Denise J. Hunnell, MD

Contrary to the Guttmacher Institute’s shoddy data, abortion does not improve women’s health

Denise J. Hunnell, MD
By Denise Hunnell MD
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May 31, 2012 (HLIAmerica.org) - When the United States House of Representatives debated the Protect Life Act, a bill meant to ensure that no taxpayer money would fund abortions, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi proclaimed that passage of the bill would leave American women “dying on the floor” of American hospitals. Similarly expressing a concern for “women’s health,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently called on the United Nations Commission on Population and Development to endorse unfettered access to abortion for teenagers and even younger adolescents. In Trinidad, Minister of Gender, Youth, and Child Development Verna St. Rose Greaves called for the legalization of abortion in Trinidad because of public health concerns.

Clearly there is a widespread perception that optimal reproductive health for women includes access to abortion. Yet, where is the data that supports this view? Is this just another manufactured claim by the abortion industry to justify the inclusion of abortion in health care?

The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research organization founded by Planned Parenthood, tried to bolster this position with a report on abortions in Colombia. This publication claimed that there were over 400,000 clandestine abortions annually in Colombia and at least one-third of these cases had significant medical complications. Their conclusions called for increased abortion ‘services’ in Colombia:

The study’s findings make clear the need to remove institutional and bureaucratic obstacles for women seeking a legal procedure and ensure that health facilities with the capacity and mandate to provide safe and legal procedures do so,” says Cristina Villareal, director of Fundación Oriéntame and a coauthor of the report. “Six out of 10 health facilities in Colombia that have the capacity to provide postabortion care do not provide it, and about nine out of every 10 of these facilities do not offer legal abortion services.

While this study appears and claims to support the view that ready access to legal abortion improves women’s health, a just released study by Dr. Elard Koch of Chile refutes this Guttmacher Institute report. Review of the methods for the calculation of clandestine abortions in Colombia reveal that the Guttmacher Institute relied on the opinions of health care workers to estimate the number of abortion procedures and complication rates.

In other words, there was no objective data. The translated abstract of Dr. Koch’s article published in Ginecologia y Obstetricia de Mexico states:

There is no objective data based on real vital events, the whole estimate is based on imaginary numbers underlying mere opinions. Even as a public opinion survey, the sampling technique introduced serious selection bias in the gathering of information. Valid epidemiological methods using standardized rates, choosing the paradigmatic cases of Chile and Spain as standard populations, it was observed that Guttmacher Institute methodology overestimates more than 9 times the complications due to induced abortion in hospital discharges and more than 18 times the total number of induced abortions. In other Latin American countries where the same methodology was applied including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic, the number of induced abortions was also largely overestimated. These results call for caution with this type of reports that alarm public opinion.

Instead of relying on guesses and subjective opinions, one can actually assess the effect of abortion on women’s reproductive health by analyzing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR), a widely accepted indicator of women’s health. If abortion were truly critical for the well-being of mothers, one would expect the maternal mortality rate to decrease with increased abortion availability and to increase as abortion is restricted.

Chile provides a natural laboratory for such an analysis. The country has kept extensive and detailed records of maternal morbidity and mortality for over fifty years. In addition, the country has implemented several distinct interventions including increasing skilled medical attendants for births, increasing the education of women, increasing the sanitation and overall level of care at medical facilities, and perhaps most significant for this discussion, the prohibition of abortion. The trends of the maternal mortality ratio can be evaluated both before and after each of these initiatives.

A recently published collaborative study by scientists from both the United States and Chile have used this objective data to demonstrate the effects of improved medical care, increased education of women, and abortion on maternal mortality. Their findings should provide the scientifically-based guidance needed to reduce maternal mortality in all developing countries.

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The overall maternal mortality ratio in Chile from 1957 through 2007 decreased from 270 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 18.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is a decrease of 93.7%. The steepest declines were between the years 1965 and 1981. In 1965 Chile mandated a minimum of eight years of free education for all children. This resulted in the increase in the average years of schooling for women from 3.1 years in 1957 to 12 years in 2007. In addition, Chile markedly increased the percentage of deliveries that were aided by skilled medical attendants from 60.8% in 1957 to over 90% by 1980. By 1999, over 99% of births occurred in hospitals or maternity centers.

