Are Abortions Safer than Childbirth?

In their efforts to legitimize and humanize a procedure that most people find unpalatable at best and murderous at worst, pro-abortionists often claim that abortion is much safer than childbirth.

The National Abortion Federation (a trade union for abortion mills) alleges, “Death occurs in 0.0006% of all legal surgical abortions…. In comparison, a woman’s risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth is ten times greater.” Planned Parenthood puts the ratio slightly higher.

Third-trimester abortionist Warren Hern goes much further, claiming that childbirth-related mortality is an astounding 111 times higher than that for abortion. Hern says, “Due to the comparative mortality risks of induced abortion and term birth, abortion is the indicated treatment for pregnancy…. Pregnancy should be seen as a biocultural event in the context of other human illnesses.”1

One of the primary justifications the Supreme Court used for legalizing abortion in its Roe v. Wade decision was the “established medical fact” that “in the first three months of pregnancy mortality in abortion is less than mortality in childbirth.” Ever since, pro-abortionists have asserted that abortion is much safer that giving birth.

The latest major effort in this direction took place in 2012, when Elizabeth Raymond and David Grimes published a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. They found that one woman out of 11,000 dies in childbirth and one of 167,000 dies during abortion. Therefore, they alleged, abortion is fourteen times safer than childbirth.

Predictably, the mainstream media published hundreds of articles trumpeting this finding, and entirely ignored voices pointing out the fact that their study had more holes in it than a road sign in redneck country.

no target shooting sign

The Counter Argument

To begin with, let us consider the massive conflict of interest regarding the authors of this study. Raymond is a Senior Medical Associate for the population control group Gynuity Health Projects, which pushes the abortion pill in more than 40 countries all over the world. Grimes is, according to the New York Times, “a leading researcher and abortion provider,” and has been performing abortions since before Roe v. Wade.

Even pro-abortion scientists should be troubled by the many gross and fundamental flaws in the study methodology of Raymond and Grimes:

  • The study was based upon annual Abortion Surveillance Reports by the Centers for Disease Control. Since reporting of abortion numbers and resulting deaths is strictly voluntary, the CDC Reports only account for about two-thirds of the abortions (and resulting maternal deaths) in the country.
  • Abortion mill personnel have a very strong motivation to cover up deaths caused by their botched abortions and have been frequently caught doing so in the past. Raymond and Grimes do not account for this factor, nor do they even mention it.
  • Abortion deaths are frequently reported under the complication caused by the abortion (i.e., bleeding to death or lethal infection) and not the abortion itself.
  • Many women go to emergency rooms when suffering complications due to abortion hours or days later, and if they die there, their deaths are not usually attributed to abortion.2
  • Abortion leads in many cases to physical and psychological complications that can lead to death or health problems many years after the abortion, and the authors do not account for this at all. For example, the rate of suicide due to childbirth issues is carefully documented in the medical literature, but suicide due to abortion is rarely linked back to abortion by state agencies.2
  • Raymond and Grimes fail to account for the horrible crimes committed against women precisely because abortion is legal, easy to obtain, and often paid for by taxpayer funds. Dozens of pregnant women are murdered by their boyfriends and husbands every year simply because they refuse to obtain abortions.3 This factor alone would greatly increase the hazard of abortion quoted by Raymond and Grimes.

We must not draw conclusions from flawed studies like those performed by Raymond and Grimes, because the GIGO principle applies here: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If a study simply disregards vital information and makes blatantly false assumptions, its conclusions are fundamentally worthless.

garbage pile

No study has ever accounted for the above deficiencies. Abortion is much more dangerous than these biased studies show, and abortion and childbirth are more equal in their degree of hazard.

But How Much Does It Really Matter?

At the end of the day, the question of which is more dangerous — abortion or childbirth — is simply one of many pro-abortion distractions meant to draw attention away from the deadly and brutal act of abortion itself.

After all, the chances of dying of either abortion or childbirth are so miniscule that no rational woman would make a decision for or against aborting based upon them. For example, a woman has as much chance of dying of abortion or childbirth as she has of being killed by lightning, perishing in an aircraft crash, or dying from a snake or insect bite.

Although people tend to overestimate the probability of extremely rare events, they do not ordinarily base their decisions upon such analyses. For example, it is probably safe to say that very few women bathe outside with garden hoses simply because they have read that more than one hundred women die of falls and drowning in bathtubs each year, while gardening fatalities are much rarer.

The chances of dying of either abortion or childbirth are vanishingly small for the average healthy woman, at less than 2/10,000 for both childbirth and abortion.4 To put these probabilities into perspective, a woman’s chances of dying in childbirth or from abortion are equal to those of being killed in a car accident over a period of three months of driving.

Of course, abortion always results in the death of at least one human being ― the unborn child.

newborn with dad black and white


The claim that abortion is safer than childbirth not only begs the question “For whom?,” but it demands closer examination of the resumés of those making such claims, and of the objective science which does not support this allegation in the slightest.

It is deeply unfortunate that this error has crept into Supreme Court opinions and into the opinions of the general public, but we should not lose the opportunity to set the record straight whenever possible.

+ Endnotes

[1] Warren Hern. Abortion Practice (Boulder, Colorado: Alpenglo Graphics), 1990. Hern quotes a childbirth mortality rate of 11.1/100,000 on page 7 and a first‑trimester abortion mortality rate of 0.1/100,000 on page 46, resulting in a ratio of 111 to one.

[2] Priscilla K. Coleman, Ph.D.“A Serious Misrepresentation of the Relative Safety of Induced Abortion Compared to Childbirth Published in a Leading Medical Journal.”  Available at 20&%20Grimes%20(2012)_Critique.pdf, June 22, 2012.

[3] Go to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and search for for Human Life International’s Pro-Abortion Violence website. Click on “U.S. by State” to find descriptions of more than 200 murders committed by husband and boyfriends because their pregnant wives and girlfriends refused to get abortions.

[4] Centers for Disease Control’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. Graph entitled “Trends in Pregnancy-Related Mortality in the United States: 1987-2017.”

Brian Clowes, PhD

Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.


  1. Sam on May 18, 2022 at 5:37 PM

    Abortion is certainly not safer for the baby.

    • HLI Staff on May 19, 2022 at 12:02 PM

      Very good point, Sam. Nothing in this world could be less safe, actually.

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