In America, Abortions Are Much Safer Than Childbirth

A pregnant woman with a face mask walking on the street in Singapore, June 20, 2013.
A pregnant woman with a face mask walking on the street in Singapore, June 20, 2013.

Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

It’s sometimes hard to know the difference between a legitimate state interest in regulating something, and a pernicious scheme to use regulation just to drive people out of business. Lately, various kinds of safety regulations for clinics that provide abortion services have been in the news. Generally speaking, the people pressing for tighter regulation of clinics coincidentally also believe that in an ideal world all abortions should be illegal.

And if you’re interested in the subject of how much people care about the health of pregnant women, you might be interested to know that in the United States at least having an abortion is much safer than having a baby:

OBJECTIVE: To assess the safety of abortion compared with childbirth.

METHODS: We estimated mortality rates associated with live births and legal induced abortions in the United States in 1998-2005. We used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, birth certificates, and Guttmacher Institute surveys. In addition, we searched for population-based data comparing the morbidity of abortion and childbirth.

RESULTS: The pregnancy-associated mortality rate among women who delivered live neonates was 8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. The mortality rate related to induced abortion was 0.6 deaths per 100,000 abortions. In the one recent comparative study of pregnancy morbidity in the United States, pregnancy-related complications were more common with childbirth than with abortion.

CONCLUSION: Legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion. Similarly, the overall morbidity associated with childbirth exceeds that with abortion.

So if you’re concerned about health outcomes, you might want to spend less time investing in stricter regulation of abortion clinics and more time investing in health care facilities for pregnant women and newborns. Apparently we’re still not doing a very good job of delivering babies safely in this country.