What They Don’t Tell You: Abortion and the Risk of Premature Birth

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

What They Don’t Tell You: Abortion and the Risk of Premature Birth Email this article
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by Melanie McDonagh
June 8, 2007

LifeNews.com 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.

Some backbench Bills are destined for stillbirth, and Ann Winterton’s Bill yesterday was one of them. It would have compelled women who wanted an abortion to have counseling and to be given information about the possible effects. It was seen off, terminated, 107 votes for, 182 against. Pity. There was a useful point of principle there.

It is that abortion has its own costs, not all of which are obvious, but which you jolly well ought to know about before you have one. You can take what view you like of the main effect, namely, that at the end of an abortion, you’re minus one human fetus. But there are other implications, apart from the predictable risk of depression.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a lecture by a specialist in high-risk obstetrics, Byron Colhoun, the joint head of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at West Virginia University. His subject was not, on the face of it, a must-listen, being about the association between abortion and premature birth.

Five minutes in, I was sitting up.

Professor Colhoun is an amiable, bespectacled American, with a sweet way of interspersing tables from academic studies with slides of the little Colhouns. But what he demonstrated was deadly serious.

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. Yesterday’s Bill was a missed opportunity.