After 1981, the downward trend in maternal mortality continued, but the rate of decrease slowed. This is accounted for by the increasing number of women who delivered their first child over the age of 29. As Chilean women became more educated they delayed child bearing. This increased the number of maternal deaths due to underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

What happened to the maternal mortality trend after 1989 when Chile outlawed abortion? The Guttmacher Institute, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Nancy Pelosi would like us to believe that this move sent the rate of maternal deaths soaring. Instead, we saw the opposite: The truth is there was absolutely no such effect. In fact, the downward trend in maternal mortality continued with a decrease from 41.3 to 12.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. That is a 69% decrease in maternal mortality after the ban on abortion took effect.

The Guttmacher Institute calls into question the validity of the Chilean study by speculating that there is underreporting of abortion-related morbidity and mortality, but provide no evidence of such reporting errors. The authors of the Chilean study, however, have already addressed these concerns in their published article:

Considering the strict protocol for active epidemiological surveillance on maternal and infant mortality registry implemented in the early 1930s, it is unlikely that the observed reduction could be explained by unobserved illegal abortion deaths or misclassification for other causes. Currently any maternal death occurring in Chile is audited by the sanitary authority revising the clinical registries, interviewing the relatives, and the medical personnel under strict confidentiality rules for determining the primary cause of death.

This analysis of the Chilean experience provides persuasive evidence that the key to improving women’s reproductive health begins with improved education. Women must also have access to skilled birth attendants and well-equipped and sanitary birthing centers. The Chilean study raises serious questions about the claims by government officials and other abortion advocates who say that abortion is a critical component of quality medical care for women. Initiatives that promote abortion for the health and well-being of women increasingly appear to be motivated by ideology and based on something other than science.

Denise Hunnell, MD, is a Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. She writes for HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum. This article appeared on Zenit.org and is reprinted with permission.

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 7, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Rand Paul backs use of abortion-inducing drug as ‘birth control’

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By Ben Johnson

Rand Paul has said he had no objection to using the morning after pill as a form of “birth control.”

The junior U.S. senator from Kentucky and likely 2016 presidential hopeful responded to a question on the topic yesterday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

A woman asked, “If life starts at conception, should medicine that prevents conception like Plan B be legal?"

Paul replied, "I am not opposed to birth control, That's basically what Plan B is.”

“Plan B is taking two birth control pills in the morning and two in the evening, and I am not opposed to that,” he continued.

After the event, he seemed to tie his remarks to the Republican plan to embrace birth control on the campaign stump. "Plan B is taking birth control,” he elaborated. “I am not against birth control, and I don't know many Republicans who would be indicating that they are against birth control.”

But abundant evidence shows Plan B may work to prevent a newly conceived baby from implanting in the uterus, causing an early abortion.

As a doctor, "Rand Paul likely knows that the most likely effect of the high-dose Levonorgestrel-only contraceptive 'Plan B' is abortifacient,” Krista Thomas, communications manager of Human Life International (HLI) told LifeSiteNews. “Though it also has potential effects of thickening of the cervical mucus and prevention of ovulation, let’s face it, this drug is designed to be taken after sex, so the likelihood of these effects stopping pregnancy is very low.”

“Early abortions are its primary, and perhaps only, effect,” she said.

One of the world's leading authorities on the morning after pill – Dr. James Trussell, the director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research – has said that women must be told of the potential for abortion as part of ethical treatment. “To make an informed choice, women must know that [emergency contraceptive pills]…prevent pregnancy primarily by delaying or inhibiting ovulation and inhibiting fertilization, but may at times inhibit implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium,” he wrote.

That was further confirmed by a 2014 report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute that found all forms of emergency contraception, as well as the IUD, can cause an early abortion.

Instead, Thomas said the abortion industry has muddied the waters about the impact and effect of so-called “emergency contraception,” like Plan B.

“The abortion industry giants including Planned Parenthood have done an incredible job misrepresenting what these hormonal contraceptive devices and drugs really do to unborn babies at their earliest stage, and also how destructive these are for women’s health,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Paul's comments in the early Republican primary state came just days after a poor showing in the annual Values Voters Summit straw poll, where Paul tied for fifth place with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

But Thomas told LifeSiteNews that embracing abortion-inducing drugs is wrong morally and politically.

