Deadly Deception


Statistics on Illegal Abortions in Developing Countries Are Misleading, Say Experts

In the light of recent pressure placed on African Health Ministers to legalise abortion by the African Union’s Maputo Protocol, leading experts have stated that figures on maternal deaths from abortions used by International Pro-abortion bodies such as the World Health Organisation, are likely inflated or misleading (

Many African countries are motivated to put into effect the various Articles of the Maputo Protocol, in particular the abortion Article number 14, by pressure coming from forces in the EU and the UN.

The so-called Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol, was signed by a large number of the 53-member states of the African Union, and calls for the legalization of "safe" abortion across Africa.

"Documents such as [the Maputo Protocol] have been used to change national laws in many instances," says, Patrice Pederson of Family Caucus International.

"One strategy has been for the European Union to make aid money contingent upon adoption of abortion Protocols."

Dr. Randy O'Bannon, Education Director for the US National Right to Life, has said that the number of illegal abortions in developing countries is likely inflated.

According to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), 68,000 women die annually due to unsafe abortions.

"The precision implied in such numbers is highly misleading," O'Bannon says. He adds that such figures "are based on meager data and a lot of assumption-laden extrapolations."

Many of these countries do not maintain detailed birth or mortality records, much less abortion statistics, making even the roughest of estimates problematic," he explained.

WHO also relies on what is calls "public source data" to provide illegal abortion death guesses. Typically, a "public source" is a journal article, report, or unpublished document, often from a pro-abortion organization, raising questions about its objectivity.

O'Bannon says these sources of information are unreliable.

In Uruguay, for example, the WHO relies on studies with samples sizes of 5, 14, and 23 individuals to extrapolate the number of deaths due to illegal abortions for the entire country. In addition, the studies were done in the 1970s and 1980s and are not current.

The data may provide anecdotal evidence of abortion-related deaths but does not validate the claims of thousands of such deaths, O'Bannon concludes.

David Reardon, Ph.D., director of the Elliot Institute and one of the leading researchers into physical and emotional damage caused by abortions, also points out that legalizing abortion doesn't make it any safer. He points out that women still die from legal abortions, even in industrialized nations like the United States and England.

"I absolutely support the international goal of protecting women from unsafe abortions. This is why we must work diligently to prevent legalization of abortion because that only increases the number of women exposed to unsafe abortions. Legal abortion is inherently unsafe," Reardon explains.

Reardon says abortion is known to be linked to higher rates of maternal death, reproductive problems including subsequent premature deliveries and related handicaps among newborns, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and a host of other negative problems impacting women and their families.

"If the international community is serious about protecting women from unsafe abortions, it will work diligently to reverse the trend toward legalized abortion," Reardon concludes.

When abortion is legalized, far more abortions take place than if it is illegal. Even when abortion is legal, many women continue to have so-called backstreet abortions because abortion is so openly promoted by state Health Departments and state hospitals as a viable means of “family planning” and therefore if poor women cannot access free services, they resort to illegal means.

There are now over 85 000 abortions taking place per year in South Africa. While we don’t have accurate statistics to compare deaths from illegal abortions prior to 1997 to deaths from legal abortions since 1997, it is likely that the statistics quoted in the South African press about a 91% (Cape Argus, 9 March 2007) reduction in deaths from illegal abortions is misleading. 

In the above report published by the Cape Argus, the figures from which they were extrapolating the statistic of a 91% reduction in maternal deaths were not given, neither was this statistic compared to the current estimates of deaths from legal abortions. This is yet another example of how facts and figures are thrown about to mislead the public. 

The South African press reported that an estimated 500 women die annually due to the misuse of the abortion pill Misoprostal (Pretoria News, 5 March 2004.) The newspaper surveyed 18 healthcare facilities and each one admitted that women had died from legal abortions. Compare this to the estimated 425 women dying each year from complications from illegal abortions pre-1997 (Medical Research Council, 1994). 

It is possible that more women are dieing from legal abortions than were from illegal abortions prior to 1997, simply because of the growing amount of women having abortions every year. Genuine research is needed to determine how many women are currently dieing from legal abortions. 

The statistics of 200 000 – 400 000 backstreet abortions per year in South Africa prior to the legalisation of abortion, were not only gross exaggerations, but blatant lies. There is no documented proof for such claims. The Department of Health estimated that between 42 000 and 167 000 illegal abortions were being performed per year (Natal Mercury 31/01/94). The report however, admitted that estimates varied widely depending on which model was used to determine them, the higher figures being chosen on extrapolations from other countries such as the USA. However, before abortion was legalised in the USA, 100 000 illegal abortions per year were being performed. South Africa’s population is roughly one tenth of the USA so is it unreasonable to estimate an illegal abortion rate of 10 000 per year? (Miriam Cain, Fight for Life, 1995). 

Misleading figures or percentages are often used by Women’s Rights groups when pushing their pro-abortion position in the media. Regardless of whether abortions are legal or not, some women will have abortions and some will die from complications. Certainly all babies will die in abortion procedures. However, legalising abortion greatly increases the number of abortions. In various surveys 40 – 85% of the women surveyed said they would not have aborted their babies if it was illegal (Reardon, Aborted Women). We must not legalise procedures that kill the innocent just to make the killing process less dangerous. 

“Rescue those being led away to death, hold back those staggering towards slaughter.” Proverbs 24:11   

Taryn Hodgson Christian Action
PO Box 23632
Tel: 021-689 4481 
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more International Pro-life News visit: 

For answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Abortion DVD resource for schools and churches: God's Miracle of Life: A Multi-media Presentation by Dr William Lile (R35). Available from Christian Liberty Books. 

Click here for more Pro-life resources.

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa [email protected] - 021-689-4481 -
DMC Firewall is developed by Dean Marshall Consultancy Ltd