Abortions Injure Women Twice as Often When Not Done by Doctors

National   |   Jacqueline C. Harvey, Ph.D.   |   Feb 5, 2013   |   11:58AM   |   Washington, DC

Lawmakers in California are pushing to overturn laws which insist that only physicians may perform abortions. In support of this bill, they present a study by Weitz et al. which examines the consequence of allowing trained clinicians to provide abortions.

The study claims that: a.) there need for more abortion providers, b.) the increased chance of complications from less skilled, less-educated clinicians is minimal and c.) the aforementioned need for more abortion providers justifies the additional risk to women.

The problem with their case is this: a.) they did not establish a need, b.) their calculations greatly under-estimate the risk and c.) any benefits from reform would not justify the additional safety costs to women.

RRA’s full investigation into this study uncovered the following errors and concerns:

  • The authors note a lack of physicians who perform abortions and suggest allowing non-physician clinicians to practice early-term abortions. While the facts regarding the decrease in abortion providers  are correct, this is not due to a shortage of qualified physicians, but an unwillingness of qualified physicians to perform abortions. Rather than address what deters qualified doctors, the authors seek to just recruit the legally unqualified and reform the law to meet this lowered standard.
  • Weitz et al. calculate the complication rates against the total population and not the sample which leads to significant under-estimation. RRA has exposed when other researchers have applied a similar trick. Unlike previous authors, Weitz and company did offer that there was a 70% response rate which allows us to determine that the sample was 4068 for physicians (not 5812) and 3972 for non-physicians (not 5675).
  • Using the sample and the number of complications provided, RRA found that non-physician abortions were twice as likely to experience a complication, and one additional woman per seventy-five women would have an adverse effect if medical standards were lowered.

RRA does not have access to the full data panel that includes controls for additional risk factors, but there is nonetheless a clear disparity between the health and safety of an abortion performed by a qualified physician and one performed by a clinician. Please reference RRA’s complete report for more information and sign up for updates on this and other headlines as they develop.



LifeNews Note: Jacqueline C. Harvey is a scholar of public policy and bioethics from Texas who works as a consultant in social services, primarily in statistics as a non-profit program evaluator and policy analyst. Dr. Harvey’s background includes both undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work, as well as a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Public Policy from the University of North Texas, with considerable coursework in public health and healthcare administration from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Reprinted with permission from Reproductive Research Audit.