Abortion’s Negative Impact on Women’s Health— Effects on Women and Subsequent Children: Part Three

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research

Last week, we began a series on abortion’s negative health consequences bases on a report by bioethicist Dr. Gregory Pike for the British pro-life group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). The report itself appears here.

Part One looked at evidence that abortion- related maternal mortality is much higher than reported in the U.S. and why this is the case. In Part Two, we saw how abortion may be connected to intimate partner violence and sex trafficking while giving birth may be linked to better health.

Today, in Part Three, we will see how abortion not only affects a woman’s health, but may have an impact on subsequent children.

The abortion industry in America assures us that abortion is safe, that it is childbirth that is dangerous. We have already seen that this is not so, that maternal mortality rates for abortion are nearly three times what they are for childbirth.

But the problem isn’t only that abortion, tragically, kills women. As Dr. Pike explains abortion also often harms women even those who do not die from the abortion. Moreover data suggests having an abortion may even mean the harm is passed down to the children they have later.

Chemical Abortions Not as Safe as Advertised

In March of 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed the protocol for the abortion drug mifepristone, assuring citizens that the drug had proven itself safe and effective. [1] However abortion industry studies cited by SPUC show that concern is still very much warranted.

A 2013 review using the dosages now allowed found a “failure” rate of 4.8%. This means if they wish to continue with their abortion, about one out of every 21 women taking the drug will have to return to the clinic for more medication or a surgical abortion. 1.1% had an ongoing pregnancy even apparently after taking both drugs.

Given that hundreds of thousands of women a year are taking these drugs in the U.S, although percentages sound small, in fact a great many women are affected.

Pike cites another study of patients at Planned Parenthood in 2009 and 2010. Many clinics, even then, were ahead of the FDA and performing chemical abortions up to 10 weeks or more. But even limiting use to the first seven weeks of pregnancy , when effectiveness is supposed to be better and side effects milder, Planned Parenthood still had an “adverse event” rate of about one out of every 153 women.

Adverse events can be anything from hemorrhage to infection to gastrointestinal distress severe enough to put a woman in the hospital. Pike notes that even this complication rate is deceiving: “Some patients may not return with complaints,” perhaps heading to the emergency room instead, “and staff may be motivated to conceal poor outcomes.”

At least one of Planned Parenthood’s patients during this time frame died from an undetected ectopic pregnancy. Mifepristone and misoprostol do not work when the baby implants somewhere other than her mother’s uterus.

The FDA admitted in April of 2011 that it had reports of 14 deaths in the U.S. associated with use of the drug and said it knew of another 5 death in other countries. In a medical review which was part of its March 2016 relaxation of the U.S. protocol, the FDA admitted that those figures had risen to 17 U.S. deaths and 11 deaths of mifepristone patients in foreign countries.

More could be uncovered with time.

Breast Cancer Link

While Dr. Pike recognizes that there has been a heated dispute in the medical community over whether abortion may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, he notes that several studies have shown such a link. Some studies have denied the link, but Pike points out that there have been significant data problems with some of the research, “using inaccurate registers, choosing inappropriate study populations and not adequately dealing with the under-reporting of abortion.”

“At the very least, and on precautionary ground,” Pike says, “women presenting for abortion need to be made aware of the intense research in this matter, and the divergent views of researchers.”

Dr. Pike points out that missing in much of the discussion is “the uncontroversial fact that carrying a first pregnancy to birth is protective against breast cancer.” This makes it clear, whatever the deniers of the abortion-breast cancer link may say, that “a woman will have a higher breast cancer risk if she undergoes an abortion compared to carrying to term.”

Impact on Subsequent Pregnancies

Pike takes notice of something that we have reported on for years – how abortion not only takes the life of the child in the womb, but also affects siblings who might be conceived and born after.

For example, sometimes the abortion of one child appears to lead to the premature birth of subsequent children, whose may face life with a significant disability. (See NRL News)

In fact the data is rather compelling. Pike points to a large 2014 study from Brazil which found that having a prior abortion was a risk factor leading to the country’s high preterm birth rate. A 2015 study of nearly 2 million women in Europe found the use of D&C for miscarriage or abortion was associated with a 29% increased risk of subsequent preterm birth and a 69% increase in very preterm birth. And Pike points out the risk was highest for women who had several abortions.

He also cited a nationwide study in the Netherlands from 2013 which found surgical abortions were associated with “preterm delivery, cervical incompetence, placental implantation or retention problems, and postpartum haemorrhage in subsequent pregnancies.”

These associations were found, Pike says, even with women giving birth there clearly underreporting their previous abortions. The strength of that association would have been expected to be even stronger if more women had revealed their abortion history.

In the next installment of this series we will examine the SPUC report’s findings on the psychological impact of abortion.

[1] The FDA reduced the dosage of the more expensive mifepristone, which starves the baby, boosted the dose of the cheaper prostaglandin misoprostol, which forces the baby out. The change also allowed women to take the misoprostol at home, and extended the time of use to as many as ten weeks gestation. Qualifications for prescribers were also relaxed. Only deaths must now be reported to the FDA, not “adverse events” which can be very serious.