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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Drew Belsky

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2016 candidates react to the Supreme Court’s marriage decision

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Five days after the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision mandating the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, most of the 2016 presidential candidates have made their opinions on the issue known.

While all of the Democrats currently in the race aggressively supported the ruling, the Republicans' reactions to the Supreme Court's marriage ruling have been more varied.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, criticized the Obergefell decision, calling it "a grave mistake." Walker suggested that "the only alternative" to Friday's decision is "to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage."

Texas senator Ted Cruz has doubled down on Walker's call for a constitutional amendment. Not only is Cruz seeking an amendment to protect states' right to define marriage, but he also hopes to amend the Constitution to demand "periodic judicial retention elections" for Supreme Court justices – namely, Cruz said, for those who "overstep their bounds [and] violate the Constitution."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shied away from a constitutional marriage amendment. "Guided by my faith," Bush said in a statement, "I believe in traditional marriage." However, "in a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."

Florida senator Marco Rubio agreed with Bush, exhorting Republicans to "look ahead" and concentrate on the nomination process for new judges. Likewise with Ohio governor John Kasich, who said on Face the Nation that "it's time to move on" and "take a deep breath."

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Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina concurred. While "I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage," Fiorina said, "[m]oving forward...all of our effort should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience."

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham forthrightly condemned a constitutional marriage amendment as "a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail." Graham told NBC News, "I would not engage in the Constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the Court's ruling. Fight for the religious liberties of every American."

Libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wrote in Time Magazine that the federal government should remove itself completely from the marriage issue. "Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not Washington, D.C.," Paul wrote.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal "strongly disagree[s]" with the Obergefell ruling, but he admitted on Sunday that his state would ultimately comply with the Supreme Court's decision. "We do not have a choice."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went one step farther. While he "agree[s] with Chief Justice John Roberts" that "this is something that should be decided by the people, and not ... five lawyers," the governor admitted that "those five lawyers get to impose it under our system, and so our job is going to be to support the law of the land[.]"

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum foresees a widespread silencing of those who dissent from the Supreme Court's interpretation of marriage. "There's no slippery slope here," Santorum told the Family Research Council Friday; "religious liberty is under assault today – not going to be, it is – and it's going to be even more so ... with this decision."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee expressed similar sentiments, excoriating the Supreme Court for flouting millions of Americans who voted to affirm "the laws of nature." Huckabee said on Friday, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."

On the other end of the spectrum, former Democratic Maryland governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley contended that it is homosexuals, not religious objectors to the Obergefell decision, who need more protections from the state.

Calling the ruling a "major step forward," O'Malley proceeded to demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that criminalizes "discrimination" based on an "individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." Opponents worry it would force religious employers to hire homosexuals and transgender people.

Passing ENDA, O'Malley said, would help "more fully realize the vision of an open, respectful, and inclusive nation that Friday's decision aspires us [sic] to be."

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Drew Belsky

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Obama Department of Justice to Virginia school: Let girl use boys’ bathrooms

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The Obama administration's Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a "statement of interest" Monday in support of a Virginia high school sophomore who is seeking to use bathrooms designated for members of the opposite sex.

In June 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Gloucester County School Board on behalf of 15-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is biologically female but wants to use male bathrooms and locker rooms.

Grimm claimed that she had used such facilities without incident for seven weeks until December 2014, when the school board enacted a policy requiring "transgender" students to use private restrooms.

Grimm testified in early 2015 that "[n]ow that the board has passed this policy, school no longer feels as safe and welcoming as it did before[.] ... Being singled out is a glaring reminder of my differences and causes me significant discomfort every time I have to use the restroom."

The Obama administration declared in May 2014 that sex discrimination under Title IX applies to those who identify as "transgender."  The Department of Education followed up last December by ordering federally funded schools to classify students based on "gender identity" rather than biological sex.

Regardless, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews in June of this year that Grimm's and the ACLU's discrimination claims would not hold water.  Citing a district court case in Pennsylvania, Tedesco noted (emphasis in original) that "[t]he Court ... highlighted that Title IX's implementing regulations state that schools do not violate Title IX when they 'provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.'"

Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, is a statute that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity."

"Every court to consider this issue has held that single-sex restrooms and locker room facilities are permitted under Title IX," Tedesco concluded.

Now, according to the DoJ's "statement of interest" in support of Grimm, filed this week, "[t]he United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination and that the proper legal standards are applied to claims under Title IX" (p. 2, all citations omitted).  Per the DoJ, Grimm "is likely to succeed on the merits" of her Title IX claim, and "it is in the public interest to allow [Grimm] ... to use the male restrooms at Gloucester High School."

Regarding the Pennsylvania case mentioned by Tedesco, the DoJ claims that "[t]he district court's reasoning in that case was faulty and should not be followed."

One Gloucester County School Board member who voted against the December bathroom policy fretted that "federal dollars are at stake." Her concern was well-founded: five months later, the Obama administration threatened to deny Virginia's Fairfax County School Board $42 million in federal funding if the board refused to change its own bathroom protocols.  The Fairfax board ruled in May – over the strenuous objections of parents in attendance – that "transgender" students could use facilities in accordance with their "gender identity."

"Although certain parents and community members may object to students sharing a common use restroom with transgender students," the DoJ declared in its brief for Grimm, "any recognition of this discomfort as a basis for discriminating would undermine the public interest."

