National Right to Life Director Admits Pregnancy Is Riskier Than Abortion


The state legislative director of one of the nation’s leading anti-choice organizations recently contradicted a key refrain of the anti-choice movement when she admitted that abortion is safer than many common medical procedures, including delivery.

During a political and legislative strategy session at the National Right to Life Committee’s annual convention held last weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, Mary Spaulding Balch said current data shows that abortions—including riskier second-trimester abortions—carry fewer risks of death than vaginal births, cesarean sections, and plastic surgery procedures, such as facelifts and liposuction.

In making this point, Balch criticized the legislative strategy used by other anti-choice groups to pass bans on abortion after 20 weeks by claiming the procedure is dangerous to women. The proper approach, she said, is to base the argument around the unborn.

“Who would ever say that we should ban liposuction because of the risk to the women?” Balch said, after reading off statistics claiming that on average there are .19 deaths for 1,000 liposuction procedures, compared to .09 deaths for every 1,000 second-trimester abortion procedures. “Who’s going to win that debate?”

It’s no secret that the National Right to Life Committee has always framed anti-choice arguments around saving the unborn, while other advocacy groups in the movement have opted to focus on the woman’s physical and mental health as part of their legal and political strategy. But it is rare for anti-choice leaders to publicly admit that abortion is actually safer than pregnancy or other common medical procedures.

“If we were to argue, for instance, that abortion should be banned at, say, 20 weeks because late abortions are dangerous to the mother’s health, let’s look at the fact of abortion,” Balch said to an auditorium of roughly 100 people, many of them members or leaders of state National Right to Life affiliates. “You know that a mother’s risk of death by abortion after a particular time—in this instance let’s say 20 weeks pregnant—the risk to the mother’s life rises to .09 [for] every 1,000 abortions. But let’s compare the other risks of a woman’s health. We know, for instance, that if she was to get liposuction that there’s .19 deaths for every 1,000 procedures. If you look for facelifts, it’s .2 per 1,000 procedures. For C-sections, 1.98 per 1,000, versus vaginal deliveries, which are .63 per 1,000.”

National Right to Life Communications Director Derrick Jones told RH Reality Check that these statistics were taken from a 2010 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research.

Balch did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

Currently at least ten states ban abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, many of them based on a model law crafted by the National Right to Life. A few other state bans were signed into law but later struck down in court for violating federal policy that abortion must be legal until a fetus is viable outside the woman’s uterus. The National Right to Life Committee’s “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” claims that at 20 weeks, fetuses can feel pain—a disproven theory based on a few selected studies, which contradicts the medical consensus that a fetus’ nervous system is not developed enough to feel pain until the third trimester.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to review a case involving a challenge to Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law.

That law, based on model legislation crafted by the anti-choice policy group Americans United for Life, was primarily based on the argument that later abortions carry medical risks to women.

Americans United for Life leaders have noted in the past that the Supreme Court is unlikely to strike down its own “viability standard,” a standard set down in Roe v. Wade, which says that abortion is legal until the point at which a fetus could survive outside the womb. Americans United for Life, therefore, believes that putting the focus on the mother’s health is a more effective legal and political strategy.

But in the Ninth Circuit decision, the court wrote that passing informed consent is the proper response to dealing with the risks of a medical procedure, not banning the procedure.

Balch referenced the Ninth Circuit decision as evidence that framing the debate around women’s health is ineffective.

For the strategists at the National Right to Life Committee, potential implications of 20-week abortion bans focused on the life of the unborn are not simply legislative (actually banning abortions at 20 weeks) or legal (dismantling the foundation of Roe v. Wade by striking down the viability standard) but political as well.

Looking ahead to this year’s mid-term elections, the organization is calling on anti-choice candidates to highlight their political opponents’ objections to 20-week bans as extreme and inhumane, and to steer clear of arguments about women’s health and safety.

“If we’re going to use legislation to frame the debate, do we frame it around an area and approach that is around the woman and her health, or do we frame the debate around the unborn child who can feel pain?” Balch said.

If Balch’s statements are any indication of emerging campaign rhetoric, it seems likely that her group will emphasize junk science—such as that of so-called fetal pain—and the emotive use of the word “baby” to refer to a fetus.

“I think as long as you keep the baby in the debate, we are fighting on our high ground,” Balch told the audience.

