In the comments of an earlier post, arguing that abortion may be more dangerous than childbirth, “Alas” reader Joe M. has pointed to the abstract of “Pregnancy-associated mortality after birth, spontaneous abortion, or induced abortion,” from The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Feb 2004).
The abstract, based on medical records from Finland (due to socialized medicine, Finland has exceptionally accurate medical statistics), reports that “mortality was lower after a birth (28.2/100,000) than after a spontaneous (51.9/100,000) or induced abortion (83.1/100,000).”
Joe’s not alone; many pro-life organizations have cited this article, pretty much to make the same point Joe does.
I’m neutral in the “which causes more deaths – legal abortion or childbirth?” debate. I don’t know which is safer; it seems clear that both procedures are pretty safe for the average American. And the abortion question is, in the end, about civil rights, not about safety.
Nonetheless, since Joe brought it up – and since it’s been argued about endlessly in comments – I looked up the study. Joe’s point – which is, if I understand him, that abortion is more dangerous than childbirth – isn’t really supported by the Finland study. From the study’s text (no link available, sorry):
Having a late-term abortion for medical reasons is relatively dangerous – but it seems unjustified to assume that carrying these particular pregnancies to term would have been any less dangerous. You could just as easily use this study to argue that, for an ordinary pregnancy, it’s safer to abort than to give birth.
However, I’m sure other studies could be (and will be) cited to show just the opposite. In the end, the studies seem to show that both childbirth and legal abortion, at least in the first world, are fairly safe. A more substantial debate about abortion would concentrate on different issues.