Scientists met this week in New York to discuss recent scientific evidence regarding abortion as a form of growing violence against women and girls. Indiscriminate practice of abortion is correlated with coercion, a history of sexual abuse, violence during pregnancy, intimate partner violence and with psychological consequences that may lead to suicide.
The scientific evidence was discussed in the meeting "Public Policies to reduce maternal mortality, a holistic focus on maternal health" by Doctors Monique Chireau, Donna Harrison, Eoghan de Faoite and Elard Koch in parallel to the 57th Session of the Commission of Women Status of the United Nations, whose priority theme is the "elimination and prevention of all types of violence against women and girls", which continues until March 15th.
The scientists discussed different epidemiological studies, showing that:
- A significant and growing proportion of induced abortions occur due to coercion by the intimate partner of the pregnant woman.
- A history of sexual abuse and violence is a risk factor for abortion and subsequent mental health problems.
- There is a significant correlation between the increase in the number of abortions and an increase in the rate of homicides against women versus those against men.
- There is an important correlation between the increase of abortions and the suicide rate of women of childbearing age.
- Countries with abortion laws that are less permissive, such as Ireland and Chile, display lower abortion rates than countries with more permissive abortion laws.
Dr. Koch, director of the MELISA Institute, presented international collaborative studies that have been recently published, which place Chile –a country with one of the least permissive abortion laws in the world– with the lowest maternal mortality rate in Latin America. Public policies ensuring more education for women, childbirth by skilled professionals universally available, and a timely access to emergency obstetric units would be key factors improving maternal health, and not the legal status of abortion.
This evidence was in agreement with data presented by Dr. De Faoite, who showed evidence placing Ireland among the countries with the lowest maternal mortality in Europe, without having to modify their current abortion legislation. On the other hand, Dr. Chireau presented robust evidence regarding novel treatments for pregnant women with cancer, which are successful in safeguarding the life of the mother and her gestating child.
Finally, Dr. Harrison discussed the risks related to complications following medical abortion with chemicals such as misoprostol, which are exacerbated in developing countries due the their lack of sufficient coverage of emergency facilities.
During the opening of these UN Sessions and commemorating the International Women's Day, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked "There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable."
In this context, the scientists assembled in New York voiced their concern in regards to the alarming expansion of abortion as a form of violence against women in the world, something that should not be dismissed by any nation that respects fundamental human rights.