Authors of a new study hypothesize that modernizing abortion methods reduces the risk of premature births. Yet most notably, it admits that the link to abortion existed in the first place.
Abortion advocates have long denied that abortion increases the risk of subsequent preterm births, despite the steadily-increasing body of medical data indicating otherwise. The association between abortion and preterm birth was a “flat-out lie,” declared Leila Hessini from Ipas. “[N]ot a single [US] medical organization recognizes a causal link between abortion and preterm birth,” claimed Paige Johnson of the North Carolina chapter of Planned Parenthood.
The new study analyzes medical records from women in Scotland between 1980 and 2008. It reveals a “strong independent relationship” between premature births and a history of one or more “therapeutic,” or induced, abortions. However, according to the study, the association declined over time and was no longer seen after 2000. The authors speculate the risk might be from injuries caused by surgical abortions without cervical pretreatment, a method which has largely been replaced by medical abortions and treatments that soften the cervix prior to surgical abortion.
The authors recommend that modernizing methods of abortion worldwide, particularly medical abortion, “may be an effective long-term strategy to reduce future rates of preterm birth.” Yet they caution that their work did not directly study abortion methods, and their hypothesis relied on general trends within the Scottish health system during the study period.
Doctors have criticized medical journals for downplaying the link between abortion and preterm birth. Dr. Byron Calhoun, an obstetrician and gynecologist, wrote “the victims of this irresponsible journalism are the millions of women” who were not informed of the risks associated with abortion and later have to contend with the death of a child born too soon or facing the lifelong health problems associated with prematurity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over a million children die each year from complications of preterm birth, and the survivors often suffer from physical and mental disabilities. According to the WHO 2012 report on preterm birth, “Very little is known about the causes and mechanisms of preterm birth, and without this knowledge, preterm birth will continue.” The report made no mention of abortion as a risk factor.
Even if the new report is correct in its hypothesis that abortion drugs are less likely to lead to preterm birth, they are not without risks for women and their children. Medical abortions are more likely than surgical to cause hemorrhaging or to be incomplete, sometimes leaving parts of the dead baby inside the woman. Exposure to abortion-inducing drugs in the womb is known to cause birth defects.
The study’s findings were also confined to women within the Scottish nationalized health system, which is not typical of medical care standards in other parts of the world, particularly developing countries.
“Women face numerous risks with abortion, legal or illegal, and those risks are substantially greater in the developing world,” said nurse Jeanne Head, National Right to Life vice-president for international affairs, when announcing the publication of an updated analysis showing how abortion hurts women. “Yet some in the international community have focused their resources primarily on legalizing abortion at the expense of women’s lives and health.”