WASHINGTON, D.C., January 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A study by family planning advocates concluding that abortion is safer for women than carrying a child to term has been sharply criticized by doctors who say the years-old claim has been debunked by data on the long-term effects of abortion.

Dr. Elizabeth Raymond from Gynuity Health Projects in New York City and Dr. David Grimes of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, published the study in the February 2012 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, examining estimated mortality rates associated with live births and induced abortions in the United States between 1998–2005. The data, taken from the Center for Disease Control and the Planned Parenthood-funded Guttmacher Institute, found 8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, versus 0.6 deaths per 100,000 abortions.

Raymond and Grimes are associated with Family Health International, a leading pro-abortion international family planning group, and both have lobbied for distribution of the abortifacient Plan B pill without a prescription in America.

A Reuters article on the study linked by the Drudge Report this week quoted an OB-GYN student at Columbia University Medical Center in New York defending the study against outlandish criticisms.

“We wouldn’t tell people, ‘Don’t have a baby because it’s safer to have an abortion’—that’s ridiculous,” Dr. Anne Davis told Reuters Health. “We’re trying to help women who are having all reproductive experiences know what to expect.”

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But several pro-life doctors say that, because it fails to include the long-term adverse effects of abortions, the years-old claim that abortion’s mortality rate is lower misrepresents the overall effects of abortion on women versus bringing a child to term.

“[Abortion] is not safe when you look into the long term,” Dr. Mary Davenport, president of the American Association of Pro-Life OB/GYNs, told LifeSiteNews.com. “They were only talking about immediate death. If you do the math, there is a much higher rate of risk-taking behaviors,” including suicide attempts and substance abuse, said Davenport.

Microbiologist and bioethics commentator Gerard Nadal told LSN that such data fails to account for the physical damage often sustained by women during abortions, including damage to reproductive organs that has been strongly linked to subsequent pregnancy complications or even sterility. Meanwhile, he said, abortion’s link to increased risk of breast cancer, and childbirth’s protective effect against cancer, is ignored.

Another OB/GYN, Dr. Matt Phillips of CEC For Life, agreed, saying the study’s claim is “at least 20 years old” and based on skewed information. “You can make the numbers look any way you want to make them,” he said.

Patrick Carr of Family & Life of Ireland noted that countries where abortion is illegal, such as Ireland, routinely have the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, while areas with liberal abortion laws such as South Africa top the maternal mortality charts.

Those who minister to post-abortive women also say that the study fails to reflect the real-life consequences of abortion.

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, which oversees the Rachel’s Vineyard Ministry and the Silent No More Campaign, called the study’s conclusion an “outdated myth.”

“The dangerous effects of abortion have yet to be fully measured,” Pavone told LifeSiteNews.com. Experience with post-abortive women, he said, “shows that it is often only years or decades later that the harm abortion causes a woman becomes evident, or that the link of that harm with abortion becomes known.”