The Worldwide Abortion Conflict
"It is conservatively estimated that 200,000 women worldwide die every year from abortions that are illegal and unsafe."
— 1989 Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) pamphlet
entitled "The Bush Administration: Dragging Us Back to the Back
Introduction and Overview. The struggle over abortion rights is being waged all over the world. Many developed nations are taking a second look at their permissive abortion laws, primarily due to the adverse demographic impacts being wrought upon their cultures by rapidly-declining birth rates (for a detailed exposition on the demographic impacts of abortion, see Chapter 20). And many developing nations — notably those in Africa — are being pressured by Western population-control organizations to loosen their restrictions on abortion and contraception.
Despite local differences in culture and religion, the characteristics of some aspects of the abortion conflict are startlingly similar to those in the United States. One of these is the persistent pro-abortion claim that abortions kill thousands of women each year in those countries where the procedure is illegal — and, on a worldwide basis, hundreds of thousands or even millions of women each year.
The Allegations Regarding Worldwide Maternal Deaths. Many pro-abortion claims regarding the prevalence of maternal deaths due to illegal abortions in various developing countries exceed the total number of deaths of all women of childbearing age for all reasons in those respective nations.
For instance, before legalization, Indian pro-abortionists commonly claimed that the total number of women dying of illegal procedures was an incredible 600,000 annually. African medical professionals have claimed that as many as 74,000 African women currently die of illegal abortions each year. Pro-abortion activists have also alleged that 140,000 women die of illegal abortions every year in Mexico.
Perhaps the most extreme example of exaggeration is the BENFAM estimate of 400,000 annual deaths due to illegal abortions in Brazil. BENFAM is the Brazilian affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) figures have showed that only 55,066 Brazilian women between the ages of 14 and 50 died of all causes in 1980. The IBGE figures were confirmed by World Health Organization (WHO) statistics showing that 41,685 Brazilian women between the ages of 15 and 41 died in 1986 and, of these, 241 died of complications due to both legal and illegal abortions.
This means that Brazilian pro-abortionists inflated the actual number of illegal abortion deaths in their country by a factor of 1,660, or 166,000 percent!
It is a simple matter to sum pro-abortion claims regarding deaths due to illegal abortions in a number of nations to produce an aggregate claimed total number of worldwide deaths. These figures include current numbers in countries where abortion is now illegal, and pre-legalization figures in countries where abortion is now legal.
The resulting total number of deaths would be more than two million, which would make illegal abortion the number one cause of death among women of childbearing age on this planet.
Figure 7-4 is a summary of some of the gross pro-abortion lies regarding maternal deaths due to illegal abortions in various countries around the world.
A Summary of Pro-Abortion Lies Regarding
Worldwide Maternal Deaths due to Illegal Abortion
References. For India: Priya Darshini. "Abortions Increase in India." The Oregonian [Portland, Oregon], September 3, 1989, page A9. For Mexico: Dr. Salvador Sandoval's letter in the April 2, 1992 issue of the Merced Sun-Star, and James A. Miller's rebuttal in the April 30, 1992 issue of the same publication. For Brazil: November 13, 1991 Reuters news service releases of various titles to newspapers all over the world. Also see the December 30, 1991 letter of Dr. Geraldo Hideu Osanai, President, Associacao Pro-Vida de Brasilia, to Andrew M. Nibley and Thomas D. Thompson of the Reuters News Agency in New York City. For other nations: D. Kurchoff, Deutsches Arztblatt, Volume 69, Number 27, October 26, 1972. Also Portuguese Anuario Estatistico, Tables 11, 16, and 111. Also John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe and Kathleen Essex. "Protecting Life in Brazil." HLI Reports, September 1989, page 1.
The usual number of total worldwide illegal abortion deaths currently claimed by pro-abortionists is comparatively modest, but is still a gross exaggeration. There are endless examples of this hysteria;
- Dr. Suzanne T. Poppema writes in Ms. Magazine that "Globally, a woman dies every seven minutes from complications of an illegal abortion [this works out to 75,000 per year]. If nonsurgical medical abortions were made available to women everywhere, millions of lives would be saved."
