Denise J. Hunnell, MD

Opinion

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

Denise J. 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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‘Little miracles’: Mom gives birth to naturally-conceived quintuplets after refusing ‘selective reduction’

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An ultrasound of the five different compartments, each with its own baby, inside Kim's womb.

AUSTRALIA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- A 26-year-old Australian mom has given birth to five healthy babies, all conceived naturally, after refusing the doctor’s advice that she must abort three of them in order to give the remaining two a better chance at life. 

“After my initial ultrasound I was told I could consider the selection method to give 2 babies the best chance in life,” wrote mom Kim Tucci in a Facebook post last September. 

“I watched a YouTube video on the procedure and I cried. I could never do that! Was I selfish for not giving two the chance of 100% survival? All I knew is that I already love them and that every heart beat I heard I connect with them more. For me life starts when a heart starts beating and all I know for sure is that I will do whatever it takes to bring them into this world healthy,” she wrote. 

Last Thursday Kim and her husband Vaughn welcomed the five new members into their family — one boy and four girls —increasing the number of their children from 3 to 8. The babies were born at 30 weeks, 10 weeks early, due to insufficient space in Kim’s womb. They weighed on average about 2.5 pounds. 

The quintuplets’ story began last March, after Kim and Vaughn had been trying for six months to conceive just one more child for their family. Due to health complications, Kim wondered if she would ever become a mother again. 

After what she thought was an extra long cycle, she decided to take a pregnancy test. 

“I was feeling tired and a little nauseated and thought I would take a pregnancy test just to get the ‘what if’ out of my head. To my shock and utter excitement it was positive,” she wrote on a Facebook post.

The parents got the shock of their lives when doctors confirmed in an ultrasound examination that there was not one baby, but five. 

“After a long wait for the ultrasound we finally went in. The sonographer told me there were multiple gestational sacks, but she could only see a heart beat in two. I was so excited! Twins!”

“I was moved to another machine for a clearer view and had the head doctor come in and double check the findings. She started to count, one, two, three, four, five. Did i hear that correctly? Five? My legs start to shake uncontrollably and all i can do is laugh. The sonographer then told me the term for five is ‘quintuplets,’” Kim wrote.

Even though Kim began to feel stretched to the limit with all those human lives growing inside her, she chose to focus on her babies, and not herself, referring to them as “my five little miracles.” 

“It's getting harder as each day passes to push through the pain, every part of my body aches and sleeping is becoming very painful. No amount of pillows are helping support my back and belly. Sometimes I get so upset that I just want to throw my hands up and give in.”

“Sometimes my pelvis becomes so stiff I can barely walk and my hips feel like they are grinding away constantly. I'm finding it hard to eat as I basically have no room left in my stomach, and the way it is positioned it's pushed all the way back with the babies leaning against it.” 

“My skin on my belly is so stretched its painful and hot to touch. It literally feels like I have hives! No amount of cream helps relieve the discomfort. I have a lot of stretch marks now. Dealing with such a huge change in my body is hard.” 

“Is it all worth it? Yes!!!! I will keep pushing through,” she wrote in one Facebook post days before the babies were born. 

The newborns' names are Keith, Ali, Penelope, Tiffany, and Beatrix. They were born at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco, Western Australia. Mother and babies are reported to be doing well. 



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UN rights chief tells Catholic countries to legalize abortion over Zika virus: bishops and cardinal react

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GENEVA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- The United Nations, following the lead of international abortion activists, is now urging Latin American countries hit by the mosquito-borne Zika virus to lift restrictions on abortion for pregnant women who have contacted the virus and whose pre-born children may be at risk for birth defects, including having smaller than normal heads. 

The UN human rights office said today that it is not enough for South American countries to urge women to postpone pregnancy without also offering them abortion as a final solution. 

“How can they ask these women not to become pregnant, but not offer… the possibility to stop their pregnancies?” UN spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told reporters. 

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that governments should make available contraception and abortion services.

