Learn the Facts

Isn’t abortion safer than childbirth?

Abortion advocates often claim that abortion is much safer than childbirth. However, this claim does not stand up to a close examination of the evidence.

The official medical term that this claim is based on — “maternal mortality” — actually includes deaths from abortion, so it is patently misleading to claim that the rate of abortion deaths is much lower than the rate of “maternal mortality” as if that term included only deaths from childbirth. In fact, in addition to deaths from both abortion and childbirth, “maternal mortality” includes deaths from hemorrhages, blood clots, ectopic pregnancies, infections, complications from high blood pressure or diabetes and more.

Moreover, no accurate accounting of abortion deaths exists. Some studies show that 4% of all maternal mortality is due to abortion while others show 8%. Anecdotal evidence reveals substantial underreporting. For example, Dr. John C. Willke writes that a pro-life physician friend did not report a girl’s cause of death as abortion because “that family has suffered enough and I’m not going to add to their woes by revealing that she had an abortion.”

Because the records of live births and stillbirths are public, it is easy to correlate deaths related to childbirth. Any woman who dies within one year of giving birth is automatically considered a maternal death for record-keeping purposes. But records from abortions are private. This means that unless a woman’s family reports that she had an abortion or somehow a coroner determines that she had an abortion, her death will not be included in the statistics for maternal mortality or abortion deaths.

In addition, it’s difficult to determine how safe or unsafe abortion really is for women. Only about half of states require abortion providers to report post-abortion complications, and investigation by pro-life advocates has revealed serious omissions in this reporting.

See also What risks are associated with abortion?


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Maternal Mortality and Related Concepts.” Vital Health and Statistics 3, no. 33 (February 2007). http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_033.pdf.

Elliot Institute. “A List of Major Physical Sequelae Related To Abortion.” Accessed October 10, 2013. https://afterabortion.org/abortion-risks-a-list-of-major-physical-complications-related-to-abortion.

Guttmacher Institute. “Abortion Reporting Requirements.” November 1, 2019. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/abortion-reporting-requirements.

Khan, Khalid S., et al. “WHO Analysis of Causes of Maternal Death: A Systematic Review.” The Lancet 367, no. 9516 (April 1, 2006): 1066-1074.

Willke, J.C., MD. “Abortion v. Child Birth: Which Is Safer?” Life Issues Institute. https://www.lifeissues.org/2006/04/abortion-vs-childbirth-safer.

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