Doctors warn UN that abortion harms mothers
Dr. Donna Harrison and Dr. Monique Chireau at the National Press Club Jan. 24, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.
Dr. Donna Harrison and Dr. Monique Chireau at the National Press Club Jan. 24, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.
By Adelaide Darling
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.-  Medical experts before the United Nations argued that abortion is not medically necessary to promote women’s health and can actually harm women instead.

“Real medical care decreases maternal mortality; abortion does not decrease maternal mortality,” Dr. Donna J. Harrison told CNA on March 6. 

Harrison, who serves as the director of research and public policy for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, was on a panel of doctors from around the world who testified before the U.N. Commission for the Status of Women in New York City.

The doctors challenged assumptions that the expansion of healthcare and women’s rights demands the expansion of abortion. They stressed that pregnancies – even those considered to be high-risk – do not necessitate conflict between the needs of the mother and those of the child.

Instead, they explained, innovative solutions treating the whole person and the whole of society lead to increased health for all involved.

Dr. Eoghan de Faoite, board member for the Committee on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare in Ireland, criticized the international attacks on Ireland’s ban on abortion.

The doctor noted that the country has one of the lowest rates of maternal death in the developed world and has not experienced the “rise in mortality” seen in other Western countries that have legalized abortion.

His presentation also cited studies that found no data to suggest that abortion lowers maternal mortality. Based on these reports, the Committee on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare has declared that abortion is not a medically necessary procedure.

De Faoite clarified that delivering babies before they are able to survive on their own is sometimes necessary to save the life of the mother, but in cases such as these, efforts are made to save the child as well as the mother.

He also addressed the case of Savita Halappanavar, whose death in Ireland in late 2012 sparked worldwide controversy. The doctor said that she was infected with a highly aggressive form of E.Coli, and that there is “no evidence to date that termination of pregnancy would have saved (her) life.”

Dr. Elard Koch of the Center of Embryonic Medicine and Maternal Health in Chile presented data showing an increase in maternal deaths after the legalization of abortion in countries around the world. This is caused by the complications that come from abortions, he said, adding that the abolition of abortion in countries such as Chile have coincided with a decline in abortion. 

Koch’s presentation argued that maternal mortality can be effectively decreased through education, skilled birthing technicians and access to clean and highly staffed birthing facilities rather than abortion.

In an interview with CNA after the presentations, Dr. Harrison commented on the dangers of pill-induced abortions, which carry a “higher rate of complications after the abortion” and are “much more dangerous.”

In addition, these procedures are not necessarily supervised by a physician, but can be administered “without examining a woman and without any plans for follow-up,” she said.

This is particularly dangerous because what would be a complication in the West “becomes a death” in the developing world, Harrison explained, pointing to the inability to access immediate emergency care in cases such as severe hemorrhaging and incomplete abortions.

She noted that the proliferation of these pill-induced medical abortions is partly “because it is much easier to spread than surgical abortion” and because it is “cheaper for the abortion provider to give a woman a pill than it is to take care of her surgically or be available for her in case she has a complication.”

Nonetheless, it is both “dangerous” and “irresponsible” to promote such abortions in the developing world, Harrison warned, “and it will result in an increase in death and complications in women from abortion.”

She echoed Koch’s findings, saying that a better way to reduce maternal mortality is through focusing on complications such as hemorrhage, hypertension and infection by providing skilled birth attendants, delivery facilities and adequate prenatal care.

Tags: Abortion, Health Care, Maternal mortality

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