The pro-life movement has frequently pointed out the psychological consequences of abortion, after which, women are at high risk for mental health disorders, including drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety and depression, and suicidal behavior. But long-term physical consequences are less well-known, and much more contentious. What does the medical literature actually show about abortion and physical risks?
Breast Cancer and Abortion
An increased risk of breast cancer is one of the most hotly debated risks listed among pro-life literature. The pro-life movement has been frequently maligned over its claims that abortion has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer — something the abortion industry derides as nothing more than a myth or as a scare tactic. But this claim didn’t just appear out of thin air, and a self-proclaimed “pro-choice” filmmaker even felt an investigation into the controversy warranted an investigative documentary.
A 2007 Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found no overall link between breast cancer and abortion — but also showed that women who had abortions and never had live births could be at risk. “When you look at specific groups inside the study, women who had an abortion and had children showed no increased risk [for breast cancer],” filmmaker Punam Kumar Gill said in her documentary, HUSH. “But a 26 percent risk increase was found in the group of women who had had an abortion but had no children.” A 1996 meta-analysis of 23 studies from Dr. Joel Brind, a professor of human biology and endocrinology, also found a 30% increased risk of breast cancer associated with abortion.
Dr. Gerard Nadal, CEO of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, discussed the subject with Live Action News. “There have been several meta-analyses of peer-reviewed scientific literature since 1996, all substantiating a link between induced abortion and breast cancer,” he said, adding that in 2003, a relative handful of these authors gathered at the National Cancer Institute in a workshop — excluding researchers who had long held to an association between abortion and breast cancer — to disavow their own data. Yet, Dr. Nadal noted, they never saw fit to publish retractions of those data in the journals in which they published, and for good reason: “They really don’t disavow the data, nor do the editorial boards who published the papers.”
By 2009, some of the participants, including Dr. Louise Brinton, previously chief of epidemiology at the National Cancer Institute, authored a paper in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention. In that paper, they list induced abortion as leading to a 40% increased risk of all types of breast cancer (Table 1). In the results section of this paper, the authors wrote, “In analyses of all 897 breast cancer cases (subtypes combined), the multivariate-adjusted odds ratios for examined risk factors were consistent with the effects observed in previous studies on younger women (Table 1). Specifically, older age, family history of breast cancer, earlier menarche age, induced abortion, and oral contraceptive use were associated with an increased risk for breast cancer (emphasis added).”
“What is noteworthy is that these authors published the same statistic that Dr. Brind found in his 1996 meta-analysis, and that they denied in their 2003 workshop,” Dr. Nadal said, adding that despite publishing this increased risk in the hard data, it is widely known that the general public do not read epidemiology journals. Brinton, et al. could have taken refuge in the 2003 workshop being the last word on the matter in their eyes. “To have contradicted themselves just six years later by publishing new data showing a 40% increased risk of breast cancer from induced abortion is absolutely stunning,” Dr. Nadal said. “There have been no formal retractions of these data by any of the hundreds of authors of similar studies, or the editorial boards that published them.”
Future pregnancies and abortion
Numerous studies have found a link between previous abortions and complications in subsequent pregnancies. Many of these studies have also found that the risk increases with multiple abortions. A study published in the Linacre Quarterly, a peer-reviewed medical journal, found that abortion increases the risks of placenta previa, ectopic pregnancy, and premature birth.
A study in the Netherlands specifically found that women who have had abortions were more likely to suffer premature delivery, have cervical incompetence requiring a cerclage, placental issues, and postpartum hemorrhage.
Numerous studies have also found that abortion can lead to future infertility; sterility is listed as a known risk on Planned Parenthood’s consent form. Maryland’s Gynemed Surgical Center abortion facility consent form also notes sterility as a potential side effect of abortion, in addition to immediate complications, like a lacerated uterus, infection, perforation, scar tissue and death.
Immediate Abortion Complications
Women aren’t just risking long-term complications. There are risks that come with abortion, and women have died from legal procedures — both surgical and chemical.
In addition to the nearly four million preborn children who have been killed by the abortion pill, at least 24 women have died*, and the FDA has received over 4,000 reports of adverse events, which includes hemorrhage, excruciating abdominal pain, and severe life-threatening infections. Surgical abortions come with the potential for numerous life-threatening complications which can take place. The woman’s uterus or cervix can be perforated or lacerated, and in extreme cases, this can also damage the bowel, bladder, the rectum, and other maternal organs. Other risks include infection, hemorrhaging, damage to the cervix and uterus, scar tissue, damage to the uterine lining, and death.
Sadly, women are rarely given true informed consent when it comes to these risks. They’re falsely reassured that abortion is “safer than childbirth,” and that any long-term complications are myths and scare tactics from the pro-life movement. Yet these risks are all too real (as evidenced by frequent ambulance calls to abortion facilities), but profit is perhaps too strong motive for the abortion industry to be honest about those risks.
Every woman deserves to know the truth about the potential consequences of abortion.
*Editor’s Note: The FDA has received reports of serious adverse events in women who took Mifeprex. As of December 31, 2018, there were reports of 24 deaths of women associated with Mifeprex since the product was approved in September 2000, including two cases of ectopic pregnancy resulting in death; and several cases of severe systemic infection (also called sepsis), including some that were fatal.
The adverse events cannot with certainty be causally attributed to mifepristone because of concurrent use of other drugs, other medical or surgical treatments, co-existing medical conditions, and information gaps about patient health status and clinical management of the patient. A summary report of adverse events that reflects data through December 31, 2018 is here.
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