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Lisa Bourne

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Girl Scouts returns $100,000 donation over transgender stipulation

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - An unusual request from a major donor to a regional branch of the U.S. Girl Scouts has drawn attention to the organization’s ongoing support for gender ideology and transgender issues. 

Girl Scouts of Western Washington CEO Megan Ferland revealed last week that the council had recently received a donation for $100,000. However, after the Girl Scouts’ practice of allowing boys who identify as girls to join the Scouts hit the news during the media’s coverage of the Bruce Jenner case, Ferland says she received a note from the donor putting a condition on the donation.

“Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls,” the donor reportedly asked. “If you can’t, please return the money.”

In the end, Ferland said she chose to give the $100,000 - what could have comprised nearly a fourth of the council’s annual fundraising goal - back to the donor.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” Ferland stated in a report from SeattleMet.com. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

In the meantime, the council used the publicity over the refused donation to launch a social fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, a social fundraising site. The #ForEVERYGirl has far exceeded its goal, raising over $300,000 for the group in just three days.

"Our vision at Girl Scouts of Western Washington is that EVERY girl in our region—regardless of her race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location—is empowered to unleash her potential, build her future and transform her world," states the campaign.

This is not the first time that Ferland has been involved in a controversy over the Scouts’ support for transgenderism.

When a boy self-identifying as a girl attempted to join a Colorado Girl Scout troop in 2011 and was initially refused by the leader because of his male gender, Ferland, then head of the Colorado council, issued a statement welcoming boys identifying as girls, and saying efforts were in progress to find the boy a troop. The council also renounced the troop leader’s actions in refusing the boy access.

“Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’” Ferland stated at the time. “And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.” 

Western Washington Girl Scouts current program brochures show that gender ideology is woven right into the council’s programming for girls, with promotion found right in the council’s workshops:

SafeZone for Girl Scouts Sat, May 23, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tacoma Learn how you can become an ally and advocate for your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) peers. Includes activities and discussion around: inclusive language, the process of coming out, the power of the straight ally, how to respond to homophobic/trans-phobic incidents, where to go for help and much more. Bring lunch.

Girl Scouts and radical feminism

For years, pro-family leaders have raised alarms about partnerships and programs that indicate that the Girl Scouts have moved toward embracing a radical feminist identity.

As far back as 2004 a U.S Catholic Bishop intervened when a Girl Scout-Planned Parenthood partnership threatened young girls. 

Then-Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond warned local Catholics not to sign their children up for Planned Parenthood’s “Nobody’s Fool,” a sex-ed campaign designed for pre-pubescent children which had been integrated into the local Girl Scouts.

A survey, also from 2004, found that many Girl Scouts councils were partnering with Planned Parenthoood in some fashion. 

In 2010 the Girl Scouts were found to be pushing a radical agenda on its young members with Planned Parenthood given access to distribute an explicit ‘sex guide’ at a closed-door, no-adults-welcome meeting at the UN sponsored by the Girl Scouts.

Lincoln, Nebraska Bishop James Conley warned in 2011 as auxiliary bishop of Denver that involvement in the Girl Scouts could serve to make girls more open to the pro-abortion agenda.

Roughly 90 Girl Scouts of Northern California members and their families marched in San Francisco’s 2013 Gay Pride Parade. 

"The San Francisco Girl Scouts participate in many parades that celebrate the diversity of San Francisco," Girl Scouts of Northern California Communications Manager Dana Allen told LifeSiteNews at the time. "Girl Scouts is inclusive and reflects the communities we serve."

A sexuality-based Girl Scout troop was started earlier this year in Utah aimed at gay and lesbian families and boys who consider themselves “transgender.” It meets at the Utah Pride Center.

"As long as a youth identifies as a girl or with girls, even if they are genderfluid on the day that they registered, then they can become a Girl Scout," Shari Solomon-Klebba, the Utah Girl Scout outreach coordinator, and an open lesbian who started the troop, told a local news station at the time.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged caution last year in engaging with the Girl Scouts after conducting a two-year examination of the scouts. That study identified concerns about several Girl Scouts USA policies, affiliations and structural weaknesses.

Girl Scout alternatives

The representatives of two organizations for girls frequently considered a Christ-centered alternative to the Girls Scouts told LifeSiteNews this latest incident with the Western Washington Scouts underscores the need for other options for families and their children.

“There has been a huge cultural shift in redefining life-long truths that have many families carefully considering their youth program options. American Heritage Girls has often been regarded as a Christian-based alternative to the Girl Scouts,” American Heritage Girls National Communications Specialist Jennifer Troutman said.

American Heritage Girls marked its 20th anniversary this past week. There are more than 40,000 members within the organization.

“Now more than ever American Heritage Girls recognizes the importance of bringing Christ-centered, character development programming to girls across the nation.”  

The head of Little Flowers Girls’ Club concurred.

“I feel very blessed that we can offer an authentically Catholic alternative to Girl Scouts,” Joan Stromberg told LifeSiteNews.

Little Flowers started over 20 years ago, not as a reaction against what Girl Scouts were doing, or where they are now, Stromberg said, but as a way to help moms and girls bond together to learn about the world through a Catholic lens.

“It is sad that Girl Scouts policies and positions have put them in direct conflict with Church teachings,” Stromberg continued. “I am just pleased that girls and moms have alternative places like Little Flowers where they can go.”

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