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New study of Irish health and population data shows positive women’s health trends while Ireland’s abortion law has been in effect

For years, the United Nations, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and other abortion proponents have claimed that legal abortion contributes to reducing maternal mortality and to improving women’s health. Abortion advocates argued that the affects of abortion were negligible, while pregnancy could be dangerous.

In fact, one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Goal 5, is to improve maternal health by 2015, and legalizing abortion in developing countries is part of UNFPA’s strategy.

But a report published in Ireland in December contradicts that essential premise.  The report, entitled Ireland’s Gain, published December 15 by the Pension And Population Research Institute (PAPRI) of London, shows positive women’s health trends, and positive population trends, while Ireland’s abortion law has been enforced over 40 years.  (The report is available on the website of the Pension and Population Research Institute,  www.papriresearch.org under “Published Papers.”)

The 32-page study compares the populations living in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland with those in Scotland and England, and examines women’s health indicators and trends between 1969-2009.

The report examines numerous women’s health factors, including fertility, premature birth rates, stillbirth rates, mental health resource usage, medication usage for mental health, breast cancer rates, and immunological disorders.

Its findings are significant.  The study shows that the claim by abortion advocates that abortion is necessary for improved maternal health is false.

Among the most significant findings are that the rates of stillbirths in the Republic and Northern Ireland are significantly less than similar rates in England and Scotland.  Rates of stillbirth per 1,000 live births are 3.8/1,000 in the Irish Republic and 4.1/1,000 in Northern Ireland, compared to 4.9 in England, and 5.1 in Scotland.

These findings are consistent with previous studies that have found higher rates of stillbirths, premature births, and low-birth-weight infants in women with a history of induced abortion.

The report found similar contrasts in the rates of low-birth weight infants.  Low birth weight infants (<2,500 gms) are increased in England and Scotland compared to the Irish Republic (39.7/1,000 live births in the Irish Republic, 56.3/1,000 in England, and 52.3/1,000 in Scotland).

Maternal mortality was also examined.  Maternal death rates per 100,000 live births are significantly higher in the English/Welsh populations and Scottish populations (10/100,000 in England/Wales, and 10-12/100,000 in Scotland), compared to the Irish population (1-2/100,000 live births in the Irish Republic).

Suicide rates were compared.  Rates of suicide in the Irish Republic and in Northern Ireland have been lower over the past 40 years.

Lower breast cancer rates were detailed.  Forecasts were published in 2007 for eight European countries of breast cancer incidence in future years.  These forecasts used modeling in which abortion rates and fertility rates are the two explanatory variables demonstrating Ireland has lower breast cancer rates than the UK, including England, Wales, and Scotland.

Immunological disorders were examined, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Systemic Sclerosis and Thyroiditis including Graves’ and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  The study found similar positive trends in Ireland compared to England and Scotland.

The report also examined demographic (population) trends in Ireland.  While the fall in fertility throughout Europe since 1968 has impacted Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland continue to show higher fertility rates.

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is near to 2.0 in both Irish jurisdictions, which corresponds to a family of two children.  This is much higher than the average European TFR (around 1.4) and close to the replacement level of 2.07 TFR.

As a result, Ireland has a substantially younger population than, for example, Japan.  In the Republic, the over-65-age-group accounts for 11.4% of the population in the Republic of Ireland, compared to 17.5% in Japan.  In Northern Ireland, the over-age-65 group accounts for 11.6% of the population, compared to 22.9% in Japan.

Patrick Carroll, the Director of Research for PAPRI and the author of the study, said, “The strength of Ireland’s Gain is in its analysis of 40 years of data from four countries with completely different abortion policies.”

Ireland’s Gain provides a unique comparison of women’s health trends in countries that legalize abortion and those that restrict it.  The Irish data should put the brakes on any notion that legalizing abortion will advance maternal health.

This is not only an Irish story. It has national and international implications as abortion advocates try to prevent women from fully understanding the impact that abortion might have on their lives. In the U.S., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis is currently considering a case in which a so-called “suicide advisory” is under consideration.

At issue is whether women will know the increased risks of suicide and suicidal thoughts that have followed abortion. Studies such as Ireland’s Gain are invaluable in documenting what real women have experienced – or not experienced – depending on their exposure to abortion.

Americans United for Life Senior Counsel Clarke Forsythe is the author of Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square (2009)