Saturday, June 09, 2007

What they don't tell you about abortion Note: Melanie McDonagh's editorial originally appeared int he London Times and concerns a bill in the British House of Commons to make women aware of abortion's risks and dangers before having one. Similar bills in the United States have proven to reduce abortions.


From the analysis of all published data on the subject, from the mid-1990s to last year, from France to Finland, Australia to Germany, we can say that abortion almost certainly produces a doubling in the premature delivery rate. We don't know why – maybe bacterial infection from a surgical intervention, maybe because of cervical trauma.

In other words, for a woman who has never had an abortion, the chances of having a baby before 34 weeks are about 3 percent; in women who have had an abortion in the past, the rate doubles to 6-12 percent. In Poland, where the abortion laws were radically tightened after Communism – an epidemiologist's dream of a nationwide experiment in public health – there was a drop in the national rate of premature birth from about 7 percent to 3 percent.

And so what? Well, premature births don't just mean putting the mite into an incubator. There are real risks of handicap, of blindness or deafness, but chiefly of cerebral palsy, especially if the baby is born at 28 weeks or before. So, if a woman intends having an abortion she might at least like to be told that she's increasing her chances of a problem pregnancy next time.

What's more, keeping premature babies healthy is expensive. In the US the annual cost is about $1.2 billion. The same goes, on a smaller scale, for the NHS.

My own guess is that none of all this would sway most women sitting in the anterooms of abortion clinics but they ought at least to know what they're letting themselves in for.


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