Carolyn Moynihan

New Chile study challenges the ‘safe abortion’ myth

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan
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May 8, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - One of the great scandals of today’s global village is the deaths of hundreds of thousands of mothers each year simply because they are carrying or giving birth to a child. The last reliable estimate, from 2008, indicated nearly 343,000 of these maternal deaths. The scandal lies in the fact that most of them are easily preventible with basic health care, as the West discovered more than a century ago.

The West, as we know from many statements from the World Health Organisation and reproductive health groups, is anxious to reduce this awful statistic, which is an important aim of the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, this altogether worthy goal is entangled with another: the reduction of fertility in the developing countries, by the quickest means possible. This means that, often before other basic medical and social improvements are in place, there must be universal access to birth control technology—not only contraception but abortion.

Abortion, however, must be safe for the woman—that is, provided by medically qualified people or by medically certified means—and to be safe it must be legal. Where it is illegal it will happen anyway but it will be unsafe, and often lethal. States which persist in keeping abortion illegal or severely restricted (and not the agents who are pushing this form of birth control) are thus contributing to the dire maternal mortality statistics. And states which ban abortion after it has been legal are similarly putting women’s lives at risk. That, as they say, is the narrative.

There’s just one problem with the drift of this story: there is no proof that it is true. The only hard evidence that we have on the subject of restrictive abortion laws and maternal mortality rates (MMR) is very new and it points in the opposite direction.

Research from Chile published a few days ago shows that, when therapeutic abortion was banned in 1989 after a long period when it had been legal in that country, there was no increase in maternal mortality. None at all. On the contrary, maternal deaths continued to decline. Chile today has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world (16 per 100,000 live births), outstripping the United States (18) and, within the Americas, second only to Canada (9). Rather than the rogue violator of women’s reproductive health that the UN makes it out to be, Chile is looking this week like a model for countries that really want to save the lives of mothers.

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It’s important to note here what the study, Women’s Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities, Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007, does not claim. It does not say that making abortion illegal caused a decline in maternal deaths. But it shows, importantly, that the 1989 law did not increase mortality. It continued to decline substantially, although other factors were at work in the decline—notably, the education of women and their ability to shape their own reproductive behaviour. (The latter does not mean quite what birth control fundamentalists mean, as we shall see.)

The study, published in the open access online journal PLoS One, is the work of Chilean and American researchers led by Dr Elard Koch, epidemiologist and a professor at the University of Chile and Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción (UCSC). The group, who formed the Chilean Maternal Mortality Research Initiative (CMMRI) for the purpose of the study, had access to exceptionally good data: 50 years of official records from Chile’s National Institute of Statistics, 1957 to 2007. These provide the basis of what the authors call a “natural experiment” in fertility and abortion policy.

What these records show is a dramatic decline in MMR from 1965, when abortions were numerous and abortion was the main cause of mortality, through to 1981; a continuing but slower reduction from 1981 to 2003; and a steady state from 2003 to 2007. To explain this pattern the researchers analysed social policies and trends likely to influence maternal mortality. Here are the key ones, especially for the first phase:

* Delivery by skilled birth attendants. For each 1 per cent increase in the number of deliveries performed by skilled attendants there was an estimated decrease of 4.58 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Clean water and other sanitary improvements also played a part.

* Access to maternal healthcare services. Nutrition programmes for mother and child, coupled with the distribution of fortified milk at primary care clinics created new opportunities for pregnancy and birth care for both mother and child. This strategy practically eradicated malnutrition, increased birth weight and contributed to the noteworthy reduction in infant mortality observed in Chile, 3.1/1000 live births for infants 28 days to 1 year of age.

* Women’s educational level. This, says Koch, is the most important factor, and the one which increased the effect of all other factors. Educating women enhances a woman’s ability to access existing health care resources and directly leads to a reduction in her risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. Data showed that for every additional year of maternal education in Chile there was a corresponding decrease in the MMR of 29.3/100,000 live births.

