Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women

By Angela Lanfranchi, Ian Gentles and Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy

Editor’s note. The following review first appeared in the January digital edition of National Right to Life News.

Since it first appeared in 2013 Complications has been internationally recognized as an encyclopedic and authoritative account of the physiological, psychological and spiritual consequences of induced abortion for women’s health, and the health of their subsequent children. The authors have already published widely in their fields: Ring-Cassidy in psychology, Lanfranchi (a practicing breast surgeon) on the link with breast cancer, and Gentles, a bioethicist who has long taught courses on human population and bioethics at York University and Tyndale University College in Toronto.

Nearly 500 pages long, the book consists of 21 chapters. The topics range from the purely medical — the abortion-breast-cancer link, infection, infertility, pain, maternal mortality, physical complications, premature births after abortion; the psychological – depression, suicide, substance abuse, intimate partner violence; the social ramifications – abortion and sex selection, informed consent, abortion and the crime rate, and a global perspective on the impact of abortion on maternal and infant mortality. It also deals with spiritual and psychological healing after abortion, and ends with 101 women’s moving accounts of their own abortion experience.

The book’s research is solidly grounded in 703 scientific and medical articles and books (35 more than the first edition). While almost all the data are derived from leading journals in the field, the findings are often surprising. For example, the chapter on maternal and infant mortality, based heavily on U.N. statistics, documents that countries which deny or significantly limit accessibility to induced abortion enjoy significantly better rates of maternal and infant mortality than neighboring countries that allow abortion on demand. For the second edition two new countries have been added to the study: Bangladesh and Mexico.

Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, also has one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. Yet between 1990 and 2015 it succeeded in reducing its maternal mortality by well over two thirds. It achieved similar success in reducing infant mortality.

The experience of Mexico is even more striking. Under its strict abortion law maternal mortality declined by almost 50 per cent between 1990 and 2005. Since 2007 each of the 32 Mexican states has had the power to pass its own abortion legislation. Most have stuck with the restrictive law. A recent study in the British Medical Journal compares the experience in the states with strict abortion laws with those with permissive laws. Its astounding finding is that the states with more restrictive laws experienced twenty-five percent lower maternal mortality than the more permissive states. The death rate directly from induced abortion was almost fifty percent lower. So much for the mantra that women’s ‘reproductive health’ is only secure where there is abortion on demand.

For many years through the nineteen-fifties and -sixties the National Cancer Institute denied that there was any link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Only when the Surgeon-General publicly declared that there was such a link did the NCI change its tune. Angela Lanfranchi and others have for many years documented the overwhelming evidence from around the world of a direct link between induced abortion, and the subsequently higher rate of breast cancer experienced by women who undergo those abortions.

The second edition of Complications reports on twenty new international studies, sixteen of which document statistically significant increased odds ratios for breast cancer after induced abortion. We wonder how many more studies it will take before the NCI finally caves in and recognizes the abortion-breast-cancer link, which one of its own leading researchers has already documented!

For many years the American Psychological Association (APA) has officially denied that abortion has negative effects on women’s mental health. Yet Complications reports on an authoritative study by Prof. Priscilla Coleman in the British Journal of Psychiatry which found that all mental health risks suffered by women increased by 81 per cent after abortion. It also found that almost ten per cent of all mental problems experienced by women are attributable to abortion alone, independent of any other factor.

Yet Coleman and the editors of the journal were savagely attacked, amid a chorus of demands that the article be withdrawn. The editors rebuffed these demands, declaring that the article was based on sound research and had been subject to rigorous peer review. We wonder how long it will take before the APA finally caves in and admits that abortion does result in serious mental problems for women.

The new edition of Complications boasts many other features that make it indispensable reading for anyone seeking to deepen their knowledge of the abortion issue.