By Maciej Golubiewski

  NEW YORK, November 1, 2007 ( – The World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) have reported consistently over the years that something on the order of 500,000 – 600,000 women die the world over from complications of pregnancy. The answer to this problem, according to these agencies, which was voiced as recently as the Women Deliver Conference in London a few weeks ago, is abortion. It is said that these women would not have died if they had the right to abortion.

  The problem with the number is that is cannot be substantiated, this according to the former head of the UN statistics office, Dr. Joseph Chamie. The primary reason the number is suspect is that most countries in the world do not report accurate information on deaths at all. Many countries do not even report on the sex of dead people, and few report on the cause of death. This is backed up in recent reports released by the same UN agencies who claim authoritatively that 500,000+ women die each year from maternal related causes.

  In a recent communiqué from the end of this month, the WHO admits that close to two-thirds of deaths go unreported in national statistics of most developing countries. It says that only 31 of the 193 states have reliable cause-of-death statistics.

  Two years ago the UN Population Division issued a report “The World’s Women 2005: Progress in Statistics” that said “more than a third of the 204 countries or areas examined did not report deaths by cause, sex and age even once.” The report went on to say that “even where the deaths are derived from a civil registration with complete coverage, maternal deaths may be missed or not correctly identified, thus compromising the reliability of such statistics.” The report also concluded that the progress in reporting deaths by cause and sex has been very limited since 1975.

  A joint report, “Maternal Mortality 2005”, issued by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank reiterates that “progress towards the fifth Millennium Development Goal has been challenging, due to the lack of reliable maternal mortality data – particularly in developing country settings.” The report goes on to say that 99% of the estimated 536,000 maternal deaths happen in developing countries. Given these agencies admissions that this kind of data is almost impossible to get, some might wonder how they can then say that almost all of them occur in areas that do not report such data.

  The recent Women Deliver conference in London used the 500,000 figure to promote universal abortion on demand. A delegate to the conference told the Friday Fax, “With all this evidence that the number of maternal deaths and deaths from abortion is impossible to know, it is egregious that WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and others build policy prescriptions – especially the highly controversial promotion of abortion rights – on virtually no data. Attention should be placed upon building good health care systems that not only provide decent care but provide registries of births and deaths so that sound policy to address maternal mortality can be made.” 


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