading throughout her body.
In addition, a lactate serum test which could have definitively confirmed the presence of sepsis was taken at 6am on the Wednesday morning and stored in an inappropriate bottle before being sent to the lab which could not process it. Even if the sample had been stored correctly, the lab would have been unable to analyse the test which should have been performed at a point of care unit on the ward.
The inquest heard that after 1pm on Wednesday, October 24, when Savita was taken into theatre where she spontaneously delivered her deceased child, and was then admitted to a high dependency unit, she received the highest possible standard of care. But there had been significant failures prior to this.
Did her survival hinge on a termination?
Opinion is divided as to whether or not a termination would helped Savita. The presence of an infection is a contraindication to surgical intervention, because the clamps and forceps required in a procedure risk further infection.
Furthermore Savita’s unborn child was not the source of her bacterial infection, the uterus and membranes being a sterile environment. Use of the drug misoprostol to contract the uterus and expedite delivery would not have guaranteed that the process would have been any swifter nor ruled out the necessity for surgery.
Conservative management is the preferred clinical approach in cases of spontaneous miscarriage. In the absence of obvious signs of infection, masked by her painkillers, it is not surprising that the medical staff decided that intervention was unnecessary. With ruptured membranes and a dilated cervix, it was perfectly reasonable to assume that nature would soon take its course. The outcome for the baby would have been tragically inevitable, but there would have been no long term ill-effects for the mother.
A failure of communication
Another troubling aspect of Savita’s case was failure to communicate the reasons for the hospital’s approach. Upon learning that a miscarriage was inevitable, Savita requested a termination so that she could leave the hospital as quickly as possible. Her parents had been visiting her and were about to leave the country. She wanted to be able to say goodbye to them at the airport.
Dr Astbury refused the request, couching this in purely legal terms, stating that Irish law did not allow for abortion.
This response was a cause of much distress for Savita and her husband Praveen. A discussion ensued with Ann Maria Burke, a midwife on duty, as to why abortion is banned in Ireland, unlike India. In response to Savita’s assertion that India was a Hindu country, Ms Burke replied that Ireland is a ‘Catholic country’ by way of explaining the background to the law.
Ms Burke has apologised. But the damage was done. Savita and Praveen blamed Irish law and Catholicism for the hospital’s unwillingness to do an abortion and the remark was seized upon by pro-abortion campaigners after her death. But whatever Ms Burke meant, she was not in charge of determining the appropriate course in Savita’s case.
Should the law be changed?
At the inquest, Dr Peter Boylan, an expert witness with a publicly stated position in favour of relaxing Irish laws on abortion, laid the blame solely on the legal position. He opined that were abortion legal in Ireland, Savita would have been alive today.
In recording a verdict of medical misadventure the inquest jury implicitly repudiated this. Instead it accepted and endorsed the coroner’s recommendations which emphasised a tightening up of procedures to remedy acknowledged systems failures.
Instead of recommending that the law should be reviewed, the jury said that the Irish Medical Board guidelines should be more explicit in describing the circumstances under which a woman’s life might be considered to be at risk.
The response from Galway University College Hospital seems to accept this, with no mention that the law had put doctors in an impossible position. Savita’s husband also seems to have rejected Dr Boylan’s analysis. When interviewed by the Irish Times after the verdict, he expressed exasperation at Dr Astbury’s conduct. He said that the world of obstetricians was a small one and suggested that the law was being used as a convenient shelter.
It is certainly difficult to see how the law is at fault for the initial failures in Savita’s care. Every year in Ireland there are 14,000 miscarriages, many of them carrying an infection risk, and no maternal deaths on record where the obstetrician felt that the law was inhibiting them.
Dr Sam Coulter Smith, master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, says that he has terminated a pregnancy in four instances where women had been diagnosed with sepsis and in all of them the baby did not survive. In any event, there is no evidence to suggest that the hospital staff believed that they had a desperately ill patient or that they were waiting until her condition became critical.
The coroner explicitly stated that the verdict did not mean that the blame for Savita’s death should be solely attributed to systems failures at University College Hospital Galway. Sepsis is still a very rare occurrence, as is spontaneous second trimester spontaneous foetal abortion. This occurs in 0.5 percent of single pregnancies of women with no previous history. In the last 40 years in Ireland there have been five cases of septic abortion. Its detection relies upon staff being alert to its possibility and symptoms.