Boosting female education did something else: it brought down the fertility rate (currently the TFR is 1.87). To return to a point mentioned earlier, the authors point out that “education promotes higher autonomy in women, allowing them to take control of their own fertility” using the method they prefer. Interestingly, a majority of Chilean women do not prefer artificial contraceptives. The authors note:

“Although the primary care system currently provides universal access to a variety of contraceptives methods, actual use of hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices in Chile reaches approximately 36% of women of reproductive age. Therefore, as in developed nations, other factors not limited to the use of artificial contraceptives seem to be contributing to the reduction in TFR in Chile. One such factor could be women’s increasing level of education.”

And here the news stops being good. At this point Chilean woman meets North American and European and Antipodean woman in a pattern of delayed motherhood—and pathologies associated with that delay. Koch and colleagues describe this “fertility paradox” as follows:

Although a strong correlation did exist between the decline on the MMR and the reduction on total fertility rate (i.e. the average number of children that would have been born to a woman over her reproductive lifetime), the increase in the number of first pregnancies at advanced ages was directly associated with an increase on maternal deaths. For every 1% increment in primiparous women giving birth older than 30 years of age, an increase of 30 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births was estimated. Thus, when the total fertility decreases and produces a delayed motherhood it can also provoke a deleterious effect on maternal health via an increase of the obstetric risk associated with childbearing at advanced ages.

Before 1980 the causes of MMR in Chile were on the whole directly related to pregnancy and birth. From then on the underlying health problems of “aging pregnancy” began to take over in the mortality stakes: hypertension, diabetes and obesity among others. The problem now, there and here in the developed world, “is not a matter of how many children a mother has, but a matter of when.”

Did the reproductive health brigade get that? Delayed motherhood can be literally deadly. At a certain point, the gains of education and good health and social services are taken too far and recoil upon the modern woman. With the greater part of the world, including many developing countries, now below replacement TFR, maternal mortality from social progress is set to climb before deaths from deprivation have been thoroughly, and one could say properly, addressed.

Koch’s study shows that the custodians of reproductive health profoundly misunderstand the remedy for maternal mortality in developing countries. Will they do any better when they try to come to grips with the fertility paradox?

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet. This article is reprinted under a Creative Commons License.

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Lisa Bourne

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Opposing gay ‘marriage’ may demand civil disobedience: Louisiana bishop

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By Lisa Bourne

LAFAYETTE, LA, June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The bishop of the Catholic diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, is one of the nation’s Church leaders to come out strongly against the Supreme Court decision forcing all 50 states to recognize homosexual “marriage”.

Bishop Michael Jarrell reminded Catholics in a statement that the judiciary does not have the power to redefine marriage, and he opened the door to civil disobedience as a possible response to the June 26 Supreme Court ruling.

“Let me state very plainly that no human court has the authority to change what God has written into the law of creation,” Bishop Jarrell wrote in his statement. “This ruling is irreconcilable with the nature and definition of marriage as established by Divine Law.”

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“The marital covenant was established by God with its own proper nature and laws,” he continued.

Recognizing the tide of religious persecution across the country against those who hold the Biblical view of marriage, Bishop Jarrell addressed the issue of living one’s Catholic faith in light of the Supreme Court decision, and gave the green light to refuse to comply, even if it means breaking the law.

“I realize that this ruling will create conscience problems for many Catholics, especially those in public office,” Bishop Jarrell said. “In some cases civil disobedience may be a proper response.”

In an exercise of episcopal authority, the Lafayette prelate also issued a mandate that no representative of the diocese would enable homosexual “marriage” in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

“No priest or deacon of this Diocese may participate in the civil solemnization or celebration of same-sex marriage,” he declared. “No Catholic facility or property, including but not limited to parishes, missions, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health or charitable institutions, or facilities belonging to benevolent orders may be used for the solemnization of same-sex marriage.”

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The bishop also cautioned against Catholics showing support for homosexual “marriage” by their presence at same-sex “wedding”.

“All Catholics are urged not to attend same-sex ceremonies,” he said.

The bishop said he hoped this October’s Ordinary Synod on the Family at the Vatican would address issues brought about by “the alteration of the traditional law about marriage.”

