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

May 31, 2012 ( - 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 and is reprinted with permission.

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Pelosi asked: Is unborn baby with human heart a ‘human being’? Responds: ‘I am a devout Catholic’

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By Dustin Siggins

Tell Nancy Pelosi: No, supporting abortion and gay 'marriage' is not Catholic. Sign the petition. Click here.

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, won't say whether an unborn child with a “human heart” and a “human liver” is a human being.

Pelosi, who is the Minority Leader in the House, was asked a question about the issue by CNS News at a press conference last week. The conservative news outlet asked, "In reference to funding for Planned Parenthood: Is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?”

Pelosi stumbled over her answer, saying, “Why don't you take your ideological questions--I don't, I don't have—”

CNS then asked her, "If it's not a human being, what species is it?”

It was then that Pelosi got back on stride, swatting aside the question with her accustomed reference to her “devout” Catholic faith.

“No, listen, I want to say something to you,” she said. “I don't know who you are and you're welcome to be here, freedom of this press. I am a devout practicing Catholic, a mother of five children. When my baby was born, my fifth child, my oldest child was six years old. I think I know more about this subject than you, with all due respect.”

“So it's not a human being, then?” pressed CNS, to which Pelosi said, “And I do not intend to respond to your questions, which have no basis in what public policy is that we do here.”

Pelosi has long used her self-proclaimed status as a “devout” practicing Catholic to promote abortion.

In response to a reporter’s question a proposed ban on late-term abortion in 2013, Pelosi said that the issue of late-term abortion is "sacred ground" for her.

"As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this," Pelosi said. "This shouldn't have anything to do with politics."

In 2008, she was asked by then-Meet the Press host David Gregory about when life begins. Pelosi said that "as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue I have studied for a long time. And what I know is that over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition....We don't know."

The Church has always taught that unborn human life is to be protected, and that such life is created at the moment of conception.

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New video: Planned Parenthood abortionist jokes about harvesting baby’s brains, getting ‘intact’ head

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By Ben Johnson

I interviewed my friend, David Daleiden, about his important work exposing Planned Parenthood's baby body parts trade on the Glenn Beck Program. David urged Congress to hold Planned Parenthood accountable and to demand the full truth. He also released never-before-seen footage showing a Planned Parenthood abortionist callously discussing how to obtain an intact brain from aborted babies.

Posted by Lila Rose on Monday, October 5, 2015


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WASHINGTON, D.C., October 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - In the newest video footage released by the Center for Medical Progress, a Planned Parenthood abortionist laughs as she discusses her hope of removing the intact "calvarium," or skull, of an unborn baby while preserving both lobes of the brain.

She also describes how she first dismembers babies up to twenty weeks gestation, including two twenty-week babies she said she aborted the week before.

Dr. Amna Dermish, an abortionist with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, told undercover investigators she had never been able to remove the calivarium (skull) of an aborted child "intact," but she hopes to.

"Maybe next time," the investigator said.

"I know, right?" Dr. Dermish replied. "Well, this'll give me something to strive for."

Dermish, who performs abortions up to the 20-week legal limit in Austin, then described the method she used to collect fetal brain and skull specimens.

"If it’s a breech presentation [in which the baby is born feet first] I will remove the extremities first - the lower extremities - and then go for the spine," she began.

She then slides the baby down the birth canal until she can snip the spinal cord.

The buyer noted that intact organs fetch higher prices from potential buyers, who seek them for experimentation.

"I always try to keep the trunk intact," she said.

"I don't routinely convert to breech, but I will if I have to," she added.

Converting a child to the breech position is the first step of the partial birth abortion procedure. The procedure has been illegal since President Bush signed legislation in 2003 making it a federal felony punishable by two years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

According to CMP lead investigator David Daleiden, who debuted the video footage during an interview with Lila Rose on The Blaze TV, Dr. Dermish was trained by Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola.

Dr. Nucatola was caught on the first CMP undercover video, discussing the side industry while eating a salad and drinking red wine during a business luncheon.

Between sips, she described an abortion process that legal experts believe is a partial birth abortion, violating federal law.

“The federal abortion ban is a law, and laws are up to interpretation,” Dr. Nucatola said on the undercover footage. “So, if I say on day one that I don't intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn't matter.”

Daleiden told Rose he hoped that Congressional investigators would continue to pressure the organization about whether the abortion technique it uses violates federal law, as well as the $60-per-specimen fee the national organization has admitted some of its affiliates receive.

Trafficking in human body parts for "valuable consideration" is also a federal felony carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

"That would be enough to construct a criminal case against Planned Parenthood," Daleiden said.