Savita was the first maternal death in 17 years at the hospital, as opposed to the 100 mothers who have died in childbirth in London in the last five years. Once sepsis has taken hold, its spread is incredibly difficult to control. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but there is no guarantee that Savita would have survived even with the highest standard of care.
A background of austerity
What perhaps is of more relevance is that concern had been expressed about the hospital’s overall performance. In two successive months in 2011 it had been named as Ireland’s worst performing hospital. There had been calls for the Irish health minister to intervene.
It is far more likely that the austerity measures imposed upon Ireland, leading to an over-stretched and under-resourced maternity department, had far more impact upon Savita’s care. This is not what Ireland’s Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, currently engaged in a war of words against Catholicism in what some believe to be a diversion away from his party’s handling of the economy, wants to hear.
Savita Halapannavar has become the poster girl for Ireland’s abortion advocates. It will be a terrible irony if her legacy is more tragic deaths of the unborn. Far more fitting would be the successful implementation of precautions to prevent more deaths from sepsis. Anyone looking to improve maternal safety would be wise to highlight the dangers of E. Coli bacteria and the measures that women should take to avoid infection.
Cross-posted from MercatorNet from a post by Caroline Farrow
Officials in Australia are carrying out an inquest this week after a Newcastle woman died in 2007 following an abortion.
Helen Grainger, 29, suffered severe anaphylaxis when she was given an antibiotic at Lambton Road Day Surgery at Broadmeadow, on April 26, 2007.
The fifteen minute abortion procedure was without complications. Afterwards, Mrs Grainger was in a recovery room when she was administered Keflin – an antibiotic used to prevent possible infections after surgery.
She had previously taken Keflin without incident, but on April 26 she began to feel short of breath before a rash broke out across her body.
The inquest heard yesterday that before paramedics arrived, Mrs Grainger’s sedationist administered adrenaline intravenously to manage the reaction and CPR was performed shortly afterwards.
A paramedic of 33 years who treated Mrs Grainger at the surgery, John Gleeson, said she appeared to be suffering severe anaphylaxis and an endotracheal tube (a large, flexible plastic tube inserted into the trachea – the large airway from the mouth to the lungs) was used to resuscitate her.
Mr Gleeson told the inquest he also gave Mrs Grainger adrenaline, but only slowly to avoid what he called the “whammo” effect.
She returned a pulse on the way to the local John Hunter Hospital where she died two days later from brain hypoxia, the reduced supply of oxygen to the brain.
Expert witness and Director of the Allergy Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Dr Robert Loblay, told the inquest yesterday that adrenaline was more likely to have caused Mrs Grainger’s respiratory arrest than anaphylaxis.
He said the likely cause of the anaphylaxis was a drug she had been administered previously.
Dr Loblay said the adrenaline should have been injected into muscle, not intravenously, and it should have been injected in increments over more than ten minutes to different parts of her body.
Written evidence tendered to the court indicated that the drug was delivered in about five minutes.
Dr Loblay said the surgery’s emergency trolley should have had one millilitre vials of adrenaline instead of the much larger “mini jet” syringe that was used.
Mrs Grainger and her husband Jon were advised by doctors to terminate their pregnancy in February 2007 because she suffered a serious kidney disorder that threatened the health of her and her baby.
Last December the inquest heard that no local hospital would perform the termination for Mrs Grainger. Her GP, Doctor Harrison Mellows said he referred her to the Lambton clinic because the local John Hunter Hospital rarely does abortions.
When asked if the John Hunter should have performed the abortion, Doctor Mellows stressed, “there was no option to get her to the John Hunter, the John Hunter wouldn’t do this procedure in this situation.”
The inquest resumed yesterday after being adjourned last December to allow a health professional’s report to be considered. The report suggested Mrs Grainger had 20 times the normal amount of adrenaline in her body.
The inquest will continue tomorrow before deputy state coroner Scott Mitchell.
Cross posted from LifeSiteNews.
Today we bring you further coverage from MercatorNet on the research published in Chile a couple of days ago that directly challenges the “safe abortion” myth.
One of the great scandals of today’s global village is the deaths of hundreds of thousands of mothers each year simply because they are carrying or giving birth to a child. The last reliable estimate, from 2008, indicated nearly 343,000 of these maternal deaths. The scandal lies in the fact that most of them are easily preventible with basic health care, as the West discovered more than a century ago.
