Parliamentary Network E-News

Volume 8
No. 5
May, 2014
Focus on Maternal Mortality
New Maternal Mortality Reports Have Bad News for Mothers in the U.S.

New studies on maternal deaths report overall good news in the progress to save mothers' lives globally but reveal an increase in maternal mortality in the United States, days ahead of the celebration of Mother's Day on May 11. Save the Children released its annual"State of the World's Mothers" report revealing the best and toughest places for mothers. Finland comes out on top according to the 2014 Mothers' Index - which scores countries on mothers' and children's health, educational, economic and political status. Somalia, affected by armed conflict and natural disasters, is at the bottom of the list.


Mortality of mothers and children continue to demand world action as according to the report, "Each day, an estimated 800 mothers and 18,000 young children die from largely preventable causes. Over half of these maternal and under-5 deaths take place in fragile settings, which are at high risk of conflict and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters."


The report ranks the United States in 31st place out of 178 countries while 15 years ago it ranked in the top five. Save the Children attempts to explain the results:


"According to recent studies in the U.S., contributing factors may include an increase in the number of high-risk pregnancies in mothers with obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, as well as an increase in older mothers and the use of fertility drugs, which can result in more complicated multiple births." 


Similar results for the U.S. are reported in a study on achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and reduction in maternal mortality published in Lancet by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). The report,  "Global, regional, and national levels and causes of maternal mortality during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013", states:"The United States was among just eight countries that experienced an increase in maternal death rates since 2003 - joining countries including Afghanistan and El Salvador."


According to the study, the maternal death rate per 100,000 U.S. women was 12.4 in 1990, 17.6 in 2003 and 18.5 in 2013. The global rate per 100,000 was 209 and falling in 2013; the rate in developed countries was 12.1, half the 1990 rate. 


Reuters news service reported on the study: "American women are more likely to die in childbirth than they were two decades ago, making the United States one of the few countries where the risks from childbirth have risen in the past generation..."


The Washington Post reported


"Maternal deaths related to childbirth in the United States are nearly at the highest rate in a quarter century, and a woman giving birth in America is now more likely to die than a woman giving birth in China, according to a new study."


"The researchers estimated that 18.5 mothers died for every 100,000 births in the U.S. in 2013, a total of almost 800 deaths. That is more than double the maternal mortality rate in Saudi Arabia and Canada, and more than triple the rate in the United Kingdom."


Two additional studies report progress in reducing maternal death."Trends in maternal mortality 1990 to 2013"by The Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG), which includes World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank, published a study that reports a 45% reduction in maternal deaths globally since 1990. The study estimates that 289,000 women died in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, down from 523,000 in 1990, with maternal deaths due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth having been cut nearly in half over the past 24 years. Sub-Saharan African remains the region most in need of progress.


A related study by WHO - Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis -appears in the most recent edition of Lancet Global Health and shows that most maternal deaths are caused by severe bleeding, high blood pressure, infections and obstructed labor but more than one in four deaths is caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity. The causes of maternal deaths are grouped into seven main categories of direct and indirect causes: embolism, obstetric hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, pregnancy-related sepsis, abortion, other direct causes, and indirect causes.


The study admits a fact that is not always revealed when discussing data related to deaths caused by 'abortion' but which is critically important: "The abortion category includes induced abortion, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy."  Abortion related deaths are often described as "due to unsafe abortion" and "unsafe abortion" is linked to legal status but researchers acknowledge the extreme difficulty, near impossibility, in distinguishing between induced and spontaneous abortion as causes of maternal deaths. 


Maternal deaths related to abortion dropped from a previous estimate of 13% to 7.9%. According to the study, "We estimated that 7.9% of all maternal deaths were due to abortion. This finding is lower than the previous assessments, which estimated mortality due to unsafe abortion at 13%."  


These studies contain many regional perspectives for actions that are needed to prevent maternal mortality. PNCI recommends these studies for further study and review.  

