WHO estimates that the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR–maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) dropped 43% between 1990 and 2015, from an estimated level of about 532,000 in 1990 to a new lower and also estimated level of 303,000 in 2015. This shows an MMR reduction of 169, from a level 385 in 1990 to 216 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
The report acknowledges that accurate measurement of maternal mortality levels is still a significant challenge.
The drop in the MMR estimates is most likely attributable to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). MDG. 5A sought to reduce maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015. It is evident from the report that this target was not met, in that only nine countries managed to reduce their MMR level to the 75% target, although the report makes it clear that significant progress was made towards achieving it.
Despite this progress however the latest MMR estimate contained in the 2015 report is 303,000. The majority of these (99%) occurred in developing regions, 66% of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
The MDG 15 year programme was replaced in September 2015 by a new programme known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the post 2015 agenda which now aims to reduce the global MMR to 70 by 2030. This is certainly possible but only if the focus is placed on the measures that actually save lives.
Most maternal deaths can be prevented with adequate nutrition, basic health care, and good obstetric care throughout pregnancy, at delivery and postpartum.
The decline in maternal mortality rates in the developed world coincided “with the development of obstetric techniques and improvement in the general health status of women” (from 1935 to the 1950s), according to the World Health Organization (WHO)[i] This took place well before the widespread legalization of abortion.
To reduce maternal mortality, we must strive to give women in the developing world access to the same standard of care that has been available to women in the developed world for decades—care that results in a healthy outcome for both mother and baby.
It is also clear from the new report that pro-abortion demands that abortion should be legalized in order to reduce maternal mortality are absurd. Contrary to the claims of organizations advocating so called safe legal abortion, no direct relationship exists between the legal status of abortion and maternal mortality rates. Indeed, abortion can be legal but unsafe for women. It is of course always unsafe for the unfortunate baby. Ireland, Poland, Malta, Chile, Kuwait, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates ban most or all abortions and have very low MMR's.
The main outstanding issue in respect of the SDG’s and the post 2015 agenda is the agreement of indicators which will be used as bench marks for the implementation of the SDG’s. A preliminary report on the indicators was issued by the sustainable development solutions network in June 2015 and some model indicators have recently been proposed. Careful monitoring of this process is essential as there are already significant problems with the report and the model indicators but in addition there have been a number of submissions by pro-abortion agencies and NGO’s in an attempt to further radicalise the indicators.
[i] World Health Organization, Maternal Mortality: A Global Factbook (Geneva: World Health Organization, 1991).