The West, as we know from many statements from the World Health Organisation and reproductive health groups, is anxious to reduce this awful statistic, which is an important aim of the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, this altogether worthy goal is entangled with another: the reduction of fertility in the developing countries, by the quickest means possible. This means that, often before other basic medical and social improvements are in place, there must be universal access to birth control technology — not only contraception but abortion.
Abortion, however, must be safe for the woman — that is, provided by medically qualified people or by medically certified means — and to be safe it must be legal. Where it is illegal it will happen anyway but it will be unsafe, and often lethal. States which persist in keeping abortion illegal or severely restricted (and not the agents who are pushing this form of birth control) are thus contributing to the dire maternal mortality statistics. And states which ban abortion after it has been legal are similarly putting women’s lives at risk. That, as they say, is the narrative.
There’s just one problem with the drift of this story: there is no proof that it is true. The only hard evidence that we have on the subject of restrictive abortion laws and maternal mortality rates (MMR) is very new and it points in the opposite direction.
Research from Chile published a few days ago shows that, when therapeutic abortion was banned in 1989 after a long period when it had been legal in that country, there was no increase in maternal mortality. None at all. On the contrary, maternal deaths continued to decline. Chile today has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world (16 per 100,000 live births), outstripping the United States (18) and, within the Americas, second only to Canada (9). Rather than the rogue violator of women’s reproductive health that the UN makes it out to be, Chile is looking this week like a model for countries that really want to save the lives of mothers.
Figure 1. Trend for maternal mortality ratio, Chile 1957–2007.
It’s important to note here what the study, Women’s Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities, Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007, does not claim. It does not say that making abortion illegal caused a decline in maternal deaths. But it shows, importantly, that the 1989 law did not increase mortality. It continued to decline substantially, although other factors were at work in the decline — notably, the education of women and their ability to shape their own reproductive behaviour. (The latter does not mean quite what birth control fundamentalists mean, as we shall see.)
The study, published in the open access online journal PLoS One, is the work of Chilean and American researchers led by Dr Elard Koch, epidemiologist and a professor at the University of Chile. The group, who formed the Chilean Maternal Mortality Research Initiative (CMMRI) for the purpose of the study, had access to exceptionally good data: 50 years of official records from Chile’s National Institute of Statistics, 1957 to 2007. These provide the basis of what the authors call a “natural experiment” in fertility and abortion policy.
What these records show is a dramatic decline in MMR from 1965, when abortions were numerous and abortion was the main cause of mortality, through to 1981; a continuing but slower reduction from 1981 to 2003; and a steady state from 2003 to 2007. To explain this pattern the researchers analysed social policies and trends likely to influence maternal mortality. Here are the key ones, especially for the first phase:
* Delivery by skilled birth attendants. For each 1 per cent increase in the number of deliveries performed by skilled attendants there was an estimated decrease of 4.58 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Clean water and other sanitary improvements also played a part.
* Access to maternal healthcare services. Nutrition programmes for mother and child, coupled with the distribution of fortified milk at primary care clinics created new opportunities for pregnancy and birth care for both mother and child. This strategy practically eradicated malnutrition, increased birth weight and contributed to the noteworthy reduction in infant mortality observed in Chile, 3.1/1000 live births for infants 28 days to 1 year of age.
* Women’s educational level. This, says Koch, is the most important factor, and the one which increased the effect of all other factors. Educating women enhances a woman’s ability to access existing health care resources and directly leads to a reduction in her risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. Data showed that for every additional year of maternal education in Chile there was a corresponding decrease in the MMR of 29.3/100,000 live births.
Cross posted from MercatorNet with additional reporting from ProLife NZ.
Abortion is often described as a necessary component of women’s health. Abortion rights groups contend that unless it is legal and freely available, backyard abortionists will fill the gap in demand and maternal mortality rates will rise. Remarkably, though, for such a contentious issue, there is little data to back up this claim.
Now a ground-breaking study of maternal mortality in Chile published this week in the leading journal PLoS One suggests that “the legal status of abortion does not appear to be related to overall rates of maternal mortality”.
Chile is an important “natural experiment” for abortion policy. In 1989 abortion was made illegal with one of the more restrictive abortions laws in the world. Good statistics from the past 50 years make it possible to compare MMRs before the ban and after.
