Getting the facts on maternal death rates


Sir, – In the article “Bishop expresses support for ex-UCD president Katie Ascough” (October 31st), Bishop Cullinan is quoted as saying the maternal mortality rate for Ireland, according to WHO figures, shows Ireland is “in the lowest, or best category and consistently ahead of the United States and the UK where abortion is readily available.”

The Confidential Maternal Death Enquiry (MDE Ireland) was most recently published in 2016, for the period 2012-2014. MDE Ireland was established in 2009 and has brought the collation of statistics and information relating to maternal death in Ireland into line with accepted international best practice.

The MDE Ireland report notes the difference between the MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) figures of the UK and Ireland “does not represent a statistically significant difference in MMR between countries” (MDE Ireland 2016, p1).

The suggestion that restrictive abortion laws result in lower MMRs is without foundation. In fact, countries such as Norway and Sweden both have MMRs lower than that of Ireland. Both countries also have access to abortion services. As a developed nation, our rates are in line with the average for other developed countries.

MMR rates are higher in developing countries with no access to safe and legal abortion, with many women dying from unsafe, illegal, backstreet abortions. Were it not for the closeness of the UK and the access to abortion services there, we too would have the possibility of such maternal deaths.

Misrepresentation of facts, statistics and evidence should not have any place in a reasoned and educated discussion of such a vital issue for Irish women. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.