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Nancy Flanders


He used to be an abortionist; now, he fights to save the lives of the preborn

Nancy Flanders
By Nancy Flanders

October 5, 2015 (LiveActionNews) -- In 1976, Dr. Anthony Levatino, an OB/GYN, graduated from medical school and was, without a doubt, pro-abortion. He strongly supported abortion “rights” and believed abortion was a decision to be made between a woman and her doctor.

“A lot of people identify themselves as pro-life or pro-choice, but for so many people, it doesn’t really touch them personally; it doesn’t impact their lives in the way that I wish it would. If nothing more than in the voting booth, if nowhere else,” said Levatino in a speech for the Pro-Life Action League. “But when you’re an obstetrician / gynecologist and you say I’m pro-choice – well, that becomes rather a more personal thing because you’re the one who does the abortions and you have to make the decision of whether you’ll do that or not.”

Levatino learned how to do first and second trimester abortions. Thirty to forty years ago, second trimester abortions were done by saline injection, which was dangerous.

"For the first time in my life, after all those years, all those abortions, I really looked, I mean I really looked at that pile of goo on the side of the table that used to be somebody’s son or daughter and that’s all I could see."

At that same time, Levatino and his wife were struggling with fertility problems and were considering adoption. They knew however, how difficult it was to adopt a newborn.

“It was the first time that I had any doubts about what I was doing because I knew very well that part of the reason why it’s difficult to find children to adopt were that doctors like me were killing them in abortions,” said Levatino.

Finally, in 1978, the couple adopted their daughter, Heather. Right after the adoption, they discovered they were expecting a baby, and their son was born just 10 months later.

Levatino describes a “perfectly happy” life at this time and says that despite those first qualms about abortion, he went right back to work performing them.

In 1981, after graduating from his residency, Levatino joined an OB/GYN practice which also offered abortions as a service. Saline infusion was the most common method for second trimester abortions at the time, but it ran the risk of babies born alive. The procedures were also expensive, difficult, and required the mother to go through labor. Levatino and his partners trained themselves to perform the D&E abortion procedure, which is used today.

In his speech, he describes what it’s like to perform the now routine procedure:

You take an instrument like this called a sopher clamp and you basically – the surgery is that you literally tear a child to pieces. The suction is only for the fluid. The rest of it is literally dismembering a child piece by piece with an abortion instrument […] absolutely gut-wrenching procedure.

Over the next four years, Levatino would perform 1,200 abortions, over 100 of them D&E, second trimester abortions.

But then everything changed. On a beautiful day in June of 1984, the family was at home enjoying time with friends when Levatino heard tires squeal. The children were in the street and Heather had been hit by a car.

“She was a mess,” he explained. “And we did everything we possibly could. But she ultimately died, literally in our arms, on the way to the hospital that evening.”

After a while, Levatino had to return to work. And one day, his first D&E since the accident was on his schedule. He wasn’t really thinking about it or concerned. To him, it was going to be a routine procedure he had done many times before. Only it wasn’t.

“I started that abortion and I took that sopher clamp and I literally ripped out an arm or a leg and I just stared at it in the clamp. And I got sick,” he explained. “But you know something, when you start an abortion you can’t stop. If you don’t get all the pieces – and you literally stack them up on the side of the table […] your patient is going to come back infected, bleeding or dead. So I soldiered on and I finished that abortion.”

But by the time the abortion was complete, Levatino was beginning to feel a change of heart:

For the first time in my life, after all those years, all those abortions, I really looked, I mean I really looked at that pile of goo on the side of the table that used to be somebody’s son or daughter and that’s all I could see. I couldn’t see what a great doctor I was being. I didn’t see how I helped this woman in her crisis. I didn’t see the 600 dollars cash I had just made in 15 minutes. All I could see was somebody’s son or daughter. And after losing my daughter this was looking very, very different to me.

Levatino stopped performing second trimester abortions but continued to provide first trimester abortions for the next few months.

“Everybody puts doctors on a pedestal and we’re all supposed to be so smart but we’re no different than anybody else,” he said.

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He realized that killing a baby at 20 weeks gestation was exactly the same as killing one at nine weeks gestation or even two weeks gestation. He understood that it doesn’t matter how big or small the baby is, it’s a human life. He has not done an abortion since February 1985 and says there is no chance he will ever perform one again.

Adamant that he would never join the pro-life movement because of the media’s portrayal of pro-lifers as crazy, he was eventually invited to a pro-life potluck dinner where he met people who he realized were intelligent volunteers who spent their time defending preborn humans.

After that, Levatino began speaking out against abortion specifically with young people, graphically describing for them what an abortion really is.

Levatino has also testified before Congress, asking our government to end legal abortion.

Reprinted with permission from Live Action News

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