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  • kitler

    Interesting.

    And good. I will be bookmarking this. Pro liars like to lie and say that pregnancy is no different from…wait…BREATHING.

    • fiona64

      I still want to pimp-slap Rita for that one …

      • kitler

        I like how prolifemama denied that embryos drill into maternal blood vessels, take nutrients from the woman’s blood, and force the woman to process its biowastes..

        How the fuck does she think that embryos and fetuses survive in there *without* hijacking the woman’s body for their own use?????

        And like Rita, I get the impression that she has fetishized pregnancy. I bet she loves being pregnant, and probably gets off on all of the attention. So if she loves it, we should too, right? Even if we have to be FORCED to.

        • fiona64

          AntiChoiceMama has admitted that she’s post-menopausal. What she’s getting off on is the idea of forcing other women to be pregnant since she can’t be anymore.

        • kitler

          Hahaha Myintx is now saying that embryos don’t take anything from thr woman s body- thr pregnant persons body happily gives up its calcium cuz it loves osteoporosis!

  • tigalily

    Opps. Is what she should be saying haha.

  • Harvey Rabbit

    Do you have a source for this?

    • Moderately_Disgusted

      There’s a link to the 2014 national RTL convention where she’s reported to have made the statement, and the 2010 study she’s supposed to have based her stats on is linked as well. Why don’t you go there first and check, before making insinuations?

      • Harvey Rabbit

        I did check both links, and so confirmed that a meeting took place and that a magazine article was published. What I did not find was any evidence that Mary Spaulding Balch referred to that article at that meeting. That’s what I’m looking for.

        • fiona64
          • Harvey Rabbit

            No. I am looking for evidence that Ms. Balch quoted any article at all containing such statistics. A US News article featuring data from the Guttmacher Institute? Doesn’t seem likely, but show me the transcript.

          • fiona64

            Well, you clearly didn’t read the article I linked. It’s not a Guttmacher study. But hey, rock on with your delighted ignorance.

            Here are just a few more sources about the study:
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22270271
            http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-abortion-idUSTRE80M2BS20120123
            http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Citation/2012/02000/Abortion,_Pregnancy,_and_Public_Health.2.aspx

            You’re welcome.

            And looky here! Right in the article to which you are responding is a link to the source from which the speaker took her statistics: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492373

          • Harvey Rabbit

            Let’s try again. Right in the article to which I am responding is a link, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492373, to a study titled “Maternal mortality and cesarean delivery: an analytical observational study.” It has nothing to do with abortion or liposuction. I mentioned that once before.

            The article you linked was not a Guttmacher study. I didn’t say it was. I said the study used Guttmacher data. I found that out by reading it – particularly this passage: “Information on deaths from legal abortion came from an estimate provided by the Guttmacher Institute, which conducted an annual survey of U.S. hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offices that provide abortions. The Guttmacher Institute also provided information from abortion patient surveys, and the researchers searched published studies for additional estimates of mortality.”

            You asked previously: “Are you looking for the study evidence she cites?” I thought I was quite clear in stating that no, I was not looking for that. I was looking for the slightest bit of credible evidence that she cited any such study. I am still waiting, though not holding my breath.

          • fiona64

            So, you’re saying that this very reputable site, on which you are posting, is telling lies? Perhaps you can cite why that is?

          • Harvey Rabbit

            Happily. We have an inflammatory headline suggesting that Mary Spaulding Balch “admits” something that she probably does not believe. The story includes several direct quotes. But there is no source – not even something so flimsy as “according to someone who was there”. I’ve been asking for several days where this information comes from and getting very evasive non-answers. Since the tale was not too credible to begin with, I’m beginning to suspect that just maybe it isn’t true.

          • fiona64

            Well, see, there was that whole by-line that stated that the author is an investigative reporter …

            But that’s okay. You can go back to your friends at LieSiteSpews and tell them all about how the investigative reporter is probably a liar because you don’t like what she found out. I’m finished responding to you.

          • Harvey Rabbit

            Oh, she calls herself an investigative reporter? That’s all right, then. Never mind. It must be true.

          • fiona64

            I’m sorry that you are not bright enough to understand simple concepts. Perhaps you should seek help for that.

          • Harvey Rabbit

            What’s the simple concept? That investigative reporters are incapable of lying? Or incapable of being lied to?

