A bit of news was released this week that is controversial for multiple reasons: “Getting a legal abortion is much safer than giving birth,” Reuters reports. They add, “Researchers found that women were about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth to a live baby than to die from complications of an abortion.”
The message, says Dr. Anne Davis of Columbia University Medical Center, is not that giving birth isn’t safe, but that contrary to what anti-choice advocates would have people believe, abortion is also safe.
Davis told Reuters, “We wouldn’t tell people, ‘Don’t have a baby because it’s safer to have an abortion’ — that’s ridiculous. We’re trying to help women who are having all reproductive experiences know what to expect.”
First of all, that Davis would feel like she has to justify the research is ridiculous and tells you a lot about the political climate we live in. Of course no one would ever advocate abortion over pregnancy. (It has been subtly suggested by “pro-life” groups that Planned Parenthood not only advocates abortion over pregnancy but specifically targets African-Americans. Remember this billboard from last winter?)
Secondly, you can’t talk about the safety of childbirth without bringing up the C-section epidemic in this country. It makes perfect sense to me that abortions are safer than giving birth because most abortions are performed surgically, hence the C-section tie-in: surgical births are considered less risky than natural births by many doctors, which is why so many doctors opt for scheduled C’s. Studies show conflicting results regarding maternal mortality rates and the safety of C-sections over vaginal delivery.
Reuters notes that “since the abortion drug mifepristone was approved for use in the United States in 2000, the number of medically-induced abortions has been on the rise.” So we’ll have to wait and see if abortion pill use winds up affecting the data. But for now, the numbers look like this:
Between 1998 and 2005, one woman died during childbirth for every 11,000 or so babies born. That compared to one woman of every 167,000 who died from a legal abortion.
Researchers complained that in various states, “doctors legally must go over the risks of abortion in language that may be misleading … with skewed lists of possible complications. Others require a 24-hour waiting period in between the counseling and the abortion itself.” In Texas, a law was just enacted which says “women must listen to the fetal heartbeat sounds before undergoing an abortion, and requires abortion providers to perform an ultrasound” and show the results to the patient 24 hours before an abortion can take place. Thank you, Rick Perry!
Davis thinks “state-mandated discussions have no place in abortion counseling” and says this study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, “helps dispel ‘misinformation’ and ‘lies’ about abortion risks included in some state laws — such as the idea that abortion is linked to cancer.”