Health Risks of Abortion, Part 1 of 3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Patricia Lee June, M.D.   

Julia in utero"Abortion stops a beating heart". Induced abortion affects the health and life of more than just the baby who is aborted. This article focuses on physical health risks to the mother and her later children. 

There is a popular misconception, even among many medical professionals, that legal induced abortion is "safe": that it carries less health risks than childbirth. Early evidence that studied only complications that were reported in the week following induced abortion did show lower death rates among mothers after first trimester abortions than with childbirth (second and third trimester abortions had higher death rates). These studies were misleading both because many women do not disclose their abortions and thus these complications and deaths from abortion are not counted, and also because they do not include late deaths. More recent long-term studies show that abortion is riskier.

Sidebar-Abortion-RisksThese studies from California, Finland, and Denmark where medical records from government-funded induced abortions and childbirth were linked to death records showed that women who had had induced abortions were more likely to die in the following up to ten years than women who had not been pregnant or than women who had given birth. Following abortion, rates were increased for deaths by suicide, homicide, accident, as well as for natural causes, especially for cardiovascular (heart attacks, strokes, etc) causes. Since stress increases the risk of heart disease, the mental stress following abortion may be why these rates were increased. Interestingly, death rates for women who were not pregnant or who miscarried were higher than for those who gave birth, but lower than for those who had induced abortions. Childbirth appears to be protective.

Other risks to health and life – including breast cancer and metabolic syndrome– may not be evident for many more years. A Chinese study of women over aged 40 found that those who had had induced abortions (but not spontaneous abortions) were 25% more like to have Metabolic syndrome (obesity, high blood pressure and pre-diabetes). Many studies have shown a correlation between induced abortion and breast cancer, and the further along the pregnancy that was aborted and the more abortions, the higher the risk. There are also studies that show no increased risk, but all of these studies have problems with incorrectly classifying women or short follow-up periods. Here again, giving birth (and breastfeeding) lowers a woman's risk; choosing abortion removes this protection. In addition, abortion in a woman who has not previously given birth results in an increased number of cells that are at high risk for developing cancer.


Dr. Patricia Lee June, M.D. is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Moultrie, GA and a Pediatrician. Her article, "Emergency Contraception-Not the Best for Adolescents," May 2013, is posted on the website of the American College of Pediatricians (www.acpeds.org). Dr. June is a long-time member of the PPL Board of Directors.


 

[In our July issue read Part Two of this three-part series. Dr. Martha Leatherman, will discuss the emotional and psychiatric consequence of induced abortion.]

 

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