“It would probably be a better long term strategy for those who feel threatened by the nonsensical 'war on women' charge to go on offense and ask why” the abortion lobby is so “condescending towards women and uncaring about their health.”

Millions of women, she said, “really don’t appreciate being reduced to” the single issues of abortion and contraception access, “and we are not being heard from right now.”

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Paul worked with the National Pro-Life Alliance to introduce the Life at Conception Act into the Senate last March. Later that month, he appeared to foresee “thousands of exceptions” to any pro-life law that would pass, a statement his office later clarified with LifeSiteNews.

He has also said that traditional marriage is not a defining issue for Republicans, and members of the GOP can “agree to disagree.”

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Cancer-stricken mother foregoes lifesaving treatment to save her unborn daughter (Video)

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By Ben Johnson
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Ashley Bridges seemed to be living a dream when she met her fiance, Jonathon, and he proposed last fall. The couple soon learned they would be having a baby. Ashley's only complaint was persistent knee pain that got worse as time went on.

Then she got the news that would change her life: At 10 weeks pregnant, she learned she had a three centimeter tumor in her femur that would require surgery and chemotherapy.

The treatment, she was told, would require an abortion.

“There’s no way I could kill a healthy baby because I’m sick,” Bridges, 24, told the Los Angeles CBS affiliate KCAL.

Doctors found the tumor grew to 10 centimeters within two months, yet Bridges refused a full course of treatment to give her baby – whom she learned was a girl – the best chance at survival. She had a knee replacement to take out the tumor, which filled four inches of her femur.

At eight months, her doctors insisted she deliver her girl and begin chemotherapy. “That’s basically when they told me that it was terminal,” she said.

Doctors gave her one year to live, news that crushed her five-year-old son, Braiden.

But her daughter, Paisley, was born safe and healthy.

The whole family helps out in their Wildomar, California, home. Jonathon, who is in the military, works nights so he can be home with the child during the day.

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“The thought that I’m not going to see her grow up is really hard,” Ashley said.

Still, she has no regrets. “Maybe I’m not supposed to be here and she is,” she added.

Ashley began aggressive treatment, lost her hair, but seems to have had some success in stopping the spread of the cancer. She said that on September 27 her doctor told her that her cancer “hasn't spread to my legs like we thought and the [tumors] in my head haven't grown and the one that was causing me to blind seems completely gone. The ones in my hips and lower spine have grown so little there really isn't a difference!!!!”

“I'm crying, I'm so happy,” she wrote. “Thank God.”

The family has a GiveForward account to help cover their expenses. Already, she has raised $32,000 – some $12,000 more than her goal. You may donate here.

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I'm not afraid of being on the “wrong side of history” on gay “marriage”; I've been there before. I spent the first part of my life being told that the global triumph of Communism was “inevitable.”
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I make no apologies for being on ‘the wrong side of history’

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By Ben Johnson

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Among the stratagems employed by the cultural Left to discourage, dispirit, and dissuade the plurality of culturally sane Americans from opposing same-sex “marriage” is the all-encompassing insistence that the fight has already been lost. The phrase of choice is that proponents of traditional marriage are on “the wrong side of history.”

With at least 5,000 years of Western civilization normalizing monogamous heterosexual marriage, and the American experiment with redefining marriage a mere 10 years old, it certainly seems like I'm on the right side of history – the long one...the one authenticated by every society that produced human flourishing. 

But frankly, I'm not afraid of being on the “wrong side of history”; I've been there before.

I spent the first part of my life being told that the global triumph of Communism was “inevitable.”

According to Marxist apologists, the irreversible tide of Marxism was an historic and “scientific” reality. Karl Marx had devised a theory known as “Dialectical Materialism,” which claimed that all societies in history followed a predictable pattern resulting from the conflict between exploited workers (the proletariat) and their exploiters (the bourgeoisie). This interaction transformed primitive societies into feudal ones, then into capitalist nations, and ultimately, into communist utopias. The theory “proved” that mankind would evolve into the New Soviet Man.