International Pressure for Abortion
Conscientious Objection Must Go to Advance "Access to Abortion"

Three words - access to abortion - are at the center of pro-abortion strategies. The growing number of doctors and health care personnel who refuse to perform or participate in abortion has dramatically reduced "access to abortion" around the world and pro-abortion activists are devising tactics to overcome universal ethical, moral and religious objections to abortion. A new article on the topic -"Dishonourable disobedience"- Why refusal to treat in reproductive healthcare is not conscientious objection -gives insight into radical proposals to eliminate conscientious objection (CO) as stated in the opening salvo: "CO in reproductive healthcare should be dealt with like any other failure to perform one's professional duty, through enforcement and disciplinary measures. Counteracting institutional CO may require governmental or even international intervention."


Appearing in the journal Woman-Psychosomatic Gynaecology and Obstetrics, of the International Society of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, the article is the work of two leading pro-abortion activists-Dr. Christian Fiala, an abortionist in Austria, and Joyce Arthur, founder and Executive Director of Canada's national pro-choice group, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC). The authors begin by noting that conscientious objection (CO) originated in the belief that taking human life under any circumstance is evil, especially in military service and move to current day use stating:


"However, in recent years, the concept has been used by some in the medical profession to refuse to provide services with which they personally disagree, such as euthanasia, abortion, contraception, sterilization, assisted reproduction, and other     health services - even when these services are legal and within the scope of their qualifications and practice. In particular, the Catholic Church and the anti-choice movement have co-opted the term ''conscientious objection'' to include the refusal by medical personnel to provide or refer for abortion (and increasingly,contraception), on the grounds that abortion is murder and that actions to oppose it are imperative."


The authors even quote Saint John Paul II from Evangelium Vitae: "Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection."


But the article quickly blends current laws and policies on conscientious objection with pro-abortion arguments, data from pro-abortion research organizations, select pro-abortion news items and pro-abortion papers to advance complete opposition to any use ofconscientious objection. The authors state that when a health care professional asserts their right to refusal based on personal beliefs it is what they have named "dishonourable disobedience", described as "an ethical breach that should be handled in the same way as any other professional negligence or malpractice, or a mental incapacity to perform one's duties". They propose that anyone seeking to claim a right to conscientious objection has two options-- "they should quit the field of reproductive healthcare, or not get involved in it at all", claiming these two options "represent the only honest exercise of CO in medicine."


The authors present conscientious objection as an abuse exploited by the "anti-choice movement" and "anti-choice" healthcare personnel and propose "remedies" to reduce the number of "anti-choice healthcare workers in the field of reproductive healthcare" including: 

  • Everyone aspiring to enter health professions that involve reproductive healthcare should be required to declare that they will not allow their personal beliefs to interfere with their management of patients to the point of discrimination.
  • Medical students entering the Ob/Gyn specialty should be informed about the full scope of the specialty, including treating women with unwanted pregnancies. Students should be rejected if they do not wish to learn and prescribe contraception or perform abortions for CO reasons.
  • All Ob/Gyns should be required to dispense birth control and perform abortions as part of their practice (unless there is a legitimate medical or professional reason not to).
  • Institutional CO should be completely prohibited for health systems and businesses that serve the general public.
  • Monitoring and enforcement measures should be put into place to ensure that prohibitions on CO are followed. Doctors should be sanctioned when they violate laws or codes of ethics that prohibit CO. Disciplinary measures could include a review process, an official reprimand and order to correct, and could escalate to loss of medical license, dismissal, or even criminal charges.
  • Patients should be legally entitled to sue and to claim compensation for any physical or mental harm, and for additional costs resulting from the refusal to treat.

One of the final proposals is for "full funding of contraception and abortion through government health insurance". 


The article acknowledges that "Implementing such measures may seem like a daunting task given the ongoing stigma against abortion and the strength of the anti-choice movement. But with political will much could be done at local, national, and international levels to ensure that contraception and abortion services are widely available and accessible to all who need them."


Actions to limit conscientious objection are likely to continue to increase in all venues. 


