Legalized Abortion: Harm Reduction or Just Harm?

by James Richmond

I somewhat recently attended a debate hosted by uOttawa Students for Life in mid-November. At this debate, the pro-choice debater, Jovan Morales, posed an often used argument which presents abortion as a ‘harm-reduction’ solution. Essentially, this position proposes that without legalized abortion, women will seek ‘back-alley abortions’ in non-sterile environments where the possibility of infection and maternal mortality is much higher.

There are a number of issues with this argument, and I will briefly address two of them. The first is that I see this approach as merely a band-aid solution. Legalizing abortions to give women access to sterile facilities with skilled physicians does not address what led the women to seek abortion in the first place: Was it a boyfriend who does not wish to deal with the consequences of his actions? Parents who want to avoid family embarrassment? The terrible trauma of rape? The woman who does not want her life to be disrupted by having a child? A lack of support from family and friends? In these situations, I believe there is a cultural problem rather than a medical one. Western culture is self-centric in that we place utmost importance on our personal choices: What is it I want to do? How does this affect me? What about asking what exactly is at stake when it comes to abortion, and more precisely who? We know beyond a shadow of scientific doubt that the preborn are human beings and as such their lives must be protected along with their mothers’.

Furthermore, if the foundation of the argument is based on the health of the mother, institutionalized abortion is no guarantee of even a decrease in maternal mortality rates. A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality” discovered that from 1990 to 2008, after the legalization of abortion, the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of Canada increased by 94 percent (28) and the MMR of the United States increased 96 percent (32). Legalized abortion is clearly no panacea for women’s health.

The ‘harm-reduction’ argument is also used to push for abortion clinics in developing countries. The National Right to Life group published an article which discusses the myth proposed above by Mr. Morales. I encourage you to read the short document, “Why legalized abortion is not good for women’s health.”

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