Recently, the New York Times published a polarizing editorial by Dr. Warren Hern of Boulder, Colorado. For many years Dr. Hern has performed late term abortions and even opened his own abortion clinic. His shocking claim in the recent editorial is captured in its title: “Pregnancy Kills. Abortion Saves Lives.” But does Dr. Hern’s claim hold water?
He begins by writing, “Pregnancy is a life-threatening condition. Women die from being pregnant. We have known that for thousands of years.” This is, of course, true on the surface. However, it overlooks the great medical progress the Western world has made over the last couple of centuries. The maternal mortality rate in the United States is 26.4 per 100,000 live births. While this rate is much higher than Western European countries with smaller non-White populations, it still represents a very low level of risk for nearly all mothers. So, while all human activity, even merely living, includes some risk, pregnancy is certainly not a very dangerous condition. Therefore, Dr. Hern’s initial claim is somewhat misleading.
Hern then gets to the substance of his argument, writing that “By comparison, a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology on abortion mortality from 1998 to 2010 found that for the 16.1 million abortions performed during that time, the overall death rate was 0.7 per 100,000 procedures. The death rate for early-abortion procedures — those that took place within the first eight weeks of the pregnancy — was less: 0.3 per 100,000. Pregnancy is dangerous; abortion can be lifesaving.”
First, abortions performed in the event of a pregnant woman’s medical emergency are so few in number that they are statistically irrelevant. So, Hern’s argument in favor of abortion, even if accepted, would actually apply to exceedingly few women in the US who want an abortion.
Second, Hern’s claim that “the overall death rate was 0.7 per 100,000 [abortion] procedures” is transparently false. The actual death rate is 100% because the procedure always results in the death of a living human being – namely, the baby.
Third, abortion doctors themselves have admitted that abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a woman. Sometimes the life of the mother or baby may be lost during efforts by doctors to save their patients in rare and extreme medical emergencies, however, this is different than setting out to destroy the baby’s life from the outset.
Therefore, we can determine that Hern’s claims in his recent editorial are both misleading and false. They leave out vital information and ignore medical progress and human technological advancements. Hern’s editorial should be understood as a promotion of his political agenda rather than an informed and unbiased judgement from an expert in the field of medicine.