If Ireland has the best maternal mortality rate in the world, why do we need abortion?

Ireland does not have the best maternal mortality rate in the world, although the rate is relatively low. Ireland’s maternal mortality rate of 8 (i.e. 8 per 100,000 live births) is slightly higher than those of countries with liberal abortion regimes, such as the Czech Republic (5), Greece (3), Finland (5), the Netherlands (6), Spain (6), and Sweden (4).[i]

However good Ireland’s maternity services are pregnant women will still present with conditions which can involve significant risks to their lives which can only be avoided by termination of the pregnancy.

Deaths during pregnancy in Irish hospitals are avoided in part because even if seriously ill, pregnant women travel to the UK to access abortion services on the advice of their Irish doctors.

[i]Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2010. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank estimates. 2012. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA

Does abortion have negative psychological consequences for women?

No. Research purporting to link abortion and mental ill-health has been decisively disproved by health care and mental health publications and service providers.[i]

The most methodologically sound international evidence shows that abortion does not increase risk of mental health problems. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2011[ii]: rates of mental health problems for women with an unwanted pregnancy are the same whether women had an abortion or gave birth; mental health outcomes are associated with a woman’s mental health before abortion.

The Crisis Pregnancy Programme’s report: Psychological Effects of Abortion on Women: A Review of the Literature[iii] (2007) found no long term effects from having an abortion: “the legal and voluntary termination of pregnancy rarely causes immediate or lasting negative psychological consequences in healthy women”.

There is considerable evidence that stigma and silence about abortion, rather than abortion itself, can have negative mental health consequences. Other factors include lack of support and previous mental illness.

[i] Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist statement: http://www.rcog.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning-and-opinions/statement/rcog-statement-bjpsych-paper-mental-health-risks-and-a

[ii] Induced Abortion and Mental Health: A systematic review of the evidence – full report and consultation table with responses, December 2011: http://www.nccmh.org.uk/publications_SR_abortion_in_MH.html

[iii] CPA: Research no. 20: http://crisispregnancy.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/20.-Psychological-Effects-of-Abortion-on-Women-a-review-of-the-literature.pdf

Is abortion necessary for medical reasons?

Yes. Ireland is the only country that makes the distinction between abortion to save a woman’s life and abortion to preserve a pregnant woman’s health.

Does the Medical Council recognise the need for abortion?

Yes. The Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners 2009[i] states that:

“In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to the extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.”

However, doctors do not believe that this gives sufficient protection to medical practitioners who wish to provide abortion services.

Do women regret their abortions?

No. International Studies have found that the overwhelming majority of women do not experience regret after abortion. Results from a longitudinal study published in the academic journal PLOS ONEs found that 95% of women felt their abortion was the right decision for them.[i]
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service report that counselling staff provide support to a small number of women who experience regret after abortion. Regret is usually focused on the circumstances of the pregnancy. Some women believe that abortion is morally wrong, but that it was the best option for them at the time.[ii]

[i] See: Decision Rightness and Emotional Responses to Abortion in the United States: A Longitudinal Study – published July 8th, 2015 PLOS One
[ii] See: BPAS/Doctors for Choice Amicus Brief in relation to the A, B and C v Ireland case

Will the legalisation of abortion “open the floodgates”?

No. There is a myth that if you make services less restrictive you will be encouraging women to have abortions. This research shows it clearly is not true. Women have abortions because they have an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy and not because the service is easier to access.

In a 2011 study carried out by the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found “no overall difference” between termination rates for those European countries allowing abortions on request compared with those with restricted access. Countries with unrestricted access had an abortion rate of 11 per 1,000 women while countries with restricted access did not report lower rates but held a similar rate of 12.3 per 1,000 women.[i]

[i] BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.Total number of terminations of pregnancy calculated per 1000 women aged 15-49 years. Data Highlights Abortion Rates. The Guardian, 30 November 2011

Is abortion is a violation of disabled people’s rights?

No. Abortion is an intimate aspect of private life and it is for a woman, in consultation with her medical advisors, to decide whether or not to continue with her pregnancy. This applies to all women, including those who experience a crisis pregnancy due to a foetal abnormality. To compare people living with disabilities with a woman choosing to access abortion due to foetal abnormality is to conflate two entirely separate issues that do not relate to each other.

International human rights law recognises the right to life as accruing at birth and does not define when life begins. Therefore it is inaccurate to talk about “people’s rights” when referring to prenatal life.

Does legal abortion enable gender preference abortions?

No. Abortion based on sex or gender selection is rooted in patriarchal structures. Male preference is the result of gender norms that value males over females. Proposed bans on abortion for the purpose of sex selection would do nothing to address the entrenched gender bias that underlies the practice, but instead harms women’s health and rights.