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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Medical care not abortion improves maternal mortality rates in developing countries

Since the late 1960s deaths of mothers having children have fallen dramatically -- “current rates for developed countries are between one-fortieth and one-fiftieth of the rates that prevailed 60 years ago”, a peer reviewed article by Irvine Loudon published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.[1]

What brought about this ‘dramatic’ improvement in the safety of mothers in pregnancy and birth? Was it permissive abortion laws? Loudon’s survey of the relevant factors concludes, “The main factors that led to thisdecline seem to have been successive improvements in maternalcare rather than higher standards of living.”

This suggests that the way to improve safety for mothers and their children during pregnancy and birth is not the introduction of permissive abortion laws, but improving the availability and quality of care and education for mothers having children.

This is confirmed by preliminary findings presented by Chilean epidemiologist, Dr Elard Koch, of the University of Chile faculty of medicine. He was addressing the inaugural meeting of the International Group for Global Women’s Health Research in Washington DC last month.[2]

Maternal mortality in Chile fell from 275 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1960 to 18.7 in 2000, the largest fall in any Latin American country. What caused this dramatic improvement?

Dr Koch said, ‘From 1960 onwards, there has been a breakthrough in the public health system and primary care’ in Chile. Resources, he added, were put into the development of ‘highly trained personnel, the construction of many primary health centres and the increase of schooling of the population.’

Chile protects unborn life in its constitution and laws - the improvement in maternal safety was not brought about by legalising abortion.

In Latin America, Chile which has pro-life legislation also has the lowest maternal mortality rate, while Guyana which brought in more liberal abortion laws in the mid-1990s putatively because of high maternal mortality rates, has the highest maternal rates, suggesting that they are applying the wrong solution to the problem, wider abortion instead of improving maternal care and education.

While International Planned Parenthood, the international abortion advocacy multinational, recently noted ‘a huge surge in maternal deaths’ in South Africa between 2007 and 2007 .[3]

They quoted the South African Report, ‘Saving Mothers 2005 – 2007’ which accepted a 20% increase in maternal deaths over the period, and acknowledged that nearly 4 out of every 10 of these deaths ‘were clearly avoidable within the health care system’.

Also mentioned in the report are ‘deaths due to complications of abortion’. South Africa has a permissive abortion legislation so it is not unreasonable to see in here a wrong solution becoming part of the problem.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the way to improve maternal mortality rates in developing countries is to improve the availability and quality of maternal care and education, and that legalising abortion in developing countries is part of the problem not part of the solution.

[1] Maternal mortality in the past and its relevance to developing countries today’ American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 72, No. 1, 241S-246s, July 2000
[2] Friday Fax, the C-Fam Institute, Vol. 13, No. 9, 11th February 2010, http://www.c-fam.org/publications/id.1571/pub_detail.asp, accessed on 23rd February 2010.)
[3] http://www.ippf.org/en/News/Intl+news/South+Africa+Huge+surge+in+maternal+deaths.htm

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