For years abortion advocates and international bodies have been pressuring Chile to decriminalize abortion — claiming that Chile’s 1989 law prohibiting abortion is increasing the maternal mortality rate because women must be turning to unsafe and illegal abortion as an alternative. However, a study of statistical data from 1957 through 2007 in Chile was released this week, which dispels this myth about abortion and maternal mortality.
The Chilean study found that maternal mortality rates actually decreased by 69.2 percent in the 14 years after abortion was made illegal — dropping from 41.3 to 12.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This suggests that the abortion advocates are mistaken in their continuous assertion that lack of access to legal abortion increases deaths to pregnant women.
The study found that the greatest factor in lowering the maternal mortality rate was not access to abortion, but rather was access to education.
In 1965, Chile initiated a mandatory primary-education program, requiring that children receive a minimum of eight years of primary education. This increased the number of years of female education from an average of 3.1 years in 1957 to an average of twelve years in 2007. The researchers noted that the increased access to education for women affected their reproductive behavior and access to maternal-health facilities. It was after the implementation of this education program that that the maternal-mortality rate started to decrease.
The researchers observed that the maternal-mortality rate continued to decrease after 1989 when abortion was made illegal. If the claims made by abortion advocates were true, then one would expect the maternal-mortality rate to have increased after 1989 to account for a dramatic increase in dangerous illegal abortions, but these numbers did not increase. They continued to plummet.
In spite of the attacks from the international pro-abortion lobby, Chile has a pretty great track record on maternal mortality. In fact, Chile has the lowest maternal-mortality rate in Latin America and it even has a lower maternal-mortality rate than that of the United States — a country with legal abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
It is clear that respect for both the mother and the unborn child has paid off in Chile, and that the United States could learn something about how to protect women’s lives and health by following in that country’s footsteps.
— Mary Novick is a paralegal with Americans United for Life.