Saturday, December 27, 2008

The unmistakable, undeniable, clear impact of legalized abortion on maternal mortality

I have a troll (ironically calling itself "reality") who pops in from time to time with raw pregnancy mortality data. So, for the benefit of "reality" and anybody wondering what the point is, I bring you Maternal Death Rates in America in the 20th Century:

This is all maternal deaths, from abortion, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, complications of childbirth, and so forth. You can see that the 20th Century got off to a good start, improving maternal health, but that trend would later level off, and then reverse itself temporarily, before taking the downward trend that would continue for the rest of the century.

Let's look at it again, but this time I'll put a vertical line at Roe vs. Wade, so we can see the clear, unmistakable, undeniable, staggering and spectacular impact ready access to safe, legal abortion had on maternal mortality:

For those of you with a faulty sarcasm detector: Roe didn't even amount to a blip on the line.

For those of you who get your information from abortion lobby "fact sheets" this might come as a bit of a shock. You're accustomed to being told things like: "The legalization of induced abortion beginning in the 1960s contributed to an 89% decline in deaths from septic illegal abortions (15) during 1950-1973." (Courtesy, in this case, of the Centers for Disease Control -- for those of you who had any doubts as to their abortion-praising agenda.)

Let's look specifically at abortion mortality, to see the profound and clear and unmistakable impact of legalization. I marked vertical lines at 1970 (when New York and California became the first states to legalize abortion on demand) and 1973 (when Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion on demand nationwide).

If you're having a hard time spotting it, I'll zoom in a bit on abortion deaths since 1960. Note that I marked New York and California's legalization and Roe vs. Wade for you:

The things put forth by abortion advocacy organizations leave you with the impression that improvement in maternal health in general, and abortion mortality in particular, must be due to the ready availability of legal abortion. But if you look at maternal mortality, as we just did, and look at the legalization of abortion, as we just did, you can see that the dramatic and very laudable drop in maternal death in the 20th Century was achieved with no help whatsoever from the abortion lobby.

To whom is credit actually due, if it is not due to abortionists and abortion agitators? Let's look at some factors.

1. At the turn of the century, many maternal deaths were due to one sad factor: inadequate childhood nutrition. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D, especially for city children, caused ricketts. This meant that women who developed ricketts as children had small and/or malformed pelvises. This caused obstructed labor, a major contributor to high maternal mortality. (This problem persists in developing nations.) In the developed West, the problem of obstructed labor has been virtually eliminated, along with most nutritionally-related complications of pregnancy and childbirth. For this, we should thank:

  • Public health officials who pushed for vitamin D fortification and pasturization of milk
  • Farmers who increased the supply of milk and produce.
  • Agricultural officials who worked to improve the health of farm animals and to improve farm productivity.
  • Truck drivers and other transportation workers who brought the milk and produce from farm to city.
  • Inventors and entrepeneurs who made electricity and refrigeration cheap and widely available so that milk, meat, and produce would stay fresh.
  • Planners and workers who built the highway system and other elements of the transportation infrastructure to facilitate the transport of milk, and fresh meat and produce, from farm to city.
  • Inventors and entrepeneurs who created jobs and raised the standard of living so that families could afford milk and fresh produce for their children.
  • Grocers who made all of these products available to consumers.

    2. The biggest contributors to the reduction in septic deaths were the unglamorous enterprises of sanitation and hygiene. Less trash in the streets meant fewer rats and other vermin, fewer risks of disease. Running water, sewage treatment, and the widespread use of gas and electric stoves and water heaters made the basic healthy hygiene we take for granted available. For this, we should thank:

  • City planners who developed strategies for improving cleanliness of our urban areas.
  • Utility workers who keep our water running and hot.
  • Sanitation workers who expose themselves to the dangers of garbage-related diseases and in doing so, protect mothers and children.
  • Waste-management workers of all levels, who have eliminated the ages-old health hazards of, to put it daintily, "grey water."

