A report from the United Nations Children’s Fund raises fears about women’s health risks in giving birth, especially in Third World countries.

The report says complications during pregnancy and childbirth kill nearly 600,000 annually and lead to complications for another 250,000. Most of the problems stem from hemorrhaging and infection.

The report also says that up to 75,000 women die each year trying to abort themselves with foreign objects.

Maternal mortality was reported highest in parts of Africa where one in 100 women die in childbirth – a rate 160 times higher than in Canada.

The U.N. report described “a conspiracy of silence” surrounding the maternal mortality situation, adding that it has become “a neglected tragedy of our times.”

The report calls on governments, especially those in Africa and Asia, to devote more resources to maternal health and education programs. More training for midwives is also recommended.

The U.N. report is of concern to the pro-life community for a number of reasons. While maternal mortality is a serious issue, pro-lifers contend that abortion poses far more risks than natural childbirth.

Pro-lifers wonder if the number of maternal deaths may have been exaggerated in an attempt to promote more contraceptive programs. An official with Canada’s Alliance for Life said it is extremely difficult to compile accurate moralist statistics in many Third World nations.