According to Elard Koch, of the University of Chile, and colleagues, the study “provides counterintuitive evidence showing that making abortion illegal is not necessarily equivalent to promoting unsafe abortion, especially in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality. Chile’s abortion prohibition in 1989 did not cause an increase in the [maternal mortality rate] in this country. On the contrary, after abortion prohibition, the MMR decreased from 41.3 to 12.7 per 100,000 live births –a decrease of 69.2% in fourteen years.” The highest mortality rate was in 1961 (47.9 per 100,000 women of reproductive age), and the lowest in 2003 (0.72 per 100,000).
The article is sure to prove controversial in the never-ending abortion wars in developed countries. Support for “safe, legal and rare” abortion, in US President Bill Clinton’s famous phrase, is based on two assumptions: first, that it is a fundamental right for women and, second, that it is absolutely necessary for women’s reproductive health. Koch’s analysis, the first evidence-based publication to analyse women’s health after elective abortion became illegal in a country, suggests that the second assumption may be wrong.
“The lack of correlation between high maternal mortality and prohibition of abortion observed in this study also confirms circumstantial observations made in Europe. The lowest MMRs in Europe are in countries such as Ireland, Malta and Poland, in which elective abortion is illegal. Considering Chile has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, this analysis of Chilean maternal mortality statistics provides a model for other countries seeking a successful model for decreasing maternal mortality, and provides evidence that legalization of abortion is unnecessary to decrease maternal mortality.”
The most important factor in reducing the MMR, Koch says, is more education for women. “Educating women enhances a woman’s ability to access existing health care resources and directly leads to a reduction in her risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth.” Other factors include: nutrition for pregnant women and their children in the primary care network and schools; universal access to improved maternal health facilities; changes in women’s reproductive behavior enabling them to control their own fertility; and clean water and good sanitation.
Hundreds of women and children from throughout Ireland have joined pro-life groups Youth Defence, Life Institute and Precious Life at the Dáil to tell Irish TDs and Senators that proposals to legalise abortion are “not made in our name”, and that the evidence shows Irish women are safer without abortion.
At a colourful protest, featuring pink banners and music, women from all around Ireland handed in letters to every TD and Senator calling on them to reject legislation that would introduce abortion.
Senator Jim Walsh and Deputy Terence Flanagan came to collect letters from constituents at the event.
“We’re here to send an important message from the majority of Irish women to Enda Kenny and to every TD and Senator,” said spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute. “We’re mothers and daughters and sisters and grandmothers, and we know that women and children deserve better than abortion. Furthermore the record shows we are safer without abortion, so why are this group of politicians trying to introduce abortion in our name? It’s unacceptable to misrepresent Irish women in this way.”
Ms Uí Bhriain said that the letters pointed out that the evidence of the past 20 years had shown that the lives of Irish women were protected without recourse to abortion and that, according to the UN, Ireland was, in fact, the safest place in the world for a mother to have a baby.
The pro-life event took place ahead of a debate scheduled for the Dáil on a Private Members Bill proposed by Clare Daly and Mick Wallace which seeks to legalise abortion.
Ms Uí Bhriain said that the Bill was based on a “fundamentally dishonest claim that abortion is needed to protect women’s lives. This claim amounts to the worst type of scaremongering, and polls show that it is rejected by the majority of Irish women,” she said.”Clare Daly and her cohorts were elected on an anti-austerity platform and they have no mandate to try and foist abortion on the Irish people,” she added.
Amongst those attending today were women who were treated for life-threatening conditions while pregnant, and who had learnt at first hand that abortion was not required to save their lives. In recent weeks, the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet published findings which showed that, contrary to what had been practised in other jurisdictions, abortion was not required to treat women who had breast cancer while pregnant.
Rebecca Roughneen of Youth Defence said that the absolute lack of regard shown by abortion campaigners for the lives of unborn children was “totally at odds with how most Irish women view the child in the womb.”
The pro-life spokeswoman said that it was important for the Irish government to realise that they were obliged to honour the pro-life promise they had given before Election 2011, and the majority of Irish women were sick and tired of being misrepresented by small groupings of pro-abortion campaigners.
Cross posted from Irish pro-life group Youth Defence.
This article by Lucia Muchova from LifeNews.com provides new analysis on the UN WHO report “Induced Abortion: incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008″ we looked at a couple weeks ago on this blog.
A widely publicized report in The Lancet medical journal calling for the legalisation of abortion contained inflated numbers, flawed data collection and highly misleading language.
