UN finally puts science ahead of politics (somewhat)

Have you ever heard people say that we need abortion because so many women die in third world countries due to pregnancy? Well, this may not be the case:

A new report abandons statistics fiercely defended just months ago. In April, an independent research team showed that UN leaders had for years inflated the number of maternal deaths to a half-million worldwide.

The new UN report mirrors the independent study, putting the number around 350,000 and falling. The change highlights the tension between the UN’s dual roles in research and policy making, as one researcher told of jetting overnight to make statistics match policy.

The UN has been inflating numbers? Misleading people? Well that’s news! It seems the people who have been calling pro-lifers “anti-science” have been a little anti-science themselves.

When the medical journal Lancet published the independent findings, the editor told the New York Times that advocates pressured him not to publish it until after this week’s summit on UN development goals in New York. 

UN researchers and women’s rights groups confronted the authors of the Lancet study at a meeting in Washington last June, asking them to get in line with UN statistics so as not to confuse the media and big donors.

Yeah, you don’t want to confuse media and donors with things like facts or anything. Hey, at least they reported the numbers eventually. But here is the real kicker:

UN leadership was in disarray over how to react. WHO head Margaret Chan misquoted the report as saying legal abortion reduced maternal deaths. In fact, the report never mentioned abortion or family planning and credited better economic development, education, better health care and lower birth rates as factors.

The head of the UN Population Fund and WHO’s top statistician had offered conflicting views about whether the UN report would reflect the lower numbers or stick to the 500,000 figure. Activists at the recent UN-backed Women Deliver conference rolled their eyes and actually laughed at the independent report’s findings and urged UN officials not to accept them.

While the major finding differs little between the two reports, the Lancet study hailed the one-third drop in maternal deaths as “substantive” progress, but the UN characterized it as “modest.”  And the UN report recommends funding family planning and abortion, even though it acknowledges no evidentiary link to maternal health.

So even after all of this the UN is still trying to push its agenda of abortion in the developing world.  You can read the full report from the WHO and make your own decision. However, we should at least applaud the UN somewhat in their “modest” admission of the truth that maternal death in the developing world is dropping. I’m surprised we got that much from them.

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