Study: Guttmacher inflated Mexican abortion rate

by Angela Lu Fulton
Posted 12/10/12, 04:15 pm

A new study on abortions in Mexico refutes two main arguments for legalizing abortion and proves a pro-abortion research institute overestimated statistics used to advocate for the procedure. The study disproves claims that banning abortion leads to a large number of illegal procedures, which results in high rates of maternal deaths.

Researchers in Chile, Mexico, and West Virginia, found the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) inflated earlier estimates of the number of abortions in Mexico by more than tenfold. AGI had used the numbers to prove that Mexico, where abortion is banned in most states, still has an abortion rate 40 percent higher than the United States.

The AGI study used in-hospital statistics and surveys of subjective opinion to estimate between 724,070 and 1,024,424 induced abortions were preformed illegally in Mexico in 2006, with between 137,145 and 194,875 taking place in the Federal District of Mexico (Mexico DF).  

Lawmakers legalized abortion up to 12 weeks in Mexico DF in 2007, the only state in Mexico to do so. Legalization gave researchers access to the actual number of reported abortions to compare to AGI’s estimates. During the first year, only 10,137 abortions were performed. Between 2007 to 2012, 78,544 abortions were performed—50 percent of AGI’s estimate for a single year. 

“In strict scientific rigor, [the estimates] fail to reflect reality and therefore, an in-depth revision of the methodologies utilized by different authors  is warranted before drawing any definitive conclusion about actual abortion trends in Mexico and other Latin American countries where abortion is restricted by law,” the report said.

The legalization of abortion in Mexico DF, a state that includes Mexico City, also showed an increase in the number of abortions. While 10,137 abortions were performed in 2007, the first year the procedure was legalized, 14,390 abortions were performed in 2011.

Another study by AGI in 2012 proposed that abortions should be legalized to stop the number of women dying from illegal abortion operations. It said that Mexico failed to show progress in abortion-related maternal mortality in 20 years because of unsafe illegal abortions. 

But in calculating the ratio of abortion-related mortality, AGI included mothers dying not only from abortions, but from other complications unrelated to abortions, including hydatidiform mole or ectopic pregnancy. It also used indirect estimates of live births, rather than the actual data, overestimating the ratio of abortion-related deaths by 35 percent. 

In actuality, abortion-related maternal deaths decreased by 22.9 percent between 2002 and 2008, suggesting that illegal abortions have decreased in the last decade in Mexico. The study also found that in Mexico as a whole, about 98 percent of maternal deaths are related to non-abortion related issues such as hemorrhages during childbirth, hypertension, and eclampsia.

As a secular study, the report did not mention the infant mortality rate during both legal and illegal abortions—100 percent. Instead, its conclusion was that abortion law had no connection to maternal mortality.

“Therefore, only marginal or practically null effects would be expected from abortion legalization or abortion prohibition on overall maternal mortality rates in this Latin American country,” the report said.

Angela Lu Fulton

Angela is a reporter for WORLD Magazine who lives and works in Taiwan. She enjoys cooking, reading, and storytelling. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.

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