The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new report concerning the global problem of maternal mortality. MCCL GO issued feedback on the draft version when it was being discussed. The final document correctly notes that while maternal mortality ratios (MMRs) have declined, this issue "remains an unfinished agenda and one of the world’s most critical challenges."
Unfortunately, however, WHO states in its report that "treaty monitoring bodies have ... linked elevated rates of maternal mortality to ... restrictive abortion laws [and] unsafe or illegal abortion." But WHO cites only old, and flawed, country reviews. The truth is that maternal mortality depends on the quality of maternal health care, not the legal status of abortion. Some countries prohibit abortion and have very low MMRs; others permit abortion and have very high MMRs. Legalizing abortion is demonstrably unnecessary to improve maternal health and save women's lives.
WHO also asserts that maternal deaths from abortion "are likely to be underreported or misclassified" and have recently "increased significantly in sub-Saharan Africa." The problem, however, is that we lack accurate data about the number of lives lost to abortion. As the WHO report acknowledges, "Only an estimated one third of countries have the capacity to count or register maternal deaths." That's why "estimation is necessary to infer MMRs in many countries where little or no data are available." Such estimates have too often proved inflated and unreliable.
No one knows exactly how many unborn children and mothers die from abortion worldwide each year. But we do know that providing adequate care—before, during and after childbirth—and establishing a robust and accessible health care system can prevent maternal deaths. That's how lives are saved.
Abortion doesn't save anyone. WHO has elsewhere acknowledged that legalizing abortion doesn't suddenly make it safe. Abortion poses inherent risks to women. The safest abortion in the world is the one that is never performed.
MCCL GO is a pro-life NGO global outreach program of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Education Fund. Learn more at www.mccl-go.org.