U.S. Senate testimony: Abortion does not help mothers

U.S. Senate testimony: Abortion does not help mothersDr. Monique Wubbenhorst testifies at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (C-FAM)

WASHINGTON, D.C., (C-Fam) Experts told the U.S. Senate [last] week that abortion is not a solution for maternal mortality.

The testimony came during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on what Senate Democrats called “The Assault on Reproductive Rights in a Post-Dobbs America.”

Among the witnesses were two pro-life obstetricians and gynecologists, Dr. Monique Wubbenhorst of the University of Notre Dame, formerly with the Bureau for Global Health at USAID, and Dr. Ingrid Skop of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Dr. Wubbenhorst, who has served women around the world, including in the poorest settings, pointed out that the purpose of abortion is to terminate the life of the unborn child, and “neither prevents, treats, or palliates any disease.”

Recent competing court rulings about abortion pills were an important topic of discussion. Abortion advocates, including Senator Dick Durbin, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, have argued that the abortion drug mifepristone is “safer than Tylenol.” “They’re comparing Tylenol overdose deaths to the undercounted deaths from chemical abortion,” said Dr. Skop. “There’s no comparison. Women assume they mean normal Tylenol use.”

Tweet This: “They’re comparing Tylenol overdose deaths to the undercounted deaths from chemical abortion. There’s no comparison.”

The issue of maternal health has been used as an entry point for abortion advocates both in the U.S. and internationally. While stories of severe pregnancy complications were discussed during the hearing, and one witness shared her own life-threatening experience to argue that abortion restrictions in Texas put her life at risk, Dr. Skop argued that the doctors managing her case had received poor legal advice and mismanaged her care.

Similar arguments about mismanagement were made following events that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland in 2012. Nevertheless, the pro-abortion lobby was able to use her death as an entry point to overturning Ireland’s pro-life constitutional amendment.

Nevertheless, Dr. Wubbenhorst’s testimony noted that “most abortions are elective. Because elective abortions are not performed out of medical necessity, the bar for safety should be very high.”

Tweet This: “Most abortions are elective. Because elective abortions are not performed out of medical necessity, the bar for safety should be very high”

Her written testimony detailed the ways in which incomplete and flawed data are used to argue that abortion is safe for women—even safer than childbirth. While the risks of abortion increase with gestational age, she noted that even among second-trimester abortions, most “are performed in a healthy woman carrying a normal fetus who desires to end her pregnancy” and not to save the life of the mother or other exceptional circumstances.

Meanwhile, both abortion rates and complications resulting from them are likely underreported. “It is my opinion that without an accurate estimate of the number of abortions performed in the United States or the number of maternal deaths from abortion, it is impossible to estimate abortion related morbidity or mortality with any precision,” testified Dr. Wubbenhorst. She noted that because of “severe data deficiencies,” the U.S. “did not report a maternal mortality ratio to the world from 2007 to 2016.”

Illegal providers of abortion pills to the U.S. encourage women experiencing complications to not disclose their use of the drugs, which will likely further skew data reporting.

When asked about how to improve maternal health, Dr. Wubbenhorst pointed to evidence associating better maternal outcomes with skilled health providers, including at birth, and environmental factors like running water in the home.  She noted that the limited studies suggesting that U.S. abortion restrictions increased maternal mortality failed to take into account issues like health worker shortages in rural areas and socioeconomic factors.

Editor's note: Rebecca Oas writes for C-Fam. This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-Fam (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute. This article appears with permission.

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