A new medical study refutes the recently reported claim that “The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than with abortion.” The study, published in the peer-reviewed Linacre Quarterly, concluded that the dubious claim is “unsupported by the literature and there is no credible scientific basis to support it.”

Dr. Byron Calhoun, vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at West Virginia University-Charleston, reviewed the data from abortion-related mortality in the United States and determined that “valid scientific assessment of abortion mortality [is] extremely difficult.” This stems from the fact that:

  1. Abortion is underreported by a factor of up to 50% when complications arise, making data unreliable.
  2. Abortion-related mortality is demonstrably underestimated. Additionally, “indirect abortion-associated deaths,” such as “substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and suicide” arising from abortion, “are likely to be many times higher than those deaths directly caused by obstetric complications.”
  3. Serious health complications arising from abortion which threaten the life of the woman are usually handled by hospital emergency rooms, not the abortion provider. Despite being the result of physical complications of the abortion procedure, these abortion-related deaths are reported as maternal deaths.

Abortion-related mortality is vastly underreported “due to poor quality reporting and definitional issues”.  Dr. Calhoun’s research shows that  “maternal deaths,” “late maternal deaths,” “pregnancy-related deaths,” and “pregnancy-associated deaths” are being defined to include, but not identify, “abortion-related deaths.”

Other factors making data unreliable include “incomplete reporting, definitional incompatibilities, voluntary data collection, research bias, reliance upon estimations, political correctness, inaccurate and/or incomplete death certificate completion, incomparability with maternal mortality statistics, and failing to include other causes of death such as suicides.”

The “numerous and complicated methodological factors make a valid scientific assessment of abortion mortality extremely difficult.” Based on reliability of the available data, Dr. Calhoun indicates that it  would be impossible to claim with any degree of scientific certainty that abortion is safer than childbirth, especially with the specificity that abortion is fourteen times safer!

Dr. Calhoun calls for “substantial discussion” on this women’s health issue so that “all reproductive outcome variables and associations: including elective abortions” are reported in a consistent fashion that is accessible to medical researchers.

Read the paper here: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/lnq/2013/00000080/00000003/art00010