IPPF Says World Bank Needs to Focus More on Abortion

A new 'scorecard' by International Planned Parenthood (IPPF) criticizes the World Bank for not doing enough to advance reproductive rights, inclusive of abortion. In The scorecard revisited: Monitoring and evaluating implementation of the World Bank's Reproductive Health Action Plan 2010-2015, IPPF states that the World Bank needs to increase its funding for and renewed strategy for the "Reproductive Health Action Plan", created in 2010. The scorecard states that, "...some aspects of the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda are inadequately resourced and sorely neglected, including access to safe and legal abortion, and access to sexual and reproductive health for the poorest and most marginalized groups."


IPPF and other pro-abortion groups have been pushing the World Bank to make reproductive health a key component of development and assistance and are urging the Bank to include reproductive health indicators in its planning and measurement systems. According to IPPF Director General, Tewodros Melesse:


"The Bank has a vital role to play in creating demand for essential reproductive health services for people. We remain optimistic that the Bank can turn around its performance by increasing the level of their investment in years to come and committing to a new reproductive health strategy from 2015." 

Pro-Life News
Global Survey Shows Abortion "Morally Unacceptable"

A recent global survey of 40,117 respondents in 40 countries provides data on the great abortion schism in the world today and confirms strong universal opposition to abortion. Pew Research Center's 2013 Global Attitudes included the question:"Do you personally believe that having an abortion is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or is it not a moral issue?" Pew Research reports:


"Half or more in 26 of 40 nations surveyed personally believe having an abortion is morally unacceptable. Generally, publics in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and predominantly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East are more willing to deem abortion morally wrong. Publics in Western Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan are more likely to say abortion is morally acceptable or not a moral issue. Globally, there is little variation on this question by gender."


The percentages of populations in the following countries consider abortion morally unacceptable, listed from greatest percentage of opposition to least: Philippines 93%, Ghana 92, Indonesia 89, Uganda 88, El Salvador 85, Pakistan 85, Bolivia 83, Kenya 82, Nigeria 80, Brazil 79, Malaysia 79,  Tunisia 77, Venezuela 77, Chile 64, Mexico 63, Egypt 62, South Africa 61, India 58, South Korea 58, Argentina 56, Lebanon 56, Greece 54, Palestinian Territories 54, Jordan 53, Senegal 52, Turkey 52, United States 49, Poland 47, Russia 44, Italy 41, China 37, Israel 35, Japan 28, Australia 26, Canada 26, Spain 26, United Kingdom 25, Germany 19, Czech Republic 18, and France 14.
Focus on the United Nations
ECJL Calls for Torture Investigation of Late Term Abortion

The European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) has issued an "urgent appeal" for the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to investigate cases of torture of babies born alive after abortion, particularly in the United Kingdom and Canada.  National data reveals that 622 babies were born alive and left to die after an abortion in Canada between 2000 and 2011, and 66 in the UK in 2005, with no data on other years. In 2007, the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that a baby would be born alive in 1 in 30 abortions after 16 weeks' gestation, and 9.7% at 23 weeks' gestation.


Science has proven that unborn babies are capable of experiencing pain at 20 weeks gestation and are viable at 22 weeks, yet many countries permit abortions at these ages, and later. Abortions at the later stage of pregnancy are often done by dilatation and evacuation- the dismemberment of the baby. The  babies who survive the abortion and are born alive are then either killed by lethal injection, or most often, left to die alone and abandoned. The ECLJ has called on the Special Rapporteur to investigate this inhumane practice as a form of torture. Of interest to note is the Special Rapporteur's finding in Syria that depriving newborn babies of basic care, regardless of the conditions of their birth, was torture and a crime against humanity.  


Holy See's Opposition to Abortion Results in "Torture" according to U.N. Committee Against Torture

The latest example of a U.N. treaty monitoring body distorting a treaty to advance abortion is the Committee on the Convention Against Torture (CAT) during its 52nd Session in Geneva. This time around, committee members-officially called experts-chastised the Holy See for its opposition to abortion during its review of the Holy See's report on compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture, CAT). Committee members stated that pro-life opposition to abortion results in torture for women. The archived webcast of the review can be found here. 


Abortion, an act that results in the often painful death of a child in the womb and which can inflict lasting negative emotional, physical and psychological consequences on the woman, is real torture but the experts chose to ignore these facts, focusing instead on the Catholic Church's respect for the right to life and opposition to abortion.


