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July 9, 1982

Mortality From Abortion and Childbirth: Are the Populations Comparable?

Author Affiliations

From the Family Planning Evaluation Division, Center for Health Promotion and Education, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta.

JAMA. 1982;248(2):188-191. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330020032025

Critics have challenged previous comparisons of mortality from legal abortion and childbirth for contrasting population groups with different clinical characteristics. They allege that most women dying from abortion were young, white, and healthy, while those dying from childbirth had serious underlying conditions. To address this question, we calculated standardized abortion and childbirth mortality rates between 1972 and 1978. We also adjusted independently for preexisting medical conditions. These adjustments for demographic and health differences between the two populations actually widened the difference in the mortality risk between abortion and childbirth. Thus, between 1972 and 1978, women were about seven times more likely to die from childbirth than from legal abortion, with the gap increasing in the more recent years.

(JAMA 1982;248:188-191)

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