Sunday, March 19, 2006

The danger of abortion vs. the danger of childbirth

Legal abortion is at least eight times safer than childbirth, possibly fifteen times safer. The public health agency records about half as many abortions per year as obstetric deliveries, yet several women die in childbirth each year; and for the one year on their Web site no women died having a legal abortion. If abortion were as dangerous as childbirth, one would expect at least four deaths.


The Public Health Agency of Canada records these figures.

For abortion in 1995:
  • Number of abortions: 106 658

  • Percentage of complications: 1.1 (110/10 000)

  • Number of women's deaths: 0

For pregnancy and childbirth, there are 10 years of data so I've divided by 10 to give a yearly average:
  • total obstetric deliveries: 254 882

  • cases with severe maternal morbidity: 1 107, comprising...

    • cardiac arrest, cardiac failure or cerebral anoxia: 268 cases per year, 3.7 deaths per year

    • postpartum hemorrhage requiring blood transfusion: 232 cases, 0.7 deaths

    • uterine rupture: 190 cases, 0.4 deaths

    • Pulmonary, cardiac or central-nervous-system complications of anesthesia, 125 cases, 0.2 deaths

    • Eclampsia, 97 cases, 0.4 deaths

    • Postpartum hemorrhage requiring hysterectomy, 89 cases, 1.4 deaths

    • Cerebrovascular disorders in the puerperium, 41 cases, 1.9 deaths

    • Pulmonary edema, 40 cases, 0.3 deaths

    • Need for assisted ventilation, 39 cases, 2.9 deaths

    • Venous thromboembolism, 33 cases, 1.4 deaths

    • Acute renal failure after delivery, 22 cases, 0.5 deaths

    • Adult respiratory distress syndrome, 21 cases, 1.1 deaths

    • Myocardial infarction, 3 cases, 0.2 deaths

  • Overall, childbirth created complications in 1107 cases per year and caused 8.4 deaths per year.
The percentage of severe complications was .004 or 43/10 000. However, the death rate for women with these severe complications was 75/10 000, contrasted with 3/200 000 for those without.

Actually, I'm suspicious of this number, 8.4 deaths "during hospitalization for childbirth." When I add up the deaths for each complication, I get 15.1 deaths a year. Were some of the deaths counted under two conditions? Or did some of the women die after being moved to another part of the hospital?

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