Why Can't We Get Accurate Data on the Safety of Abortion?
Rachel N. Busick, staff counsel at Americans United for Life, has analyzed the latest Abortion Surveillance Report from the Centers for Disease Control and finds much of it wanting.
At issue: Why can't we get accurate and complete information on how many women die or are injured as a result of abortions?
Recently, CDC published its latest Abortion Surveillance Report on the status of abortion in the United States. Unfortunately, the latest data comes from 2015. But the report remains a good read because it confirms that abortion is poorly reported on, that the demand for abortion is decreasing, and that there is insufficient evidence to back abortion providers’ claims of abortion safety.
Abortion, according to advocates, is a simple medical procedure that is safe and is vital to the cause of women's health.
How the hell do they know?
Besides the obvious shortcoming that its data is three years old, the report suffers from another major defect: It is a product of voluntary reporting. While most states do report information to the CDC, several do not, including California, the most populous state in the U.S. Of the states that do report, state reporting requirements vary widely, with many states suffering from lax enforcement or voluntary reporting requirements of their own. The voluntary and inconsistent nature of abortion reporting makes the CDC report incomplete at best, and skewed by selective reporting at worst.
It’s worth noting that when it comes to the most important data of all — “abortion mortality,” or the number of times an abortion procedure is fatal to the patient — the CDC itself seems unwilling to rely on the reported data. Instead, it researches third-party sources, such as state vital records, media reports, and reports from healthcare professionals and private organizations. According to these sources, “safe and legal” abortion took a mother’s life half a dozen times in 2014.
What's needed, says Busick, are comprehensive abortion reporting laws that protect a woman's privacy and require abortion providers to report both medical and social information relating to each abortion.
These laws would include the demographics of the woman who had an abortion, whether the abortion was chemical or surgical, how the abortion was paid for, and at what point of gestation the unborn human was aborted. They would also require reporting of complications related to the abortion procedure — information that is necessary, not only to provide women with accurate information for informed consent, but to ensure and improve the health and safety of women who choose abortion. This is consistent with other laws and regulations requiring medical practitioners to report all sorts of information relating to the outcomes of various health interventions.