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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Maternal Health

Motherhood Campaign: Introduction

Maternal Mortality is an international disgrace.

In developing countries, tens of thousands of women die as a result of childbirth every year. This figure may be in the hundreds of thousands - statistics from developing countries are often highly inaccurate and are frequently manipulated for political or ideological ends - but whatever the exact figure, these deaths are almost all preventable.

These deaths could be prevented by providing basic maternity care, improving infrastructure (such as transport and clean water supplies) training professional helpers and improving the standing of women in many countries. Unfortunately, western aid agencies and governments have included abortion as part of the solution to maternal mortality, pointing to what one charity describes as "a real poverty - the lack of compassion and love."

No woman should die in childbirth for want of basic medical care.

No baby should be sacrificed under the banner of 'reproductive health'.

The Motherhood Campaign:

* supports and campaigns for good and ethical maternal healthcare in developing countries

* lobbies the Department for International Development to adopt ethical policies regarding maternal health

* condemns attempts to use maternal health as a Trojan horse to impose abortion on developing countries rather than deal with the real problems facing mothers.

Maternal health and abortion

Irish experts say...

In 1992, a group of Ireland's top gynaecologists wrote

"We affirm that there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of a mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child." (John Bonner, Eamon O'Dwyer, David Jenkins, Kieran O'Driscoll, Julia Vaughan, 'Statement by Obstetricians', The Irish Times 1 April 1992)


Argentinean Obstetricians on Abortion

A group of 78 Argentinean obstetricians have signed a Manifesto for Life opposing the legalisation of abortion in their country. A report on the Manifesto can be read here, with the text available in Spanish here

Family Research Council: Chemcial Abortion

Click on the video image to watch women of the Family Research Council advocating for women in the the developing world, againsnt the menace of RU-486 chemcial abortion.

How many women die from 'unsafe abortion'?

This interview with Donna Harrison, a diplomat for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, sheds light on the political motives that so often distort statistics and even medical definitions in the sensitive forum of maternal health. This answer bears close reading.

MercatorNet: What are the main obstacles to getting good abortion data?

Donna Harrison: There are three main problems. First, the use of the terms “safe” and “unsafe”, which are not scientific terms but more legal and political, because they are directed to changing the law. In a 2007 article co-sponsored by WHO, for example, unsafe abortion is defined as “abortions in countries with restrictive abortion laws”. That means that any abortion in such a country, no matter how medically superior the conditions, would be counted as “unsafe”.

This can produce some unintended and even amusing consequences. In 2007 I attended the UN-sponsored Women Deliver conference in London, which was dedicated to advancing maternal health. During the presentation of a paper estimating the worldwide number of “unsafe” abortions, a Marie Stopes International representative from a clinic performing abortions in a country where it is illegal rose in indignation and said, “By your definitions, are you saying that all the abortions performed in my clinic are unsafe?” The presenters did not answer her question.

The second major problem comes from the way WHO collects data on hospital admissions due to abortion. In a 2003 document drawn up in conjunction with the UN Population Fund it defines these admissions as “due to abortion (spontaneous and induced, but excluding planned termination of pregnancy)”. This could mean in practice, “Don’t count complications in women admitted precisely to have an abortion,” or, “Don’t count any women who have had complications from planned termination of pregnancy.” It’s not at all clear what statistics to count. And, since planned termination of pregnancy in a hospital implies legal abortion, this method would give a distorted picture of maternal deaths and morbidity, or ill health, under a legal regime.

The third major problem comes from the statistical manipulation of such data as it has. For example, in estimating the number of “unsafe” abortions and related morbidity, WHO combines spontaneous abortions and induced abortions, and then “corrects” for spontaneous abortion according to what it believes the proportion should be.

Abortion does not strengthen women's autonomy - it destroys it

There are times when I really do wonder whether British journalists will ever get to grips with the plight of women outside the Fleet Street Comfort Zone. Sarah Ditum's article in The Guardian is absolutely typical of the neo-colonial ignorance of people absolutely determined to defend their narrow ideological position at any cost - even if that cost includes the truth and the welfare of women whose rights they claim to care about.

The article is replete with pro-abortion cliches and though she makes some valid points about the status of women in Indian society more generally, Ditum transparently fails to notice the enormous elephant in the room - that "choice" is precisely NOT what many women carrying baby girls are being given. A recent report on India's "missing" girls contains heartbreaking stories of women being beaten and abused, not - as Sarah Ditum suggests - for giving birth to a baby girl, but for being pregnant with a baby girl they desperately want to keep. It is almost obscene to mention words like "choice" and "autonomy" or even "women's control over their own bodies" in face of the stark, ugly reality that in a culture that fails to respect women, abortion is yet another weapon employed against them.

Abortion does not reduce maternal mortality

This meta-study analyses the contentious subject of abortion in the context of maternal mortality. The paper comes to a conclusion that is perhaps obvious but needs to be constantly stated in the current political climate, where ideology so often trumps common sense.

To reduce maternal mortality, we must strive to give women in the developing world access to the same standard of care that has been available to women in the developed world for decades—care that results in a healthy outcome for mother and child.


Lancet Letter

Rene Leiva of the University of Ottawa has a letter in The Lancet, refuting the argument that abortion should be legalised to reduce maternal mortality. As Leiva correctly asserts:

one could argue that sound scientific evidence shows that legalisation of abortion is not associated with a reduction in maternal mortality. On the basis of the data provided by Hogan and colleagues,2 countries such as El Salvador, Chile, Poland, and Nicaragua, which prohibit abortion after having previously allowed it, have not seen their maternal mortality worsen. In fact, it has improved. South Africa has seen mortality worsen after the legalisation of abortion.

Huge Surge in Maternal Deaths in S. Africa

Check out this report on maternal mortality in South Africa. South Africa has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world but the abortion lobby has been forced to acknowledge the huge increase in maternal deaths in that country. Easy access to abortion does NOT decrease maternal mortality as the terrible - and wholly avoidable - situation in South Africa demonstrates so tragically.

Lowering maternal deaths

Prevention of Port-Partum Haemorrhage

Post-partum haemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation. A decade of applying research to midwifery practice in one Malawi district demonstrates that PPH is quite easy to prevent.

One in four maternal deaths worldwide is due to post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) - excessive bleeding after childbirth; for Africa the figure is one in three.

Malawi has an extremely high rate of maternal mortality, at 807 women per 100,000 live births, with 25 percent of these due to PPH. But these figures represent an improvement over 2004 when maternal mortality was 1,120 per 100,000 live births.

Full article available here

Maternal Mortality Rates dropping 3.3% every year

Maternal mortality rates worldwide are dropping by approximately 3.3% a year, according to WHO figures. This still means that we are very far from reaching the MDG5 promise of reducing maternal mortality by 75% but it is an improvement on the 1990s, when the rate was only dropping by around 2% a year and shows that progress is slowly being made to reduce the tragedy of maternal death in the developing world.

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International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life

Christopher Hitchens

[an] unborn child seems to me to be a real concept. It's not a growth or an appendix. You can't say the rights question doesn't come up