Why Abortion Restrictions Won't Harm Women's Health

Christina Francis

As I listen to the post-Dobbs public discourse about abortion and women's health, I am reminded of the three years I spent working at a mission hospital in rural Kenya as the only obstetrician-gynecologist for over 300,000 people. Having joined my specialty in part because I was compelled by the complexity of caring for pregnant women and their pre-born children at the same time, I knew I would face unique challenges in Kenya. What I did not fully appreciate was the extent to which a lack of resources would compound the challenge. Our hospital often lacked the medical supplies, medications, and blood necessary to treat pregnant women or their premature babies in medical emergencies. One time, when operating on a woman who was hemorrhaging, I had to scrub out of surgery, donate my own blood, and scrub back in to prevent her from dying from hemorrhagic shock.

Now that I am back in the U.S. serving as an OB-GYN hospitalist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I am finding that caring for mothers and pre-born children at the same time is just as much a challenge here as it was in Kenya--but for different reasons. In Kenya, we lacked resources. In the U.S., we lack the will. Having had abortion as a major part of our culture for fifty years, many do not view the pre-born child as inherently valuable or worth caring for. Even many Christians feel hesitant about offering them the same legal protections as everyone else who was made in God's image.

Today, many of those within the Church who feel uncertain about banning abortion often cite concerns that such bans will harm the overall quality of women's healthcare. But my experience in Kenya has shown me what high-quality, lifesaving reproductive healthcare requires--and it does not include elective abortion. Just look at the countries that have banned abortion in the past few decades. Chile enacted an abortion ban in 1989, and this law had zero effect on its steadily declining maternal mortality rate (MMR). Today, Chile has the lowest MMR in South America. Two countries with some of the lowest MMRs in the world--Malta and Poland--both have abortion bans as well. In the United States, Catholic and other religious hospitals and pro-life physicians have practiced without abortion throughout the duration of the Roe era and were still able to offer lifesaving care to women.

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