REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
Rudd Government ignores abortion link to maternal deaths
, October 3, 2009
A small recent news item, "Overseas abortion aid ban revoked", reported that Australian overseas aid could now be used to fund abortions of foetuses (babies) of up to 20 weeks' gestation in countries where it is legal (The Age, Melbourne, August 21, 2009).
The Rudd Labor Government has thus revoked the former Coalition Government's ban on the use of Australian overseas aid money to fund abortion advice or services - a ban which owed much to the lobbying efforts of former independent Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine.
Australia has "progressed" from offering abortion advice to now directly funding abortion services.
This development is a cave-in by the ALP's right-wing faction to radical feminist MPs and to the profitable abortion industry. It comes at a time when UN health data show that permissive abortion laws lead to greater maternal mortality, not less.
UN statistics completely undermine the rationale for Australia funding abortions overseas - the excuse being that unsafe or illegal abortions result in a high number of maternal deaths. However, the data show that African nations with the most pro-life laws have by far the lowest maternal death rates on the continent.
The world's largest abortion provider, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), has recently acknowledged an alarming "surge" in maternal deaths in South Africa, challenging the pro-abortion mantra that permissive abortion laws decrease maternal mortality. Maternal deaths increased by 20 per cent in 2005-2007 in South Africa, a country that since 1996 has had one of the most unrestrictive abortion laws on the African continent.
While deaths attributable to HIV/AIDS account for the biggest portion of maternal deaths in South Africa, IPPF acknowledges that a portion of deaths are "due to complications of abortion" in a country where the procedure is legal and widely available.
Developing countries have been badgered in recent years by various UN agencies and pro-abortion non-government organisations (NGOs), including the IPPF, to decriminalise abortion as a measure to reduce maternal mortality. However, the recent IPPF revelation is the latest fact in a growing body of evidence showing the opposite relationship in which legal abortion and high maternal deaths coincide.
The nation with the lowest maternal mortality rate in the African region is Mauritius, according to a 2009 World Health Organisation (WHO) report. Mauritius's laws are among the continent's most protective of the unborn. The report further shows how countries that have decriminalised abortion in recent years in response to pressure, such as Ethiopia, have failed to lower dramatic maternal death rates. Ethiopia's maternal death rate is 48 times higher than that of Mauritius.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the country with the lowest maternal mortality rate in South America is Chile, which protects unborn life in its constitution. The country with the highest is Guyana, with a maternal mortality rate 30 times higher than in Chile. Guyana has allowed abortion with virtually no restriction since 1995. Ironically, one of two main justifications used in liberalising Guyana's law was to enhance the "attainment of safe motherhood" by eliminating deaths and complications associated with unsafe abortion.
Nicaragua has been targeted by the international pro-abortion lobby since it amended its law three years ago to grant full protection to prenatal life. Sweden reportedly cut over $20 million in foreign aid as a result. More recently, Amnesty International issued a report claiming maternal death rates increased following Nicaragua's law going into effect.
Media critics, however, have contested the veracity of Amnesty's claims, and Nicaraguan government statistics show a decline in maternal deaths since 2006.
Similarly, WHO statistics for the South East Asia region show Nepal, where there is no restriction on abortion, has the region's highest rate of maternal mortality. The lowest is Sri Lanka, with a rate 14 times lower than that of Nepal. According to the pro-abortion public interest law firm, Center for Reproductive Rights, Sri Lanka has among the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.
I recall meeting years ago a Polish delegate to the UN's Commission on the Status of Women, convened in New York, who told me that since the Soviet Empire collapsed and Poland enacted restrictions on abortion, the number of admissions [for "complications"] to gynaecological wards in Polish hospitals declined substantially.Ireland
Worldwide, the country with the lowest maternal death rate is Ireland, a nation that prohibits abortion and whose constitution explicitly protects the rights of the unborn.
Bob McMullan, Parliament Secretary for International Development Assistance, wrote to me claiming that more than 5 million women each year suffer permanent or temporary disability and 68,000 die as a result of unsafe abortions.
Mr McMullan should analyse those figures more closely - making abortion legal and funded by Australia does not make it safe.Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.