Bishop Jarrell also expressed deep sadness at the Supreme Court ruling, and said while Catholics have great respect for everyone as children of God, the justices’ decision had no legal or moral foundation.

“As Catholics we have a profound respect for the dignity of all God’s children,” he stated. “Nevertheless there is no basis in law or in nature for altering the traditional definition of marriage, established by God from the beginning.”

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Catholic News Service gives platform to head of union that gave hundreds of millions to pro-abort politicians

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By Lisa Bourne

June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The news service of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has published an article by the head of an organization that has given hundreds of millions of dollars to elect pro-abortion politicians.

Americans should listen to Pope Francis, at least when it comes to his message on poverty and economics, according to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, an organization that has done arguably more to elect pro-abortion politicians than any other group in the last 50 years.

The union chief made his case in a June 22 guest column for Catholic News Service (CNS).

The AFL-CIO donated $200 million to Democratic politicians in 2008 alone.

LifeSiteNews contacted Catholic News Service about Trumka’s column in light of the AFL-CIO’s support for abortion, contraception, and homosexual “marriage," but CNS declined to comment.

On his way in the piece to pronouncing unity between the Church and big labor, Trumka touts Pope Francis’s recently reported high approval rating and the “newfound vigor” the Roman Catholic Church has added to its “traditional social doctrine” since his election.

“For much of the last century and more, the labor movement and the Catholic Church have stood together in solidarity for people who labor for a living,” he wrote in the CNS column. “Pope Francis lives and breathes this tradition.”

“Together, the Catholic Church and the labor movement stand for a new moral and political order,” he said.

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In his June 22 piece for Catholic News Service he wrote about helping to ease the pain and suffering for others as his reasons for praising Pope Francis.

“We believe in the duty to ease pain and to offer comfort to those who are suffering -- and not just with kind words, but with action,” Trumka opined. “That is why I am so heartened by our Holy Father Pope Francis.

Trumka, raised Catholic, writes his column for CNS with a Catholic voice, but the union he heads up supports contraception and homosexual “marriage”, along with abortion.

While the Church today holds The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers among its themes of Catholic Social Teaching, giving voice in the Bishops’ own news agency to the representative of an organization which has given hundreds of millions of dollars to pro-abortion politicians contradicts the USCCB’s very own document teaching on the need for Catholics to act in support of Catholic principles and policies in public life.

“The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” the USCCB’s Catholics in Political Life states. “They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

The nation’s top union also supports the so-called “free” birth control imposed as part of the HHS mandate, something many groups – including the USCCB itself – resisted being forced to provide.

“Women have fought hard for the right to safe, legal reproductive health services and the freedom to exercise that right,” the AFL-CIO Statement on Women's Access to Quality and Affordable Reproductive Health Care says. “The Affordable Care Act provides that women will receive preventative health care benefits, including FDA-approved methods of birth control, without co-pays or deductibles.”

Many of those forms of “birth control” may act as abortifacients.

The AFL-CIO’s support for abortion and birth control isn’t where the union’s advocacy for anti-Catholic initiatives stops. It encompasses homosexual activism as well.

Pride At Work is a nonprofit organization that represents LGBT union members and their “allies,” that “organizes mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBT Community to further social and economic justice.”

Pride at Work is an officially recognized constituency group of the AFL-CIO

The deeds of the AFL-CIO as an organization are not the sole illustration of how Trumka’s CNS appearance sends a conflicting message with regard to Church principles, but also statements embracing and advocating principles in direct contrast to the faith by the man himself.

“Working people believe in equality and fairness and that’s why we are happy to stand with millions of Americans and with President Obama in supporting marriage equality,” Trumka said in a statement supporting homosexual “marriage”.

When the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 defending marriage were overturned, he said they never should have been adopted in the first place.

“The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been,” Trumka said. “Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation.”

Trumka employs a childhood anecdote to frame his article complete with violence against his grandfather on the part of the profit-focused mining company that “owned everything,” in his Pennsylvania hometown.