- The United Nations Conference on Population and Development (UNCPD) Cairo draft plan specifically states that the public health problems of unsafe abortions kill an estimated quarter of a million women each year.
- The opening of a May 1999 Alan Guttmacher Institute fundraising letter says
Bamboo sticks ... bleach ... blows to the stomach ....
What do they have in common?
Each is one of the hundreds of horrendous ways women in some parts of the world still try — and usually fail — to end an unwanted pregnancy.
They do so out of sheer desperation and anguish. They do so regardless of their fears of prosecution. They do so in poverty. They do so when a safe abortion is simply not available.
In fact, each year — according to new information from the Alan Guttmacher Institute — in doing so
-- 20 million women break their country's law;
-- 8 million women endure serious, often untreated, medical complications; and
-- 78,000 women die."
The lies go on and on, and the media just uncritically and unquestioningly eats them up, no matter how outrageous or obviously illogical they are. Naturally, when pro-lifers try to submit a letter to a newspaper challenging this number, the editor demands detailed documentation and even then, the paper rarely prints the letter.
The Worldwatch Institute has claimed that 200,000 women die from illegal abortions each year, and from 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 more "suffer serious, often lifelong health problems." This number is echoed by virtually every pro-abortion group from the American Civil Liberties Union to Zero Population Growth. In order to whip up support for his death pill, Etienne-Emile Baulieu, the inventor of RU-486, also estimates that 200,000 women die of illegal abortions annually worldwide. And, as always, the paragon of hysteria was the Revolutionary Communist Party of the United States. In the RCP's propaganda organ, the Revolutionary Worker, an understandably anonymous writer complained that
If the people don't succeed in taking the OFFENSIVE and defeating this assault on women, hundreds of thousands of women will suffer mutilation and death from illegal abortions. Today some 200,000 women a year die in Third World countries — one woman every three minutes. And the anti-abortion policy of the U.S. is making the situation even worse [emphasis in the original].
The magic "200,000" seems to carry the same cachet for pro-abortionists on a worldwide level as their discredited "5,000 to 10,000" figure did for the United States. Planned Parenthood is the worst offender in this area, and the figure is repeated so frequently in its literature that it approaches the status of a mantra:
- "It is conservatively estimated that 200,000 women worldwide die every year from abortions that are illegal and unsafe."
- "Hospital records alone show that 200,000 women die from such non-clinical abortions worldwide each year; the real total is estimated to be much higher."
- "Illegal abortions in developing countries result in as many as 200,000 maternal deaths each year."
Despite the occasional pro-abortion claim that the figure of 200,000 deaths was derived from "hospital records" (which would have been a mammoth international accounting task indeed!), no original documentation or impartial verification of this number is ever provided.
One must question why Planned Parenthood continues to use this number, particularly since one of its affiliates is the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which employs the most experienced abortion statisticians in the world.
An Estimate of Worldwide Maternal Deaths Due to Illegal Abortion. The pro-abortion claim that 200,000 women currently die due to complications brought on by unsanitary illegal abortions is a persuasive piece of unsupported and unverified propaganda. However, the legitimate question remains: How many women really die of illegal abortions in the world today?
A few simple calculations will yield a fairly accurate estimate.
A reasonable assumption regarding abortion mortality rates must first be established — an assumption which is favorable to the pro-abortion point of view;
The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) estimates that the worldwide mortality rate for legal abortions is about 0.6 per 100,000. For the purposes of this estimate, it is assumed that illegal abortions are twenty times as dangerous as legal abortions on a worldwide basis — 12 per 100,000, or twice the illegal/legal mortality ratio commonly quoted by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, as described earlier.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute estimates that an estimated 26 to 31 million legal abortions are performed annually in these countries, and 10 to 22 million clandestine abortions are performed in these and other countries each year.
The actual range of maternal deaths caused by complications due to illegal abortion annually worldwide would therefore be;
High Estimate: (22 million X 12/100,000) = 2,640 deaths.
