LONDON, UK, January 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A United Nations World Health Organization report published today in The Lancet claiming to show that unsafe (read illegal) abortion rates have risen by 5% between 1995 and 2008 with a resulting increase in maternal mortality have been called “dubious” by a leading pro-life organization.

John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said, “A claim published today in The Lancet that so-called ‘unsafe’ - usually illegal - abortions worldwide have risen by 5% is dubious,” and that “researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO) and other commentators in The Lancet are using the figure to argue that so-called ‘safe’ abortion should be legalized worldwide.”

“The WHO routinely makes unsubstantiated claims about so-called ‘unsafe’ or illegal abortion,” Smeaton observed. “WHO is one of the world’s major pro-abortion bodies. The Guttmacher Institute is the research arm of the worldwide pro-abortion lobby. The report is pro-abortion propaganda, and should be dismissed as such.”

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The Lancet quotes Professor Beverly Winikoff, from the New York based abortion advocacy group Gynuity, to say “Unsafe abortion is one of the five major contributors to maternal mortality, causing one in every seven or eight maternal deaths in 2008. Yet, when abortion is provided with proper medical techniques and care, the risk of death is negligible and nearly 14 times lower than that of childbirth.”

However, a study published in The Lancet in 2010 shows that maternal mortality rates have been significantly overestimated by United Nations agencies due to a lack of proper reporting and also imprecise statistical modeling.

While the current Lancet report focuses on implementing “safe” abortion in third-world countries as the way to decrease maternal deaths, the 2010 Lancet report stated that progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality in developing countries, due to declining pregnancy rates in some countries, higher per capita income, higher education rates for women, and increasing availability of basic medical care including “skilled birth attendants.”

The 2010 Lancet report also noted that researchers were surprised that three of the richest countries in the world actually showed increased maternal mortality; the United States, Canada and Norway - three countries with the most liberal abortion laws in the world.

“Promoters of legal abortion have a proven track-record of making wildly exaggerated claims about the number of so-called ‘unsafe’ or illegal abortions,” Mr. Smeaton remarked. “Such false claims were made in 1967 to lobby for the UK’s Abortion Act and in the 1970s to justify the US’s Roe v Wade decision. The late Dr Bernard Nathanson, the US abortion pioneer who became pro-life, admitted that he deliberately exaggerated the estimated number of illegal abortions five-fold when campaigning for abortion legalization.”

Statistics prove that countries where abortion is illegal have among the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world.

Poland, which banned abortion 20 years ago, after communism fell, has seen maternal deaths drop by more than 40 per cent, while maternal mortality rate in El Salvador dropped by half after abortion was re-criminalized in 1998.

According to a 2009 World Health Organization report, Mauritius boasts the lowest maternal mortality on the African continent, while also being one of the most protective of the unborn. The same WHO report showed that countries such as Ethiopia, which have been pressured to legalize abortion, have not been successful in reducing maternal death. In fact, Ethiopia’s rate is 48 times greater than that of Mauritius.

South Africa, which has had one of the most permissive abortion laws in Africa since 1996, saw maternal deaths increase twenty percent from 2005-2007. International Planned Parenthood Federation has acknowledged that part of this “surge” is “due to complications of abortion,” even though abortion is legal and therefore presumably “safe.”

WHO statistics for the South East Asia region show Nepal, where there is no restriction on the procedure, has the region’s highest rate of maternal mortality. The lowest in the region is Sri Lanka, with a rate fourteen times lower than that of Nepal. According to the pro-abortion public interest law firm Center for Reproductive Rights, Sri Lanka has among the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.

Similarly, WHO statistics for South America show that Chile has the lowest rate of maternal mortality, whereas Guyana, which significantly liberalized its laws in the mid-1990s citing concern over maternal deaths, has the highest. Chile protects unborn life in its penal laws and constitution, and has seen the maternal mortality rate decline from 275 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1960 to 18.7 deaths in 2000, the largest reduction in any Latin country.

“The truth is that countries with strict laws against abortion have lower maternal death rates than countries which allow abortion widely,” Mr. Smeaton concluded. “Ireland, where abortion is banned, has one of the world’s best maternal health records. Legalized abortion does nothing to improve medical care.”

An abstract with link to the full text of the Lancet report titled “Induced abortion: incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008” is available here.