The recent article on “Induced Abortion: incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008” updates abortion estimates to show progress on improving maternal health. The Alan Guttmacher Institute and staffers with the World Health Organization claim the number of unsafe abortions per 1,000 women has risen from 44% to 49% between 1995 and 2008 while the global abortion rate has declined from 29 to 28 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age. “Unsafe abortions” are concentrated in developing countries. In Middle and Western Africa 100% of abortions are deemed “unsafe.” Presenting various statistics, the authors call for increased efforts to legalize abortion and expand investment in contraception in developing countries.
However, the paper suffers from three main faults. First, the authors use quasi-legal rather than medical definitions. Second, the authors use problematic data collection. Third, the authors have manipulated the data non-transparently. These recurring problems in World Health Organization (WHO) data on maternal mortality have been well documented by Donna J. Harrison, M.D.
Though not a WHO paper per se, much of the Lancet article draws on previous WHO studies, with the estimation of unsafe abortions “developed and commissioned by WHO.” The WHO defines “unsafe” abortion as “a procedure for terminating an unintended pregnancy carried out either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.”
However, in academic papers written by WHO staff members, like the Lancet article, this definition becomes interchangeable with a quasi-legal one: “As elaborated by WHO, abortions done outside the bounds of law are likely to be unsafe even if they are done by people with medical training… Thus, as in previous efforts to estimate abortion incidence and consistent with WHO practice, we used the operational definition of unsafe abortions, which is abortions done in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, and those that do not meet legal requirements, in countries with less restrictive laws. Safe abortions were defined as those that meet legal requirements, in countries with liberal laws, or where the laws are liberally interpreted such that safe abortions are generally available.” No mention is made of medical standards or skills of those performing abortion.
What this means is that abortions performed in countries with liberal laws, like the U.S., which result in serious complications or death would be classified “safe” abortions. Abortions in restricted countries, sometimes facilitated by activist groups funded by progressive governments and foundations, fit in the “unsafe” category.
WHO researchers acknowledge the difficulty in obtaining good data on abortion. Records of hospital admissions cannot distinguish between spontaneous and induced abortions; surveys underreport the number of abortions; ambiguous language prevents clear classifications of pregnancy outcomes; and in countries where abortion is illegal or hardly accessible, information is limited. Unsafe abortion in particular is, according to the WHO, “one of the most difficult indicators to measure.” Even for “safe” abortion, only 66% (2/3) of the countries with liberal abortion laws have a mechanism to collect relevant data. Nevertheless, statistics are reproduced, referenced and relied upon as if their validity was set in stone.
The most recent WHO Unsafe Abortion report asserts that 13% of maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortion, identified as one of the three main causes of maternal deaths globally, together with haemorrage and sepsis due to childbirth. This statistic is relied upon in the Lancet article. Given the ambiguity of the term “unsafe” and the unreliability of the data, one is left wondering why more money should be spent on increasing access to abortion instead of measures to improve antenatal and post-partum care.
The Lancet article indicates that “on the whole,” chemical abortion procedures are classified as unsafe. Crucially, this includes misoprostol, regarded as unsafe due to the risks of heavy bleeding associated with incorrect usage. This means that organizations, such as the International Consortium on Medical Abortion, that encourage and actively distribute misoprostol for abortions are in fact raising the numbers of unsafe abortions, which they claim to be preventing.
LifeNews.com Note: Lucia Muchova writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax publication and is used with permission.
A United Nations World Health Organization report published on Thursday in The Lancet claiming to show that unsafe (read illegal) abortion rates have risen by 5% between 1995 and 2008 with a resulting increase in maternal mortality have been called “dubious” by a leading UK pro-life organization.
John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said, “A claim published today in The Lancet that so-called ‘unsafe’ – usually illegal – abortions worldwide have risen by 5% is dubious,” and that “researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO) and other commentators in The Lancet are using the figure to argue that so-called ‘safe’ abortion should be legalized worldwide.”
“The WHO routinely makes unsubstantiated claims about so-called ‘unsafe’ or illegal abortion,” Smeaton observed. “WHO is one of the world’s major pro-abortion bodies. The Guttmacher Institute is the research arm of the worldwide pro-abortion lobby. The report is pro-abortion propaganda, and should be dismissed as such.”
The Lancet quotes Professor Beverly Winikoff, from the New York based abortion advocacy group Gynuity, to say “Unsafe abortion is one of the five major contributors to maternal mortality, causing one in every seven or eight maternal deaths in 2008. Yet, when abortion is provided with proper medical techniques and care, the risk of death is negligible and nearly 14 times lower than that of childbirth.”
