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Life in Colombia: what’s wrong with this picture?
According to a US research institute Colombia in 2010 had over 400,000 illegal abortions. Really?
The Guttmacher Institute is at it again.
In tandem with the Fundación Oriéntame, its new report “Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in Colombia: Causes and Consequences” claims that there were exactly 400,412 illegal abortions committed in 2008 in Colombia, with 132,000 experiencing complications that required medical attention in a health facility. It also claims that one-fifth of all women needing medical care for abortion complications go without such care. This means that, according to Guttmacher, a total of 158,400 abortions were botched in Colombia in 2008 ― an incredible 40 percent of all abortions performed in the country.
The Guttmacher Institute also claims that 99.9 per cent of all abortions are illegal in Colombia, with only 332 of the abortions being legal.
Examination of AGI’s claims
In 2006, Colombia’s Constitutional Court legalized abortion to save the life and health of the woman, for fetal birth defects (eugenics), and for rape and incest.
The World Health Organization definition of “health” is, “A state of complete physical, social and mental well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. … a resource which permits people to lead an individually, socially and economically productive life.”1
In other words, abortion on demand is a reality in Colombia, since any woman can legally have an abortion for social and economic reasons per the WHO definition above. Therefore, the Guttmacher claim that 99.9 percent of all abortions performed in Colombia are illegal is clearly incorrect. Yet the Guttmacher Institute, whose experts surely know this, still claims in its report that “These findings strengthen the robust evidence from around the world showing that legally restricting abortion does not eliminate it but pushes the practice underground, making it less safe.”
The second problem with the Guttmacher statistics lies in the fact that its calculated rate of illegal abortions in Colombia is 37.1 per thousand women, twice that of the legal abortion rate in the United States.2
Even allowing for cultural influences, this is clearly impossible. AGI’s statistical mendacity was exposed in a recent paper written by Elard Koch and six other medical and statistical experts in the journal Ginecologia Y Obstetricia de Mexico.3
According to this paper, Guttmacher interviewed 289 health Colombian health professionals and compiled their estimates of the number of abortions in the country, then simply multiplied the result by a number obtained by “a subjective opinion.”
In other words, it was a wild guess whose only purpose was to make the numbers look big and frightening.
Most revealingly, the Guttmacher researchers did not even bother to look at actual government or hospital records; their numbers are generated from mere guesses and opinions which in turn are based upon a preordained social objective.
Koch and his colleagues then described how to do an estimate of abortions in Colombia correctly in their highly detailed paper, using widely accepted epidemiological and statistical methods to find that the AGI overestimated by a factor of 9 the complications due to induced abortion in hospital discharges and by a factor of 18 the total number of annual induced abortions, which Koch estimates to be about 22,000, not the 115,000 AGI claims.
Guttmacher has since replied, accusing Koch, et.al., of using shoddy research methods. Koch replied to this attack, again eviscerating Guttmacher’s claims and defending the methods and findings of the Koch study.
This is certainly not the first time that pro-abortion groups like the Guttmacher Institute have used questionable methods and even outright fabrications to grossly overestimate the numbers of abortions and maternal deaths due to abortions. Pro-abortionists have done the very same thing in the Latin American nations of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic, and have overestimated deaths due to illegal abortions in dozens of nations all over the world.
Purpose of the exaggerations
There is only one possible explanation for Guttmacher’s wild exaggerations: To stampede policymakers into further enacting an anti-life agenda in Colombia.
The Guttmacher Institute describes what it really wants in its report;
In its publications, the Guttmacher Institute describes its mission as being “… to protect the reproductive choices of all women and men in the United States and throughout the world.” What this means in practice, of course, is that it wants to integrate the anti-life mentality and anti-life practices into every aspect of the lives of otherwise pro-life people, and their “science” is the primary means to this end. They will tolerate no dissent.
The first step is to provide cover for Colombian politicians who want to legalize abortion in all cases and pay for it with government pesos, and intimidate others into falsely believing that this would be good for their own nation and their own people.
This is not science, it is ideology and advocacy.
Brian Clowes, PhD, is director of research and training for Human Life International.
Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the following information: Koch's estimate of induced abortions in Colombia is about 22,000 (21,978).
1 World Health Organization. WHO/HPR/HEP/98.1, “Health Promotion Glossary” at http://www.who.int/hpr/NPH/docs/hp_clossary_en.pdf, May 22, 2012.
2 Calculations based upon Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision, http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm, May 22, 2012.
3 Elard Koch, et. al. “Sobrestimación del Aborto Inducido en Colombia y Otros Países Latinoamericanos.” Ginecol Obstet Mex 2012;80(5):360-372.
4 Humanity Magazine, August/September 1979, page 11.
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