In their efforts to legitimize and humanize a procedure that most people find unpalatable at best, pro‑abortionists often claim that abortion is much safer than childbirth. Let us examine the facts.
The Pro-Abortion Argument
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 number slightly higher.
Third-trimester abortionist Warren Hern claims 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 made the curious assertion that abortion is much safer that childbirth.
The latest 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 the study had more holes in it than a road sign in redneck country.
The Pro-Life Argument
Now let us examine the pro-life answer to the question whether abortion is safer than giving birth.
To begin with, let us consider the massive conflict of interest. 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. David Grimes is an abortionist and, according to his self-promoting website, “long a champion of women’s reproductive rights.”3
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.2
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, suicide due to childbirth issues is carefully documented, but suicide due to abortion is rarely linked back to abortion by state agencies.
- 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. Many pregnant women are murdered by their boyfriends and husbands every year simply because they refuse to obtain abortions.3 This factor alone would increase the hazard of abortion quoted by Raymond and Grimes by 400%.
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 simply worthless.
No study has ever accounted for all of the above deficiencies. We can safely assume, however, that abortion is much more dangerous than these biased studies show, and that abortion and childbirth are roughly equal in their degree of hazard.
How Much Does It Matter?
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.
Also, comparing the risks of abortion and childbirth is illogical. It is worse than comparing apples and oranges; it is like comparing grapes and Buicks. Pro-abortionists tell us that abortion is a simple ten-minute surgical procedure akin to having one’s tonsils removed; but the process of pregnancy and childbirth takes nine months and frequently concludes with major surgical interventions, including Caesarian section. From a logical standpoint, comparing the relative risks of abortion and childbirth is simply ridiculous.
The chances of dying of either abortion or childbirth are vanishingly small for the average healthy woman, at less than 1/10,000 for both childbirth and abortion. 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 one human being ― the unborn child.
So, Is Abortion Safer than Giving Birth?
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 uninformed opinions of the general public, but we should not lose the opportunity to set the record straight whenever possible.
- 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.
- Table 2 reports 6,680,437 abortions during the time period 1998-2005, while the Alan Guttmacher Institute, whose statistics are more reliable because it surveys abortion clinics in every state, reports 10,18,215 abortions during this period. Among the states not reporting is California, which accounted for 1,793,472 abortions during the time period 1998-2005, or 17.6% of the total.
- See Human Life International’s Abortion Violence website at http://www.abortionviolence.com. Note: this website is currently down.