New York—After the initial statements, Guyana was the first country to be put under CEDAW’s scrutiny. Zohra Rasekh, a committee expert, questioned the delegation about Guyanese efforts to improve access to abortion to reduce the nation’s relatively high maternal mortality rate. The Guyanese minister correctly disputed the claim that “unsafe abortions” are causing the country’s rate of maternal mortality. She observed that abortion is already legal in Guyana and that all public hospitals are required to provide free abortion. Moreover, the greatest reductions in the country’s maternal mortality have stemmed from better trained health care professionals and education about maternal nutrition and health. Finally, the Guyanese minister observed that the only reported death from “unsafe abortion” was actually in a legal, privately owned abortion clinic.
This is consistent with all the U.N. data and publicly available research on the subject of maternal mortality and abortion. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization show that nations that reduced their maternal mortality rate most substantially between 1990 and 2008 were those that maintained bans on abortion, such as the Maldives, Bhutan, and Iran (pg. 31). Ireland, which has maintained its ban on abortion despite overwhelming international pressures, consistently boasts one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world (#1 in 2005, #3 in 2008) according to UNICEF.
Yet CEDAW refuses to acknowledge that there is no demonstrable link between increasing abortion access and decreasing maternal mortality. A recent Chilean study shows that legalization of abortion there had no effect on reducing the maternal mortality rate. Instead, maternal mortality continued to fall even when abortion became more restricted. In fact, legalizing abortion often corresponds with a rising rate of maternal mortality! Developed nations with easy access to abortion have a greater rate of maternal deaths caused by abortion, despite their lower maternal mortality rates and better health care systems overall.
It’s time for CEDAW to admit: abortion is not safe for women or their children.