“Pope Francis speaks for the church I grew up in when he calls for an organized moral response to the injustices of modern capitalism,” stated Trumka, whose salary level is around $300,000 per year according to unionfacts.com.

Trumka has been implicated in encouraging intimidation and deception to advance union goals, according to a report from the National Legal and Policy Center.

Trumka has also been accused of legitimizing violence. During a multi-state coal miners’ strike organized by the United Mine Workers in 1993, Trumka, as union president, ordered more than 17,000 miners to walk off the job, and explicitly told strikers to "kick the s--- out of" employees and mine operators defying union demands.

Homes were vandalized, shots were fired at a mine office, and power was cut to one mine, temporarily trapping 93 miners underground.

A non-union contractor, Eddie York, was murdered by a union member, shot in the back of the head as he drove past strikers at a West Virginia work site. Those trying to rescue the victim were attacked by a group of union members. The union member who shot the contractor went to jail, but no one else was disciplined for what took place.

Trumka told Virginian-Pilot in September 1993 regarding the incident, “I’m saying if you strike a match and you put your finger in it, you’re likely to get burned.”

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Supreme Court suspends Texas law that would have closed half of its abortion facilities

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – About half of the abortion facilities in Texas got a reprieve from the Supreme Court on its last day in session.

Justices ruled 5-4 that, right now, the state of Texas may not enforce health protection laws that would have put all but nine of the state's abortion offices out of business. The court's conservative bloc – Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito – objected, but Anthony Kennedy cast the decisive vote with the court's liberals.

At issue is whether the state may require abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and require abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety codes as other ambulatory surgical centers.

The temporary stay of Senate Bill 5 lasts until the justices decide whether they will hear an appeal from the abortion industry, which argues the law's provisions would unduly restrict a woman's access to abortion-on-demand.

“The U.S. Supreme Court was swayed, not for the first time in a week, by illogical arguments,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “By actively lobbying against common sense regulations that would make sure women have access to ‘safe, legal and rare’ abortions, Planned Parenthood and their allies are making a mockery of women’s health care.”

“The abortion industry cares only for their bottom line, and women and their prenatal children are merely dollar signs in their business cycle,” Hawkins said.

"Women and babies are being denied protections with the Supreme Court blocking pro-life legislation,” said Lila Rose of Live Action. “Contrary to what big abortion organizations would have us believe, the possible closure of abortion facilities is due to the refusal of these corporations to adhere to sensible and ordinary medical precautions. We look forward to the day that both the legislature and the Courts use their power to protect the most vulnerable among us."

State pro-life leaders regret the loopholes that they say put women's health at risk.

“Unfortunately, women who do not have abortions at any of the nine operating ambulatory surgical centers that perform abortions will continue to be subjected to substandard medical care,” said Joe Pojman, Ph.D., executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.

The ruling does not permanently enjoin the state. It does not even guarantee justices will hear the case.

Should they decline, the law will go into effect in its entirety.

Last October, the Supreme Court allowed Texas to implement these measures while the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals considered its decision in a 6-3 verdict. However, it added that the state must allow abortion facilities in El Paso and McAllen to operate subpar operations, defying greater protections for women, because closing those facilities would require women to drive a great distance to the next nearest abortion facility.

Earlier this month, a three-panel judge of the appeals court, based in New Orleans, upheld the health regulations. All three judges had been appointed by President George W. Bush.

Had the full requirements gone into effect, half of all the remaining abortion facilities in Texas would have closed.

The left-wing website ThinkProgress worried, if the High Court upheld the decision, it would mean that “Roe v. Wade is almost entirely dead.”

Today, representatives of the abortion lobby felt relief. "Our Constitution rightly protects women from laws that would create barriers to safe and legal abortion care, but Texas politicians have tried to sneak around the Constitution with sham regulations designed to close clinics’ doors," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a pro-life Republican, vowed to “continue to fight for higher-quality health care standards for women while protecting our most vulnerable – the unborn.”

“I’m confident the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold this law,” he added.

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