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Updated 10 Jan 2008 Whether we like it or not, legality has no significant effect on the frequency of abortion.

Table 1. Grounds on which abortion is legally permitted in 193 countries, 2001.

Death Rates per 100,000 by presenting reason:

Countries Mother's Life Health Mental
All (n=189)
Permitted 189 122 120
Not permitted 4 71 73

Developed (n = 48)
Permitted 46 42 41
Not permitted 2 6 7

Developing (n = 145)
Permitted 143 80 79
Not permitted 2 65 66

Countries Defect Social Demand
All (n=189)
Permitted 76 63 52
Not permitted 117 130 141

Developed (n = 48)
Permitted 39 36 31
Not permitted 9 12 17

Developing (n = 145)
Permitted 37 37 21
Not permitted 108 118 124

Countries Rape/Incest
All (n=189)
Permitted 83
Not permitted 110

Developed (n=48)
Permitted 39
Not permitted 9

Developing (n=145)
Permitted 44
Not permitted 101

Source: United Nations

Accurate abortion data is often difficult to obtain. It is usually understated, especially for illegal abortions which go unreported. Moreover, the stated reason for an abortion is suspect in some situations. Therefore, these abortion data do not meet the scientific requirements necessary to establish a sound description much less infer cause and effects, of which there must be many. Lacking a better source, we can only go with the UN data for the world.

What we can conclude from the present data is that criminalizing abortion does not prevent women from seeking abortions. If these data are accurate, and surely they are not, the effect of legality is only about 10%. A much larger difference appears between developed and developing countries where the latter see death rates some three time the former.

When abortion is illegal in developed countries, more women die undergoing the procedure. The difference here is a bit larger, about 24%. In other words, laws prohibiting abortion simply and needlessly add mothers to the toll. That the opposite is true for the undeveloped countries likely reflects under-reporting.

There must be better ways, and education is one of them. Quality education that attends to not only information regarding reproduction but to the development of responsible individuals, seems better yet. Preaching abstinence alone is insufficient. It is a little mind boggling to be young and told you are old enough to mate and have children, but too young to use contraceptives.

What does abortion have to do with peace? Mostly the answer lies in our views toward women. Are they or are they not responsible their own bodies? Nature via evolution says yes; most monotheisms say no. For this basic reason, abortion is a highly charged political matter and will remain so for a long time. Bias in both directions, depending on one's side on the issue, is the rule.

An informal poll we took some time ago led us to suspect that women and men differ in their attitudes toward abortion. Our finding that women favor being abe to make the decision for themselves is much greater than males who would criminalize abortion is consistent with a study by Protestant seminarians. If these results are true in general, the attitude difference is a divisive issue between males and females for something like one-third of the American populace.

To the extent sexism exists,
it is a barrier to peace.

More LINKS:

Abortion and Population Growth
Abortion Dangers - Note Reardon's sample is under review
Abortion Deadly Politics
Abortion, Health, and the Law
Anti-abortion laws
Clinical Depression
Death Rate Definition
Death rates in Ethiopia
Maternal Death Rates Around the World
Medical Abortion Mortality
Risks Of Abortion
What Does Illegal Abortion Look Like?

It is difficult to remove all bias when gathering and analyzing data, especially when dealing with emotionally-charged issues such as abortion where participants themselves may experience unexpected emotional (or physical) distress or relief as the case may be. The web page authored by Reardon, above, appears to be biased since his sample included only religious women. His claimed PhD was issued by a diploma mill, not by an accredited institution of higher learning. So he had no formal training in science or how to select and interpret data.

So-called politically-correct studies may be biased in the opposite direction. Those concerned about validity of research claims are advised to study any paper of interest and its base-line data and interpretations for their adherence to sound scientific practices.

See Scientific Discipline for what goes into valid science.

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