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Chile: Legalizing abortion does not reduce maternal mortality

.- Chile, a country that does not allow abortion, recently received the International Protect Life Award for being the country with the lowest maternal mortality rate in Latin America.

Nearly 30 representatives of pro-life organizations that work before the United Nations presented the award on Feb. 25 during the 2011 meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. The meeting is taking place Feb. 22 - March 4 in New York.

A spokesman for the pro-life leaders, Dan Ziedler spoke with CNA on Feb. 25, saying, “It should be noted abortion is not allowed in Chile under any circumstances. Chile respects the life of both the mother and the child, the two are equal under the law.”

“I think we should praise this judicial system and acknowledge that the claim by many abortion supporters – that the practice must be legalized in order for maternal mortality to decrease – is not true,” Ziedler said.

He also said a letter about the award sent by pro-life leaders to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera urged him to move forward with two important programs in defense of the lives of children and mothers. 

The “Chile Grows With You” program is “a wonderful example of what a country and a government can do to promote the value of human life in its policies in a sensible and positive way,” Ziedler said. “It helps parents of children under the age of five, including the unborn, to understand that their children need a lot of attention and care both before and after they are born,” he added.

Ziedler noted that the program has been around for years. “It is interesting to note that the program isn’t associated with just one administration or one political ideology in Chile,” he said.

The “Committed to Life” program was established by President Sebastian Pinera and aims to help pregnant women in difficult situations.

The spokesman pointed out that Chile has expressed its pro-life stance on various occasions at the international level, such as in Brazil and Switzerland in 2010. “We must see this as positive, and many Chileans do not realize the great treasure they have.”

“Chile’s example for other countries at the international level is something we need to emphasize,” he added.

For her part, pro-life leader Julia Cardenal of El Salvador, a signatory of the letter sent to President Pinera, said, “Improving maternal health while respecting every human life is the key for every country that really wants to reduce maternal mortality in compliance with the Millennium Development Goals.”

The numbers

A study by Dr. Elard Koch of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chile, which compared data on maternal deaths from abortion between 1957 and 2008, found that the rate had dropped 97.6 percent during the span of 51 years.

After therapeutic abortion was outlawed in 1989, the rate decreased from 13.62 to 1.65 percent for every 100,000 live births, that is, a drop of 87.9 percent.

Koch said the chances of maternal death from abortion for women today is 0.09 in 100,000.

These results, he explained, show that legislation that protects the life of the unborn does not lead to an increase in maternal mortality or illegal abortions. He added that legalizing or decriminalizing abortion leads to an “epidemic” with grave consequences for the health of women and for the country.

Koch, whose study was presented in January 2010 at the inaugural meeting of the
International Working Group for Global Women's Health Research, in Washington D.C., also said that what has led to a decrease in maternal mortality has been the promotion of “safe pregnancies,” not abortion.


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