For years, abortion advocates have been claiming that pro-life laws increase maternal mortality rates. The usual target is Texas, as the state defunded Planned Parenthood, leading activists to immediately begin claiming that there was a massive increase in maternal mortality. The claim was, at the time, debunked by Washington Post fact-checkers, yet people still claim that defunding abortion facilities like Planned Parenthood and passing pro-life laws will lead women to die. And so, the Washington Post has stepped in once again to set the record straight.
Democrat Don Beyer spoke before the House Ways and Means Committee in May, and claimed that pro-life bills directly resulted in maternal mortality increases. “Anti-abortion bills increase maternal mortality and infant mortality. Texas is the best case,” he said. “The reported rate of maternal deaths in Texas doubled when the state closed their abortion clinics and cut funding for Planned Parenthood. The fact is that if Texas was a country it would have the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country in the world.”
Glenn Kessler, a fact-checker for the Washington Post, eviscerated this tired and long-disproven claim, saying this claim would typically receive Four Pinocchios.
The witness Beyer was speaking to, Lisa Collier, is the former president and interim chief executive of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Kessler reported that she politely tried to correct Beyer’s assertion. “When we analyzed the data, we identified there was significant over-reporting of deaths based on the death certificate data,” she responded. As Live Action News reported in 2018, the supposed increase in maternal mortality rates were because the state had changed the information included on death certificates, and coroners were incorrectly checking a box that indicated a pregnancy-related death. The corrected rate was actually lower than the national average.
To his credit, Beyer did admit his mistake and apologized when the Washington Post reached out for a comment. Still, Kessler pointed out that this claim is still erroneously made, including a second time during the same hearing at which Beyer spoke.
“[S]ince 2007 the United States hasn’t had an official annual count of pregnancy-related fatalities, or even an official maternal mortality rate,” Kessler said. “So anyone trying to tie a link between abortion laws and mortality rates is going to run into trouble.”
The reality is that these claims are based on nothing more than bad data and an insistence on adhering to a pro-abortion ideology. “It’s been a year since Hollier’s task force published the revised numbers – more than enough time to eliminate this talking point,” Kessler concluded. “Lawmakers should not try to make public policy by relying on bad data.”
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