New Research Shows Abortion Poses Higher Risk of Death than Giving Birth

Nora Sullivan, M.P.A  

For years abortion advocates and researchers have been asserting that an abortion is in fact safer than carrying a pregnancy to term.  They contend that pregnancy is a long process and the chance of complications during the gestational period and birth is significantly higher than complications resulting from the abortion procedure.  However, a study released this past week demonstrates that this claim is not entirely valid.  New research, which takes into account the full reproductive histories of the women involved, illustrates that, compared to women who delivered their babies, women who had an early- or late-term abortion have significantly higher mortality rates within one to ten years of the event.


The study, conducted by Dr. David Reardon of the Elliot Institute and Dr. Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, examined the death rates associated with varying pregnancy outcomes for time periods beyond one year.  Reardon and Coleman note that all previous studies of mortality rates associated with different pregnancy outcomes have been limited to an arbitrary range in women’s reproductive lives and lack complete information regarding the subject’s reproductive history. The study was conducted looking at women in Denmark born over a 30-year period. Complete pregnancy histories were constructed by examining and linking up Denmark’s National Hospital Register for information on miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and other losses; the Fertility Database for births and stillbirths; the National Board of Health Abortion Registry for abortions; the Cause of Death Register; and day-of-death records from the Central Person Register.


In contrast with a 2012 study conducted by researchers from Gynuity Health Projects and the University of North Carolina – which asserts that women are 14 times more likely to die delivering a live baby than from complications of an abortion, this study, which links up all relevant reproductive health data, found that death rates associated with birth were lower than those associated with early-term abortion, late-term abortion, and miscarriage in every year over a 10-year period.  The data demonstrates that an abortion prior to 12 weeks is associated with 80% higher risk of death within the first year after the procedure and a 40% higher risk of death over 10 years.


The Reardon and Coleman report offers several possible interpretations of the data.  One possible reason for the results is that women who are unhealthy are more likely to have a spontaneous or induced abortion.  It is also possible that a pregnancy carried to term produces health benefits which reduce the risk of death.  A third theory is that pregnancy loss may contribute to physiological or psychological effects which increase the risk of death.


Though abortion advocates frequently assert the safety of the abortion procedure and downplay the risks, the physiological and psychological complications are documented and numerous.  Immediate health risks include uterine perforation, cervical lacerations, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometritis, and death.  Abortion also puts a woman’s future pregnancies in jeopardy as it places her at elevated risk for pre-term delivery, placenta previa, and ectopic pregnancy.


In light of these findings (and the recent tragic case of 29-year-old Jennifer McKenna Morbelli, who died as a result of an abortion performed on her 33-week-old unborn daughter), it certainly seems advisable that women considering abortion be in full possession of all the facts before they make a choice which could result in consequences far more dire than those they had anticipated.  Improved abortion reporting laws in the United States with record linkages to allow studies similar to this new analysis of Denmark’s data are also urgently needed.


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