“Outlaw abortion and abortion won’t stop. Women will just do it illegally and women will die!”
Or so the argument goes… But facts are pesky things, and they show that the opposite is true in Chile.
According to new research from the MELISA Institute, since Chile’s ban on abortion, not only has maternal health improved but the number of women seeking illegal abortion has plummeted!
Since Chile banned abortion in 1989, the number of maternal deaths decreased from 41.3 to 12.7 per 100,000 women (69.2% reduction). That puts Chile in second place for the lowest maternal mortality rate in the Americas (that’s right, even better than the United States).
Prof. Elard Koch, a molecular epidemiologist and lead author of the study, says educating women enhanced their ability to access existing health care resources, and since those resources included skilled attendants for childbirth, that directly led to a reduction of maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.
As Dr. Koch explains, “it is a unique natural experiment conducted in a developing country.” During the fifty-year period under study, the overall maternal mortality rate dramatically declined by 93.8%, from 270.7 to 18.2 deaths per 100,000 live births, making Chile a leader in maternal healthcare outcomes in the Americas.
But wait. If abortion is legally banned, wouldn’t we expect to see the number of women hospitalized due to illegal abortion procedures increase? Aren’t women just seeking abortions outside of proper healthcare facilities?
No. Not only is Chile one of the safest places in the world for women to give birth, but the number of women actually seeking abortion is also declining. According to data from the Chilean Ministry of Health, the country displays a continuous decreasing trend of hospital discharges due to complications of abortions suspected to be illegally induced at a rate of 2% per year since 2001. In contrast, a decreasing trend was not observed in hospital discharges due to miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, which have remained constant during the same period.
Dr. Koch’s research also found that a large sample of abortion-minded women in Chile displayed a vulnerability profile marked by coercion and fear, which accounted for nearly 70% of the reasons women considered abortion. Moreover, the research indicated that support programs directed to vulnerable women can prevent most illegal abortions, with an outcome of live birth (with or without adoption) ranging between 69% and 94% depending on the risk group.
It’s not sheer coincidence that Malta, The Republic of Ireland, and Chile, all of which have prohibited abortion, have lower maternal mortality rates than the United States. In Africa, where 56% of all maternal mortalities occur, abortion-related maternal mortality is less than half what it is in developed countries. Yet there are more restrictions on abortion in Africa than in developed countries! So what’s the deal? In countries with higher abortion restrictions, fewer women have to seek treatment for “unsafe abortion” than in countries where abortion is “safe and legal.”
The result’s of Chile’s natural experiment is bad news for the pro-abortion lobby. But it’s great news for mothers and the unborn!