Abortion safer than childbirth? Study's results do not support claim
January 24, 2012
A new study claims to demonstrate that abortion is safer than childbirth.
The study obviously concentrates solely on the medical risks for the mother, since an abortion always destroys the unborn child. So the study is based on a faulty premise, comparing two medical procedures that have different goals. In an abortion, one life is deliberately sacrificed. In childbirth, medical personnel do their utmost to preserve two healthy lives. It is not surprising that the latter operation is more challenging.
Since time immemorial, it has been generally understood that pregnancy and childbirth place serious strains on the mother. Most abortions are performed early in pregnancy, when those strains are not yet severe. So again, the comparison between abortion and childbirth is inappropriate from the outset. A Reuters news report on the study, however, stretches the application of the new study even further beyond what the facts actually bear. The Reuters story (which does not identify the source of the study until the 10th paragraph) acknowledges the strains of a full-term pregnancy with the remarkably awkward admission that “women are pregnant for a lot longer when they decide to have a baby and so have more time to develop complications.” That is true, certainly. But women who “decide to have a baby”—that is, decide not to destroy their unborn child—also have a better chance of giving birth to a healthy son or daughter.
In citing the results of the study, however, Reuters claims to find meaning that the data do not, and cannot, show. The story cites unnamed “experts” who “say the findings, though not unexpected, contradict some state laws that suggest abortions are high-risk procedures.” And later the Reuters report refers to one researcher who “said previous studies have also shown the safety of legal abortions.” Both statements are inaccurate.
The claim that abortion is safer than childbirth (for the mother) does not mean that abortion is a safe procedure. We know that childbirth entails some medical risks. Even if the risks of abortion are lesser, they are not negligible. Some state laws, designed to protect pregnant women, have required abortionists to provide accurate information about the health risks involved in the procedure. Those risks remain, even if other medical options involve their own risks. The study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, compared only the deaths from complications of childbirths and abortions. It apparently did not look into the lingering effects of abortion. Studies have shown that women who procure abortions suffer higher rates of breast cancer, depression, drug abuse, and suicide. Also, women who procure abortions may encounter complications when they eventually seek to bear children--and thus contribute to the elevated rates of death in childbirth.
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