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New Findings on Abortion and Premature Birth

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Dr. Meg Meeker

Women who have had one or more abortions are at a significantly higher risk of having a baby born before 28 weeks gestation, a new study from Finland finds.

“The odds ratio for very preterm birth (less than 28 weeks) increased from 1.19 with one induced abortion (95% CI 0.98 to 1.44) to 2.78 for women who had had three or more abortions (95% CI 1.48 to 5.24) before giving birth for the first time” according to Medpage Today. The online journal Human Reproduction went on to report that the risk for preterm birth (before 37 weeks gestation) was increased only in women who had three or more prior induced abortions.

Interestingly, the authors of the study hypothesized that one prior abortion might not have an effect on birth outcomes, but that multiple abortions might. But they found that even one abortion impacted birth before 28 weeks. In other words, they postulated that a “dose-related” risk for birth problems might occur with multiple abortions. The researchers identified over 300,000 first time mothers in Finland, which has a low rate of abortions compared to other countries. Of the identified mothers, 10% had had one abortion, 1.5% had two, and 0.3 % had three abortions. All were performed legally, so supposedly, the health risk to the mother was minimized. Of the abortions done, 91% were done before 12 weeks gestation, so again, injury to the mother would have been minimized.

Many studies have shown a relationship between abortion and birth risk, yet other studies have shown no link. What is unusual about this study is the size and the fact that it was supported by the National Institutes for Health and Welfare and the Academy of Finland, two non-partisan organizations. Dr. Reija Klemetti, one of the authors, admonished health care providers to warn patients of the potential health hazards of repeat abortions, which include very preterm birth and low birth weight infants for future pregnancies.

The study is “good news” for those who oppose abortion, and “bad news” for those who support it. What has always concerned me around the abortion issue is not only the life of the unborn child, but also, very importantly, the mental health of the women—especially young, immature women—who are counseled about abortion.

Typically, young women who seek abortion are not adequately counseled about the emotional and physical sequelae of the abortion. I have had numerous young girls in my office with mental health issues because of abortions done during their teen years, who state that they were simply never told how much the abortion would affect them psychologically.

Now, there is excellent data to show that these young women are at greater risk for birth complications because of abortions. My fear is that they will never be adequately told what those risks are.

The pro-life and pro-choice debates aren’t going to go away soon because fights will be waged over the rights of the unborn versus the rights of the women requesting abortion. I fear that the ones who get lost in the middle are the young girls who are scared and vulnerable.

Those who encourage them to abort their children feel pressured by time to get the abortion over with quickly to “minimize” damage. Young girls are thus pushed through the system and left in shock and awe after the fact.

Now, they are left with the potential risk of having babies far too early. For these young girls, I earnestly hope that we as mothers, fathers, educators, nurses, and physicians have the heart to tell them the truth because pro-life and pro-choice issues aren’t just about the unborn and older women who want to have control over their own bodies.

A lot more is at stake in the minds and bodies of millions of young girls who can get pregnant each year.

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