          • fiona64

            The simple concept is that the reporting has been done … and that you just don’t happen to like the outcome. Therefore, you are screaming that it must be a lie. Why would an anti-choice speaker lie about this reality that is causing them to figure out how to reframe their anti-choice talking points? Perhaps you can help me understand *that.* It’s quite plain from the article that this is exactly why the speaker cited the study. ::shrug::

          • Harvey Rabbit

            I’m not saying (much less screaming) that it must be a lie. I’m saying it seems extremely implausible and I would like some corroboration before I swallow it.

          • fiona64

            And why do you you find it “extremely implausible”? Because it’s pretty clear to me that the reason for the citation is right here: Looking ahead to this year’s mid-term elections, the organization is calling on anti-choice candidates to highlight their political
            opponents’ objections to 20-week bans as extreme and inhumane, and to steer clear of arguments about women’s health and safety.

          • Harvey Rabbit

            “Looking ahead … ” – again, says who? I find it implausible because it would be unusual for an anti-abortion person to quote Guttmacher Institute “estimates” that abortions are safer than pedicures, and because there is no source for this story.

          • fiona64

            ::headdesk:;

            I am no longer going to engage with you, because you are being deliberately obtuse.

          • Harvey Rabbit

            I love a graceful loser.

          • fiona64

            I lost nothing, dearie. The reporter *attended the conference.* Her source is primary. Now, go color while the adults talk.

          • Harvey Rabbit

            You seem to think that calling other people stupid makes you smart. It doesn’t. Please stop. It’s boring.

            You say the reporter attended the conference. If so, it seems to me she should have said so, and said that she heard Ms. Balch make the remarks she is alleged to have made. And I’d be satisfied to hear from one or two of the “roughly 100 people” who also heard this bizarre and certainly newsworthy speech.

          • fiona64

            I’m looking to see where I called you stupid. Oops, seems I didn’t! There is a difference between stupidity and being deliberately obtuse — which you still are.

            I do enjoy seeing such a graceful loser as yourself, though. Ta-ta, little bunny.

  • Janelle

    She should be removed from this commission. She is a hypocrite

  • BelligerentBruncher

    I’m pretty sure the death rate is close to 100% for the fetus during an abortion.

    • kitler

      So?

    • fiona64

      I’m pretty sure it’s very convenient to be an anti-choice male, making pronouncements about how much medical risk a woman should take with gestation … knowing full well that you will never have to assume those risks.

      • Attila_L_Vinczer

        A male takes great personal risk by merely being near a woman. If a woman does not want the risk associated with pregnancy, she should stay away from men. Thus no chance of any pregnancy risk.

        • kitler

          You’re delusional.

          And they’re making fun of you over at Salon.com too now.

        • fiona64

          A male takes great personal risk by merely being near a woman.

          BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    • lady_black

      So what?

    • Jennifer Starr

      Is there an actual point to that statement?

    • http://aikenareaprogressive.blogspot.com/ jovan1984

      Here’s news for you. The death rate for fetuses during abortion is 0%.

      • Harvey Rabbit

        1984, did you say?

        • http://aikenareaprogressive.blogspot.com/ jovan1984

          You know what I said. Zero. As in zero fetuses die during abortion. Zero pain is felt from fetuses during abortion. Zero, cero, nada, zilch.

          • Harvey Rabbit

            Jovan 1984. 1984. As in Orwell, Newspeak, truth is lies, ignorance is strength.

          • http://aikenareaprogressive.blogspot.com/ jovan1984

            You are the one engaging in Orwellian doublespeak right now, troll.

  • Attila_L_Vinczer

    Did you ever wonder why the incidence of miscarriages are higher with women who have had abortions?

  • VeggieTart

    Good. Stop trying to con us into thinking you care about women’s health and admit it’s all about the unborn. I still won’t think you’re pro-life until you start worrying about those lives you want to save after they’ve been born.

  • Harvey Rabbit

    I suspect that the lady you so colorfully describe does not find it self-evident that a 20-week abortion is perfectly harmless, and that perhaps she may have been carelessly misquoted by someone who thinks as much of her as you do.

  • Harvey Rabbit

    I do apologize – I was steered here from a Salon.com story with the headline “Leader in anti-choice movement admits abortion is totally safe”; but those were not your words.

  • Harvey Rabbit

    Do go on. I want to remember you just like this.