This is the genesis of the political term “progressive” – progressives embraced policies that would “progress” society toward this evolutionary inevitability. Those who opposed socialism were branded “reactionaries” bitterly clinging to the past, who rejected modernity and wanted to “turn back the clock.” (Sound familiar?)

This historical arrogance was expressed in the 1961 Draft Platform of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which said, “[T]he epoch-making turn of mankind from capitalism to socialism, initiated by the October Revolution, is a natural result of the development of society...and it will be taken sooner or later by all peoples.”

So fervently did all Western intellectuals believe this idea that, when he exposed a Communist spy ring in 1948, Whittaker Chambers told Congress, “I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.”

Who could argue? Within one generation, Communism went from a beachhead in one nation to a worldwide empire of 17 established socialist nations encompassing more than one-third of the world's population. Marxists ruled national capitals from North Korea to Nicaragua and Vietnam to Zimbabwe, with Communist armies fighting from Chile to Guatemala.

In the 1980s, Marxist insurgencies seemed destined to sweep norte through Central America to the very borders of the United States. This view seeped into popular culture through such dystopian productions as Red Dawn, Invasion USA, and Amerika, which aired just two years before the Berlin Wall was torn down.

Until the very end, Communism's victory, its crushing and obliteration of all opposition, seemed certain.

The threat posed by Communism dwarfed anything presented by abortion, redefining marriage, and any other social issue combined. Marxism did not squeeze public prayer out of schools; it formally taught atheism and socialist ideology to children, dynamited churches, and murdered anyone who publicly proclaimed the existence of a God higher than the State. It did not seek to redefine marriage but to abolish the family, with all women held in common and all children raised by the State. Its promotion of abortion led to the greatest death toll of unborn children in world history. It did not seize tax files or intercept the e-mails of its political opponents; its all-seeing totalitarian apparatus herded them into forced labor camps where death was preferable to unthinkable torture. One of its former fellow-travellers, George Orwell, described a Communist future as “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Those condemned to live under its reign of terror prevailed only because of their determination never to give up, their firm resolution to hold the line against the Bolsheviks wherever possible, and their tenacity in keeping their faith and the truth alive amongst themselves, especially through the samizdat press.

At the core of Communism's failure was the fact that it was built on a lie that fewer and fewer people were willing to humor, even under threat of execution. The toppling and killing of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu began during one of his interminable speeches, when one woman in the crowd yelled out, “Liar!” Soon, the crowd picked up the chant and chased him from power, ultimately sending him to his eternal reward.

Still, the tactic of presenting your extremist version of reality as inevitable – and ruthlessly crushing all opposition – won much of the world for much of the Twentieth Century. No sooner were these assertions disproved than were the exact same terms and arguments transferred from the economic realm into the cultural front. Communists learned that human beings won't give up their creature comforts for a workers' paradise – but they will cling to their sexual indulgences unto the death. They saw they could use this weakness to undermine the family, the Church, and any other intermediary institution that could stop the onslaught of the mammoth State.

Thus, their mantra that cultural devolution is “inevitable.” Their message to Christians is a mockery of a hymn: “The Strife is O'er, the Battle Lost.”

They are right, in a sense; history is rushing to its predetermined conclusion. That is the eternal reign of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, thronged by His saints and angels who shall sing His endless praises forever. First, the world must pass through the dark night brought on by the Fall, the intense warfare between love and hate, and every act of cruelty, cupidity, and inhumanity preceding the Parousia.

The “progressives” are right that they are part of a grand historical drama but 180-degrees wrong about its ultimate outcome. They are progressing toward futility, destruction, and perdition.

But before Christ the King reigns, darkness must reach its apogee.

It may be that in the Left's cultural conquest of marriage, we are closer to 1917 than 1989, that a cocksure, opaque, malicious spirit is inexorably advancing rather than retreating. Those who defend the superiority of the natural family face social, economic, and (increasingly) legal censure. We have only the truth of science, human development, and children's social well-being on our side. And we must never tire of repeating it, whatever the outcome. But it is not hard to imagine that the worst is yet before us.

Where we stand in the mystery of iniquity and redemption is known only to their Master. But we may take to heart the words of the famed dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who lived to see the fall of the Gulag Archipelago that once imprisoned him: “One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” And the words of another, greater Authority: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

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