    3. Of course, medical advances played their vital roles. We owe a tremendious debt of gratitude to:

  • Joseph Lister and others who pioneered antiseptic technique that reduced septic compliations and made c-sections practical.
  • J.Y.Simpson and other pioneers of anesthesia who made c-sections and other surgery practical.
  • Ignaz Philip Semmelweiss, whose career was left a shambles by his fight to eliminate childbed fever, and those who took his advice and began the practice of simple hand-washing, which we take for granted, in attending laboring and postpartum women.
  • Researchers and pharmaceutical companies that made antibiotics, anti-coagulants, and other vital medicines available.
  • Doctors, nurses, and technicians who developed new medical technologies and worked to make them widely available.
  • Biomedical companies and workers for making everything from sterile bandages to high-tech monitoring and surgical equipment readily available.
  • Housekeepers, orderlies, and other non-glamorous but vital workers who keep the medical environment clean and sanitary.

    When you reflect on the tremendous advances in public health, especially maternal and neonatal health, of the 20th Century, give credit where credit is due. Remember that it was our fellow citizens, working daily in often thankless and dangerous jobs, who wrought these miracles as much as doctors and medical pioneers. It is thanks to the trash collector, the worker out repairing the electrical lines in bitter weather, the farmer rising before dawn to milk the cows, the stock clerk stacking oranges in the supermarket, that we can so take it for granted that we will survive pregnancy and childbirth, and that our children will outlive their parents. The abortionists and their cheerleaders should learn a little humility.

    That's not to say there's not still progress to be made. But we didn't need the abortion lobby to make the stupendous progress that we've made, and nothing they have to offer is likely to help in the future, especially when you consider that the damage abortion can do to a woman's reproductive system increases her risk of complications -- and thus of mortality -- in future pregnancies.

    We need to heed the results of mortality studies and take appropriate corrective action -- but these corrective actions will be mostly on a case-by-case basis, of being alert to, and poised to treat, life-threatening complications as they arise. I'd recommend a through check-up for each woman diagnosed pregnant. To avoid offending abortion enthusiasts, we can call the check-ups "initial obstetric examinations" rather than "prenatal check-ups" so as to avoid making the heinous and totally unacceptable presumption that unless the woman says otherwise, she's going to carry to term. These examinations would benefit the woman, regardless of what she chooses to do about the pregnancy, by getting her into the health care delivery system and thus screening for risk factors early on.

    Of course, these exams would cost money, and some women are uninsured. A proposal such as John McCain's plan to provide vouchers to purchase health insurance would allow all women to be covered. In the mean time, providers could assist women in getting connected to payment sources they might not be familiar with, or to hook them up with private charities that would help with the expense of the check-up.

    And all of this without trying to answer every maternal death with a call for more abortions!

    WKen said...

    Since I'm not irony deficient, I got your point ...

    I appreciate your analysis of the mortality statistics. I'll be putting a link to this post under my list of articles people need to read.

    Christina Dunigan said...

    Wickle, you'd be surprised how many people -- including the turkeys at the CDC -- manage to miss the obvious. I can't count the number of times I've seen abortion advocates compare either abortion deaths five years on either side of Roe and credit Roe for the drop, as if the even more precipitous plunge for the previous six decades wasn't there!

    And I still get trolls going on about pregnancy mortality as if abortion somehow is gonna cure it. Serious cases of recto-cranial impaction, I'd say.

    Anonymous said...

    In about 1967, I think, is when suction curettage became generally available to treat pregnancy loss. Suction curettage resulted in less blood loss, less infection, less risk of uterine perforation. Almost every complication of abortion is less when suction rather than sharp curettage is used for the procedure. Suction curettage is used for abortion as well as miscarriage. The suction technique was more responsible for the decline in rates of septic abortion than Roe. Roe was a tiny blip. Better technique had a much greater effect.

    Keep up the good work!

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks Granny for a great post. You really know your stuff. Statistics can be so misleading if not looked at correctly.