Low Estimate: (10 million X 12/100,000) = 1,200 deaths.
This means that the standard pro-abortion statement that "200,000 women die of illegal abortions each year" is an exaggeration of at least ((200,000/2,640) X 100%) = 7,500 percent!
Footnotes for “The Worldwide Abortion Conflict”
 Priya Darshini. "Abortions Increase in India." The Oregonian [Portland, Oregon], September 3, 1989, page A9.
 Khama Rogo. "Induced Abortion in Africa" (unpublished draft), prepared for the Population Association of America annual meeting in Toronto, Canada, May 2 to May 3, 1990.
 See Dr. Salvador Sandoval's letter in the April 2, 1992 issue of the Merced Sun-Star, and James A. Miller's rebuttal in the April 30, 1992 issue of the same publication.
 November 13, 1991. Reuters news service releases of various titles to newspapers all over the world. Also see the December 30, 1991 letter of Dr. Geraldo Hideu Osanai, President, Associacao Pro-Vida de Brasilia to Andrew M. Nibley and Thomas D. Thompson of the Reuters News Agency in New York City.
 In addition to the above claims of 600,000 illegal abortion deaths in India, 400,000 deaths in Brazil, 140,000 deaths in Mexico, 74,000 deaths in Africa, and up to 140,000 deaths in the United States, there have been allegations of 20,000 deaths in Italy, 15,000 deaths in West Germany (D. Kurchoff, Deutsches Arztblatt, Volume 69, Number 27, October 26, 1972) and 2,000 deaths in Portugal (Portuguese Anuario Estatistico, Tables 11, 16, and 111).
 D. Kurchoff, Deutsches Arztblatt, Volume 69, Number 27, October 26, 1972. Also Portuguese Anuario Estatistico, Tables 11, 16, and 111. Also John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe and Kathleen Essex. "Protecting Life in Brazil." HLI Reports, September 1989, page 1.
 Suzanne T. Poppema. "The Future of Roe v. Wade: Medical." Ms. Magazine, January/February 1998, page 76.
 Alan Cowell, New York Times News Service. "Catholic Cardinals Oppose Document on Population." The Oregonian, June 15, 1994, page A8.
 Opening of a May 1999 Alan Guttmacher Institute fundraising letter. The letter also says that there are 26 million legal abortions and 20 million illegal abortions.
 Jodi L. Jacobson. "Coming to Grips With Abortion," pages 114 to 131. In the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 1991 Report. W.W. Norton Publishers, London, 1991. Also issued as Worldwatch Paper #97, "The Global Politics of Abortion."
 The Fund for the Feminist Majority claimed that "Illegal Abortion Kills One Woman Every 3 Minutes Worldwide" in the title of an advertisement for its "Abortion for Survival" propaganda video in the July/August 1989 issue of Ms. Magazine, page 47. The Revolutionary Communist Party of the United States alleges on pages 4 and 40 of its booklet entitled "Women Are Not Incubators!: The Assault on Abortion Rights" that "Today some 200,000 women a year die in Third World countries — one woman every three minutes. And the anti-abortion policy of the U.S. is making the situation even worse."
 Primum Non Nocere, Volume IV, Number 1, 1983.
 "Women Are Not Incubators!: The Assault on Abortion Rights." Revolutionary Communist Party of the United States, Revolutionary Worker, November 6, 1989. Also distributed as a special reprint booklet, pages 4 and 40.
 1989 Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) pamphlet entitled "The Bush Administration: Dragging Us Back to the Back Alley."
 February 6, 1989 Planned Parenthood Federation of America advertisement in The New York Times entitled "How Can You Explain That Her Mother Died of Politics?"
 International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region, Inc. Annual Report, 1989 [New York: PPFA, 1989], pages 2 and 3.
 Stanley K. Henshaw. "Induced Abortion: A World Review, 1990." Alan Guttmacher Institute's Family Planning Perspectives, March-April 1990, pages 76 to 89.