“Laws and policies that restrict (women’s) access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations in order to ensure the right to health for all in practice,” he said.

But Brazil’s bishops strongly asserted yesterday that efforts should be made to eradicate the virus, not the people who may be infected by it. 

The disease is “no justification whatsoever to promote abortion,” they said in a statement, adding that it is not morally acceptable to promote abortion “in the cases of microcephaly, as, unfortunately, some groups are proposing to the Supreme Federal Court, in a total lack of respect for the gift of life.”

Honduras Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has also come out strongly against the notion of “therapeutic abortions” as a response to the problem. Unlike Brazil where abortion is legal in the case of rape or health of the mother, abortion remains entirely illegal in Honduras.

“We should never talk about ‘therapeutic’ abortion,” the cardinal said in a homily at a February 3 Mass in Suyap. “Therapeutic abortion doesn’t exist. Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives,” he said. 

While the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international public health emergency February 1 on account of concerns over the virus, critics have pointed out, however, that not one death as resulted from the virus. Even on WHO’s own website the virus is described in mild terms. 

“It causes mild fever and rash. Other symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and conjunctivitis. Zika virus disease is usually mild, with symptoms lasting only a few days,” the website states. “To date, there have been no reported deaths associated with Zika virus,” it added. 

Critics suspect that the crisis is being manipulated to advance an anti-human agenda on the pre-born. 

“Is Zika, actually, a hideous virus that threatens to spread uncontrollably across the world creating an army of disabled children with tiny heads and low IQ’s? Or might this be a willful misinterpretation of the scarce data to manipulate public opinion and legislatures?” wrote pro-life critic Mei-Li Garcia earlier this week.

“It becomes very clear that the publicity surrounding this story has a very little to do with medicine and a lot to do with a convenient crisis that is being used by those pushing for the legalization of abortion around the world,” she wrote.



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Hillary’s litmus test for Supreme Court picks: They must ‘preserve Roe v. Wade’

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DERRY, NH, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Hillary Clinton has a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees - several, in fact. At a Democratic event on Wednesday, Clinton unveiled her criteria in selecting a judge for the nation's highest court.

“I do have a litmus test, I have a bunch of litmus tests," she said.

"We’ve got to make sure to preserve Roe v. Wade, not let it be nibbled away or repealed,” she said.

There have been over 58,000,000 abortions since the 1973 court ruling legalizing abortion in all 50 states, according to National Right to Life.

That echoes her recent call to arms speech before Planned Parenthood last month, when she stated that taxpayers must fund abortion-on-demand in order to uphold the "right" of choice.

“We have to preserve marriage equality,” Clinton said, referring to last summer's Obergefell v. Hodges case, a 5-4 ruling that redefined marriage nationwide. “We have to go further to end discrimination against the LGBT community."

Her views differentiate her from the Republican front runners. Ted Cruz has called the court's marriage ruling "fundamentally illegitimate," and Donald Trump told Fox News Sunday this week that he would "be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things." Marco Rubio has said he won't "concede" the issue to the one-vote majority.

All Republican presidential hopefuls say they are pro-life and will defund Planned Parenthood.

Her husband, Bill Clinton, raised the makeup of the Supreme Court early last month in New Hampshire, saying it receives "almost no attention" as a campaign issue.

On Wednesday, Hillary said "the next president could get as many as three appointments. It’s one of the many reasons why we can’t turn the White House over to the Republicans again.”

Clinton said her judicial appointees must also reverse the Citizens United ruling on campaign finance and oppose a recent decision striking down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013's Shelby County v. Holder, justices struck down Section 4(b) of the act, which said that certain states and jurisdictions had to obtain permission from the federal government before changing their voting laws.

At one time, most politicians frowned upon any "litmus test" for judicial nominees, emphasizing the independence of the third branch of government. "I don't believe in litmus tests," Jeb Bush told Chuck Todd last November.

But with the rise of an activist judiciary in the middle of the 20th century, constitutionalists have sought to rein in the power of the bench.



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