Admitting that Abortion is Safe

For years, extremist activists and politicians have offered up false science and feigned concern for women’s health as part of their strategy to limit abortion access. The safety of abortion procedures is disingenuous though—abortion is one of modern medicine’s safest procedures with medical experts confirming that it has a 99% safety record. Finally a leading member of the anti-choice movement has acknowledged this false tactic.

A recent article from RH Reality Check features news from the National Right to Life Committee’s annual convention where the organization’s state legislative director, Mary Spaulding Balch, admitted that abortions—even “riskier” second-trimester abortions—are safer than many common medical procedures.

Balch cited data from a 2010 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, noting that procedures such as liposuction, facelifts, c-sections, and even natural vaginal deliveries carry a higher risk to a woman’s health than a second term abortion. According to Balch’s numbers, there are on average .19 deaths for 1,000 liposuction procedures, compared to .09 deaths for every 1,000 second-trimester abortion procedures.

According to RH Reality Check, Balch made this point at a political and legislative strategy session, using the data to critique legislation crafted by other anti-choice organizations to pass bans on abortion after 20-weeks of pregnancy by claiming the procedure is dangerous to women.

“Who would ever say that we should ban liposuction because of the risk to the women?” Balch asked the crowd. We think that’s an excellent question. And in an opinion striking down Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban, the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed this line of thinking, writing that the proper response to dealing with the risks of a medical procedure is informed consent, not a ban of the procedure.

Although it is not news that the National Right to Life Committee avoids framing their anti-abortion arguments in terms of concern over women’s health, it is not every day that anti-choice leaders publically admit that abortion is safer than pregnancy itself.

The National Right to Life Committee is known for their focus on “the rights of the unborn.” The organization’s “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” claims that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, a disproven theory that is unsubstantiated in science.