Abortion advocates often say that legalizing abortion reduces maternal mortality and improves the health of women. That's simply not true. A new study of data from Mexico provides more evidence debunking the connection between maternal mortality and the legal status of abortion.
The study—by Elard Koch of the MELISA Institute in Chile, Monique Chireau of Duke University Medical Center, and an international team of researchers—was published on Feb. 23 in the open access version of the British Medical Journal. The researchers looked at maternal mortality data from the 32 Mexican states, which vary in their abortion policies, during a 10-year span (2002-2011).
The results? States with less permissive abortion laws actually had significantly lower maternal and abortion-related mortality ratios than states with more permissive laws.
Koch et al. found that this disparity is "explained by differences in other independent factors known to influence maternal health rather than by abortion legislation itself." Those factors included skilled birth attendants, women's education, and clean water and sanitation. The incidence of maternal mortality depends on such factors—it does not, according to the evidence from Mexico, depend on the legal status of abortion.
"No statistically independent effect was observed for abortion legislation," the study's authors explain. "A less permissive abortion law ... was not associated with increased maternal and abortion-related deaths."
In light of this evidence, Koch et al. propose seven evidence-based public health interventions that would decrease maternal mortality in developing countries, including antenatal care, emergency obstetric care, and clean water and sanitation.
MCCL GO (Global Outreach) has always emphasized that improving maternal health care, not advocating abortion, is the key to reducing maternal mortality and saving women's lives. You can find our educational materials on our website.
More information about the Mexico study is available from the MELISA Institute, including a video in which the researchers discuss their findings.