However, a study published in The Lancet in 2010 shows that maternal mortality rates have been significantly overestimated by United Nations agencies due to a lack of proper reporting and also imprecise statistical modeling.
While the current Lancet report focuses on implementing “safe” abortion in third-world countries as the way to decrease maternal deaths, the 2010 Lancet report stated that progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality in developing countries, due to declining pregnancy rates in some countries, higher per capita income, higher education rates for women, and increasing availability of basic medical care including “skilled birth attendants.”
The 2010 Lancet report also noted that researchers were surprised that three of the richest countries in the world actually showed increased maternal mortality; the United States, Canada and Norway – three countries with the most liberal abortion laws in the world.
“Promoters of legal abortion have a proven track-record of making wildly exaggerated claims about the number of so-called ‘unsafe’ or illegal abortions,” Mr. Smeaton remarked. “Such false claims were made in 1967 to lobby for the UK’s Abortion Act and in the 1970s to justify the US’s Roe v Wade decision. The late Dr Bernard Nathanson, the US abortion pioneer who became pro-life, admitted that he deliberately exaggerated the estimated number of illegal abortions five-fold when campaigning for abortion legalization.”
Statistics prove that countries where abortion is illegal have among the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world.
Poland, which banned abortion 20 years ago, after communism fell, has seen maternal deaths drop by more than 40 per cent, while maternal mortality rate in El Salvador dropped by half after abortion was re-criminalized in 1998.
According to a 2009 World Health Organization report, Mauritius boasts the lowest maternal mortality on the African continent, while also being one of the most protective of the unborn. The same WHO report showed that countries such as Ethiopia, which have been pressured to legalize abortion, have not been successful in reducing maternal death. In fact, Ethiopia’s rate is 48 times greater than that of Mauritius.
South Africa, which has had one of the most permissive abortion laws in Africa since 1996, saw maternal deaths increase twenty percent from 2005-2007. International Planned Parenthood Federation has acknowledged that part of this “surge” is “due to complications of abortion,” even though abortion is legal and therefore presumably “safe.”
WHO statistics for the South East Asia region show Nepal, where there is no restriction on the procedure, has the region’s highest rate of maternal mortality. 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.
Similarly, WHO statistics for South America show that Chile has the lowest rate of maternal mortality, whereas Guyana, which significantly liberalized its laws in the mid-1990s citing concern over maternal deaths, has the highest. Chile protects unborn life in its penal laws and constitution, and has seen the maternal mortality rate decline from 275 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1960 to 18.7 deaths in 2000, the largest reduction in any Latin country.
“The truth is that countries with strict laws against abortion have lower maternal death rates than countries which allow abortion widely,” Mr. Smeaton concluded. “Ireland, where abortion is banned, has one of the world’s best maternal health records. Legalized abortion does nothing to improve medical care.”
An abstract with link to the full text of the Lancet report titled “Induced abortion: incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008” is available here.
Cross posted from LifeSiteNews.com
Cross posted from the Culture Vulture.
Yesterday the Otago Daily Times ran a story about a new report that has just been released by United Nations Women (the ‘United Nations organization that describes itself as the ‘entity for gender equality and empowerment of women’). The report canvassed 22 developed nations about subjects such as domestic violence and maternal mortality – in regards to NZ, the report suggests that we rank either near, or at the bottom in both of these areas.
Okay, so there’s no doubting that NZ certainly has some serious social issues that require a full and frank confrontation at the highest levels in this country, and this report identified some of these issues.
But why is it that this same report also included the following finding:
‘New Zealand, Ireland and Spain were the only three countries that did not allow abortion for economic or social reasons. Six countries, including New Zealand, did not allow abortion on request.’
What does this have to do with the price of tea in China, and why is it reported as if it is someone a serious social failing that needs to be remedied?
We already know from various research and reports in the last two years that reductions in maternal mortality are associated with greater restrictions on abortion, so why would a report which highlights maternal mortality be touting liberal abortion laws as a solution to that problem?
And why would liberal abortions laws do anything to resolve the heinous abuse of women that takes place in many homes around this country?
This whole thing reeks of much of what we have come to expect from the UN in recent years, where genuine women’s issues have been hijacked by militant pro-abortion lobbyists who have an unabashed agenda to enforce their liberal abortion law designs on countries around the globe.
I predict that it won’t take long for pro-abortion pressure groups in this country to start quoting this report in support of their designs for more liberal abortion laws in this country.