One of the most common accusations levelled against abortion restriction is the claim that if abortion is prohibited, a market for illegal unsafe “back alley” abortions will inevitably emerge. Therefore, abortion proponents argue, if women are going to get abortions anyway, it is better that they do so legally. While this argument has numerous flaws, one critical point has recently been upset by new research emerging from Chile which demonstrates that the number of illegal abortions actually fell when abortion was banned.
What makes Chile and Ireland similar countries in matters of maternal health and abortion? In September 2012 I had the invaluable opportunity to participate as a member of the Committee on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare, convened in Dublin to analyze the experience of Ireland, Chile, and other countries with a high standard in maternal health around the world. The meeting was crowned with the Declaration of Dublin
We have been hearing a lot in recent months about how abortion legislation is necessary to safeguard women’s health and lives. There has been a lot of talk also about maternal mortality figures and their reliability. So just what effect does a restrictive abortion regime have on maternal health? Is the notion that abortion is necessary in order to improve maternal health just hearsay and opinion or is it based on solid empirical evidence? If one consults the recent Oireachtas hearings on the Expert Group Report on the ABC case, Irish experts confirmed that they are not aware of any Irish women dying due to the unavailability of abortion here. Therefore, what effect could the legalisation of abortion possibly have on improving our maternal mortality rate – which incidentally is one of the best in the world? A recent study carried out by Chilean doctors on the incidence of abortion in Mexico, sheds even greater light on the likely negligible effect legalising abortion would have on decreasing the incidence of maternal death here.
This week the Symposium on Maternal Health has issued a two page summary of research findings which prove that Chile saw the number of maternal deaths continue to fall after abortion was banned in this country. The Symposium has made this research – carried out by top researcher Professor Elard Koch – available to politicians and to medical professionals. Please take a moment to read and share.