    Anonymous said...

    Your abortion chart only proves my point: there were more abortion deaths before Roe than after.

    You also prove my point that pregnancy kills WAY more women than abortion; at least 10 times more. Yet this is what you want for ALL women: the more dangerous option. Obviously if all women were forced to give birth, more of them would die. AND THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT.

    Better dead than slutty, right Christina?

    Christina Dunigan said...

    reality, there were also far more abortion deaths before the moon landings than afterward. So obviously the space program reduced abortion deaths!

    WKen said...

    Yes, that's right ... we want all women to get pregnant so that they will die.

    I wonder what color the sky is on reality's planet.

    Christina Dunigan said...

    I think "reality" is actually a spambot that crawls the webs for blog postings with years in them, then automatically generates a number of pregnancy deaths for that year. Which probably puzzles people at sports blogs:

    "The 1989 World Series was particularly exciting..."

    To which "reality" responds "In 1989, 341 baseball players died of childbirth complications."

    Anonymous said...

    GG, I know you're mainly interested in USA, but since you have at least a branch interest in what lowers abortion mortality GENERALLY, you should research the following question:

    What caused the ABRUPT 95% drop in hospital admissions for abortion complications in South Africa in the mid 1990s (I think it was 1995)?

    Christina Dunigan said...

    I wonder if it was the same thing that caused the abrupt drop in hospital admissions for abortion complications in California in 1970. Which was that they started doing the abortions IN THE HOSPITALS, so that the women were already in the hospital when they suffered a lot of their complications. PRESTO! Fewer admissions for complications!

    Joe said...

    There were actually FAR MORE abortion deaths after Roe vs Wade than before (if you properly consider unborn children to be real human beings, which they are). Since Roe vs Wade, 50,000,000 human beings have been killed by abortion violence (25,000,000 of whom were women). If you consider that many millions of children would still have been killed by their mothers without legalization over forty years (but still far fewer than actually were), I think it is reasonable to assume that Roe vs Wade cost the lives of 15 to 20 MILLION women.

    These young women would be living their lives today just like any other human beings. They are not because by the millions their lives were cruelly taken from them by abortion violence.

    This is one of the central paradoxes of abortionist "thinking". They claim to support "women's rights" but believe in using abortion violence to destroy the lives of ALL women (and ALL men) in the unborn stage. It is completely absurd for them to talk about "saving women's lives" when they have killed more women than anyone else ever has or ever will.

    In fact the abortion movement is the greatest danger that women and humanity have ever faced.

    Anonymous said...

    GG that's an interesting hypothesis.

    Anonymous said...

    Joe, we're trying to be a little more serious here.

    The important thing is we will never know how many abortions would have been done absent Roe/Wade. And if abortion is banned, you will never know whether it decreases, leaves constant, or RAISES the abortion rates. Yes, it could raise them. For some women it would be easier to buy black-market misoprostol than it is to go to a doc today. Learn about the Philippines, yes it's a small dirt-poor country but it's still the best model of right-to-lifism in action on the planet. Or, something else could raise abortion rates and we wouldn't detect it because of the ban.

    You'd replace the current abortion rates with question marks. NOT lower numbers.

    The Ban Abortion Movement is a scam. Would you buy into a process for turning lead into gold but it only works if you don't look at the gold or try to measure it???

    Anonymous said...

    GG, another suggestion for improving the persuasiveness of your blog. Add the following to your FAQ section: "What do you say to those who admit that the fetus is a live person but claim that the mother's entitled to have it killed anyway because of its location inside her body and/or its dependence on her life-support functions, which she owns and is entitled to switch off, particularly in order to avoid the medical/surgical trauma of childbirth, even at the cost of killing the fetus?"

    Maybe make the question shorter, but be sure to address everything in the long version when writing the answer.

    Brandon said...

    Great article! On the chart of abortion deaths, what is the significance of the purple and orange areas?