Anti-choicers have a strange lack of concern for the “safety” of women giving birth


Crossposted at


I’m in the middle of reading Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which is, among other things, an excellent examination of the illogical and inconsistent stances of anti-choice activists. Just to pick one example, of many:

Why is it rare to see large groups of people praying the rosary in front of fertility clinics or shouting at the women on the way in? Why don’t fertility specialists have to wear bulletproof vests? Why don’t hospitals deny them admitting privileges the way they do doctors who perform abortions? The difference between a petri dish and the womb isn’t in the embryos, it’s in the woman’s perceived intention. The woman undergoing IVF is fulfilling her traditional motherly role, even if she kills a lot of embryos in the process; the woman undergoing abortion is seen as rejecting it, even if she already has six kids.

The idea of women rejecting or obeying their traditional roles is definitely in play where regulations of abortion vs childbirth are concerned. Take TRAP laws, for example.

Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers

BACKGROUND: In the years immediately following the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, several
states moved to impose strict regulations on abortion clinics, beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety. Since many of these requirements were struck down by lower federal courts starting in the early 1980s, states moved on to other ways to restrict access to abortion, such as limitations on public funding. Efforts to use clinic regulation to limit access to abortion, rather than to make its provision safer resurfaced in the 1990s and have gained steam since 2010.

While all abortion regulations apply to abortion clinics, some go so far as to apply to physicians’ offices where
abortions are performed or even to sites where only medication abortion is administered. Most requirements apply
states’ standards for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, even though surgical centers tend to provide more invasive and risky procedures and use higher levels of sedation. These standards often include requirements for the physical plant, such as room size and corridor width, beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety in the event of an emergency. They also often require that facilities maintain relationships with hospitals, provisions that add nothing to existing patient protections while granting hospitals effective veto power over whether an abortion provider can exist. Finally, several states mandate that clinicians performing abortions have relationships with local hospitals, requirements that do little to improve patient care but that set standards that may be impossible for providers to meet.

All of this is done to ensure the safety of pregnancy termination, which has a 14 times less potential of death to a woman than carrying a pregnancy to term.

To assess the safety of abortion compared with childbirth.

We estimated mortality rates associated with live births and legal induced abortions in the United States in 1998-2005. We used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, birth certificates, and Guttmacher Institute surveys. In addition, we searched for population-based data comparing the morbidity of abortion and childbirth.

The pregnancy-associated mortality rate among women who delivered live neonates was 8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. The mortality rate related to induced abortion was 0.6 deaths per 100,000 abortions. In the one recent comparative study of pregnancy morbidity in the United States, pregnancy-related complications were more common with childbirth than with abortion.

Legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion. Similarly, the overall morbidity associated with childbirth exceeds that with abortion.

So you would think that people like Cathi Herrod of Center for Arizona Policy, who loudly insist that they are trying to save women from the dangers of abortion, would be as committed to scrutinizing birth practices. But no, they’re not.

Arizona allows most expectant mothers* the opportunity to give birth in their homes, attended by a midwife. Not by a doctor and not in a hospital. There are no requirements for waiting periods, no forced ultrasounds or reading of a script about the danger of home birth, or any of the other rigamarole that women seeking abortion or their doctors have to go through, even if the women are merely taking a pill to terminate the pregnancy. Oh, but you’re having the baby? By all means then, take on that FOURTEEN TIMES HIGHER RISK OF YOUR DEATH with our blessing! Do it in your home, surrounded by NO ONE WHO IS AN ACTUAL DOCTOR!

Not that I oppose midwives at all! I don’t. Nor do I want Cathi Herrod poking around in people’s birth plans. God no. I want women giving birth to do it in the environment in which they feel the most comfortable. I just want to highlight the disparity between how anti-choicers deal with the “safety” of women seeking abortion, which is a very, very safe procedure as compared to women giving birth, which is obviously much less safe (though still statistically very safe). But the woman giving birth is fulfilling her womanly duty so the pretense of concern for her health and safety is dropped instantly. In other words, TRAP laws are blatantly dishonest tactics designed to keep women from safe, legal abortions, period. When we pro-choicers say that antis don’t care about women what we mean is that they don’t really care about our well-being. They do care very much about making damn sure we women adhere to our prescribed gender roles and if we die in doing that, so be it.

*Before anyone gets on my case, yes, Arizona does have midwifery policies some regard as oppressive toward women seeking to have home births assisted by midwives, particularly when there was a prior caesarian. It’s important to note, however, that laws dictating how women give birth that lead to things like forced caesarians are passed with what the state sees as its interest in protecting the baby in mind, not the woman’s life or safety.


Comments are closed.