Felice Gaer, Vice-Chairperson of the CAT Committee from the U.S.A., stated, "This committee has found repeatedly that laws that criminalize the termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the terms of the convention."


Papal Nuncio Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, was prepared for such criticism by the CAT Committee and explained that the Catholic Church's pro-life position protected human rights, "The Holy See's goal is to prevent children from being tortured or killed before birth, as is stipulated in the Convention".


The CAT Committee will issue Recommendations or Concluding Observations to the Holy See on May 23 which will likely include changing its stand against abortion.  


Read more here.

Legislative News
Chile: New Administration Seeks to Legalize Abortion

Chile is expected to open debate to legalize abortion this summer under the new administration of President Michelle Bachelet, who campaigned to rewrite the country's constitution. Chile  passed a total ban on abortion in 1989 under President Augusto Pinochet and has had the lowest maternal mortality rate in the region. Chilean minister for the National Women's Service, Claudia Pascual, recentlyannounced that the President seeks to legalize abortion:

"The government program is to move forward in sexual and reproductive rights, as well as giving the possibility of the decriminalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy in three cases."  
The proposed legislation would permit abortion for cases of rape/incest, life of the mother and for disability of the child. MP Marco Núñez, president of the governments' health committee and poised to lead Chile's lower house next year, told the International Parliament's Conference in Stockholm that he was confident the legislation would pass, "For the first time in 20 years we have a real majority to make changes. We have the majority to vote and pass the law in the lower chamber, but also in the senate".  
Remembering the Holocaust: Israeli Pro-Life Group Meets With US Lawmakers

Days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish pro-life leader Dr. Eli Schussheim met with Members of the U.S. Congress to discuss pro-life efforts in Israel. The founder of the Israeli group EFRAT, Dr. Schussheim shared his mission to help Jewish women choose life for their babies. Founded in 1977 by Schussheim and Holocaust survivor Herschel Feigenbaum, EFRAT has since saved 56,000 babies from abortion. Dr. Schussheim discussed his work with several Senators and Congressmen who shared similar experiences and offered encouragement. "Here in America we're doing similar things [at] crisis pregnancy centers and women's health centers," Rep Vicky Hartzler said to Schussheim. "I am so encouraged to know that you're leading the charge in Israel and you are having success, and we just need to multiply this in both our countries and around the world."

US: Pro-Life Efforts Defeat Dangerous Abortion Bill in Colorado

Pro-life efforts successfully stopped an anti-life bill in the Colorado State Senate.  The legislation, which passed the committee on a party line vote, would have banned all new pro-life laws, including restrictions on abortion drugs, and could have affected regulations concerning parental consent and conscientious objection for medical professionals. Bill supporter NARAL Pro-Choice America said it would have been the first law of its kind had it passed.


Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila led the opposition and spoke at a prayer vigil outside the state capitol:  "Too many times we have taken a back seat. Catholics, Christians and people of good will can no longer take a back seat. We are called to work for the good and for the true." Celebrating the victory, the Colorado Catholic Conference released a statement commending the citizens who sprung to action to protect life. "It was your witness that made it possible to kill this horrible piece of legislation," it stated. "It is because of your willingness to engage the public square that we were able to defeat SB 175." The conference went on to encourage continued involvement of Christians in politics, quoting Pope Francis who last year said, "A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern."

Mexico City: Legalized Abortion Leads to 12 Abortions For 15 Births
Since legalizing abortion, Mexico City has seen an increase in abortion, not real help for women.  According to figures from 2009, there has been rate of 12 abortions for every 15 births.  Commenting on the data, Ingrid Tapia of the organization TAD (THINK * ACTION * DEVELOPMENT), explained that government programs have only promoted abortion, not provided women with assistance for having children stating,  "Seven years ago, the local government claimed that the legalization of abortion would drastically reduce clandestine practices, and thus reduce maternal mortality. But clearly, maternal mortality is still a problem-and clandestine abortions haven't been eliminated either, so no one knows for certain how many abortions take place and under what conditions." 

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