George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
Myths About Abortion
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
Persistent Myths About Abortion
Interview With Bioethicist Doctor Rosario Laris
By Omar Arcega
QUERETARO, Mexico, MAY 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In the public debate
about abortion, some still believe in the myths about its goodness for
women, says a bioethicist.
In this interview with ZENIT, Doctor Rosario Laris, a surgeon and
teacher of public health and bioethics, spoke about the beliefs that
contribute to the perpetuation of abortion, and the risks that it
implies for women and society.
ZENIT: In your opinion, what are the principal myths on abortion that
still exist in the world and in Mexico?
Laris: I would say [the myths are]: that legalizing abortion reduces
maternal mortality -- there is a very high number of women in Mexico
who die as a result of having an abortion; that if legalized, abortion
diminishes; and that abortion does not have any repercussion on the
physical and psychological health of women.
ZENIT: Why would they say that abortion reduces maternal mortality?
Laris: That's what they say, but the reality is otherwise. At present
25% of maternal deaths in the world happens in India, a country that
since 1972 has legalized abortion. Other examples are Russia and
In the first country the proportion of maternal deaths is six times
higher than in Ireland. Russia has legalized abortion and Ireland has
Now let's compare this country with the United States. There are in the
United States 16 deaths of women for every 100,000 [mothers with
babies] born alive; in Ireland there are only five.
But let's move to countries that are closer. Chile has a smaller
proportion of maternal deaths than Cuba, where abortion is permitted.
With this we can establish that there is no direct connection between
the percentage of maternal deaths and legalized abortion. What does
reduce the number of maternal deaths is quality health services.
ZENIT: They say that many women die in Mexico due to the clandestine
nature of abortion.
Laris: It is thought that in Mexico there is a very high number of
women who die because of abortion.
The reality is different. Data of the National Institute of Statistics,
Geography and Informatics or of the Health Secretariat says that, in
the whole country, the cases of death resulting from problems related
to abortion are very low.
The mortality of pregnant women is due primarily to problems of
hypertension, not of illegal abortions.
ZENIT: And what is your opinion about the theory that legalization
decreases the cases of abortion?
Laris: That by legalizing it, it is not promoted? That is a lie.
We see the cases of the United Kingdom and Spain. In Spain, abortion
was legalized 20 years ago and it has increased by 200%; today one out
of six pregnancies in Spain ends in abortion.
Another case to highlight is Poland. For decades abortion was permitted
there and the number was very high. When it was outlawed, [the number
of abortions] decreased to at least one out of 100 of the total number
That's why we must be clear: to legalize abortion is to promote it.
ZENIT: And the repercussions on women's health?
Laris: There is proof that women who abort increase their propensity to
suffer depression, anxiety and ideas of suicide versus women who go
through with the pregnancy in the same conditions.
A study was made in New Zealand where 630 patients were followed from
their birth to 25 years of age. Some became pregnant and of those some
aborted. Of the latter 50% showed the propensity to depression, as
opposed to 25% of those who had not [had abortions].
There are several studies in different parts of the world and the
results are the same: ideas of suicide and the consumption of drugs
increase in women who have aborted.
The mistreatment of children also increases in women who have aborted.
ZENIT: What would be the ideal public policies to help a woman avoid
having to resort to abortion?
Laris: There should be legislation that gives greater support to
pregnant women, economic support by the state, care in quality health
services, so that a woman would see a future for her child, as many
times a mother is anguished on realizing that her child will not have a
real future. Longer maternal leave is necessary for the better care of
However, the support must not only come from the government, but also
ZENIT: There are those who approve of abortion of younger fetuses that
lack neural connections. What is your opinion in this respect?
Laris: To consider this implies that a person with Alzheimer's stops
being a person. One would have to ask the relatives of a patient with
Alzheimer's if they do or do not consider him a person.
It has served, for families with this problem, to fortify their unity.
The characteristics of a sickness do not take away from us the rank of
persons, nor do physical damages. This was an argument used by the
When we do not consider a child of less than 28 weeks or a patient with
Alzheimer's as persons, we are discriminating.
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