Is Ireland the safest place in the world to have a baby?

A common argument made by the various pro-life groups in Ireland is that Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world to have a child and therefore, the argument that abortion is needed for health reasons is false.

The Rotunda Hospital. Image via Flickr

According to a Lancet article, the honour of the safest place in the world to have a baby is Italy and Ireland is sixth. The data from that article is collated here. A UNICEF study gave us first place in 2009. Different studies rearrange the order (another puts Greece first), however it is clear that Ireland is considered a safe place to give birth.

Given Ireland’s good record, it is difficult to argue that the current Irish legal situation with respect to abortion makes Ireland an unsafe place to have a child. However in spite of a practical ban on abortion, Ireland can be said to have an “abortion rate” since it is a matter of record that Irish women travel abroad for abortions.

In the paper, “Legal Abortion Worldwide: Incidence and Recent Trends“, Ireland’s abortion rate is inferred from instances where Irish addresses were given in foreign clinics. That article gave us a rate the same as Switzerland’s and slightly less than The Netherlands and Germany, however it is inevitable that some Irish women don’t give Irish addresses so the cited figure is likely to be lower than the truth.

Given the nature of current evidence, it is impossible to determine statistically if Irish women’s lives are threatened by a lack of access to abortion given most have the plausible option of seeking one in neighbouring countries. What is clear, is that given the fact that the practical ban in Ireland can be circumvented, the argument that abortion is not needed for health reasons needs different supporting evidence.

4 comments for “Is Ireland the safest place in the world to have a baby?

  1. July 23, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Impossible to take these assertions as anything other than opinions given the lack of comparative statistics or collection data: which numbers are recorded is a central issue in infant mortality figures.

    Facts are sacred but saying so merely indicates this a mission statement, not an necessarily that the site is any better at verifying assertions as facts than the general public.

    “the argument that abortion is not needed for health reasons needs different supporting evidence.” odd then that a site which insists it is dedicated to facts & truth should not notice that the IMO & the IOG have made it utterly clear that abortion serves no medical purpose.

  2. Colin McGovern
    July 24, 2012 at 12:07 am

    There is ample evidence that Ireland is a safe country in which to have a child, ample evidence that women travel abroad for abortions and taken together, it is reasonable to assert that the specific argument that Ireland does not need abortion on the basis of a good record in childbirth does not hold by itself.

    You are attempting to bring up another argument, which requires an analysis of the IMO and IOG positions on the one hand, and comparative positions held by other bodies but that is another day’s work.

  3. July 24, 2012 at 5:30 am

    My own take on this argument:
    Abortion laws and maternal mortality rates – deconstructing the anti-choice spin

    FWIW, the latest WHO/UN statistics (available here put Ireland outside the top ten safest countries in the world for pregnant women.

  4. F Royle
    December 11, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Given the conflicting statistics, people will believe what they want to believe and if that belief is driven by religion then it is unlikely that any argument will change their minds. However, even the most religious cannot deny the hypocrisy when quoting statistics which do not reflect the fact that a large number of people travel abroad to have terminations. There is also a moral question of not taking into account the views of women in the huge Irish diaspora who have terminations which would be denied to them had they stayed at home.

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