Tuesday 5 July 2011

Major British study links premature births to previous abortions adding fuel to calls for independent abortion counseling

The Times and Telegraph have reported this week on new research which shows that women who have had an abortion are more likely to give birth to a premature baby and to suffer several other pregnancy complications when they next conceive.

This is hugely significant just as parliament is about to debate an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill which would give women the right to independent counselling on abortion. It is doubly significant at a time of financial restraint given the huge financial and emotional costs involved in caring for premature babies.

The Times article reads as follows:

‘A major study that looked at more than a million pregnancies in Scotland over 26 years has revealed that women who have had one termination are 34 per cent more likely to have a premature birth than those pregnant for the first time. Their chances of pre-term delivery are 73 per cent higher than women having a second baby, who are known to have a lower risk of preterm delivery.

The risks of prematurity increase sharply with more than two abortions. One in five women who has had four terminations will give birth before 37 weeks, compared with fewer than one in ten women who have had only one, according to preliminary results from the University of Aberdeen.

Women who had surgical abortions were 27 per cent more likely to have preterm births than those who had medical abortions with drugs, which are more common earlier in pregnancy. The study also linked a previous abortion to slightly higher risks of stillbirth and pre-eclampsia, a blood pressure disorder that can itself lead to pre-term delivery and occasionally threatens the lives of mothers and infants.’

Preliminary results from the research, led by Dr Bhattacharya and Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya, were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Stockholm yesterday. The work has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.

The study examined the Scottish Morbidity Records for all women in the country aged 15 to 55 who had two pregnancies between 1981 and 2007. They identified 171,208 women who had a second pregnancy after an abortion, 6,098 who had a second pregnancy after miscarriage, 458,337 who had a second pregnancy after a live birth, and 458,339 women pregnant for the first time.

There are actually at least 119 articles in the world literature already attesting to an association between abortion and premature birth, and very few indeed that contest the association (see below). So why is this new study a news story?

What makes it news is the fact that this is the first major British study on the subject – as it is virtually impossible to do research on the health consequences of abortion in this country because abortion authorisation forms do not carry NHS patient numbers (a story in itself!)

We will of course have to wait to see the full study once it is formally published but this is a further huge reason why women seeking abortion must have access to fully informed consent from a neutral party which does not downplay the facts.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), who were rapped on the knuckles earlier this year by the Health Secretary for trying to sneak through their controversial guidance on abortion without a proper consultation have been heavily criticized in the past for underplaying the physical and psychological consequences of abortion for women.

Among their current recommendations is the following: ‘Women should be informed that induced abortion is associated with a small increase in risk of subsequent preterm birth, which increases with the number of abortions’

Well 34% is not small increase at all. And we know it gets bigger and bigger with each abortion - highly significant given that many young women are using abortion as as form of birth control. If a risk factor raised the incidence of cancer by 34% it would be front page news. I wonder if this will be. I am not holding my breath.

I blogged back in February about an AAPLOG update on the scientific evidence for the link between abortion and preterm birth – a connection which has been constantly underplayed by the RCOG. The new draft continues this misreporting.

The AAPLOG report reads as follows:

'One of the most egregious educational omissions from current medical education/residency program, or just plain from the American medical literature in general, is the association of induced abortion with subsequent preterm birth. It is a kind of ‘denial by silence’.

There are at least 119 articles in the world literature attesting to this association, and very few indeed that contest the association. (see review) And even the admission of the association is trivialized. Iams, a MFM Professor from Ohio State, allows that abortion is followed by ‘a very small but apparently real increase in the risk of subsequent spontaneous preterm birth (PTB)’.

‘Apparently real’ is an interesting way to say ‘119 studies, and all of the recent major studies’. Do we believe in evidence based medicine? ‘Very small’ - (and here Iams references the 2009 BJOG Shaw study that found a 36% increase in PTB subsequent to abortion)—how big is ‘very small?’ With nearly any other serious complication, a 36% increase with one exposure (in this case, to abortion) would be extremely significant. Not so, here. Rather, it is a ‘very small’ association.

And -same Shaw study- women with more than one prior abortion raised their 'preemie' delivery risk by 93% - a HUGE increase (almost double the 'preemie' risk when compared to women with zero prior abortions). See our analysis of Iams article.

We see here an example of a new principle, the ‘abortion distortion’. In legal, and medical, and societal, and governmental arenas-(as in ‘Philadelphia Dept of Public Health’)-, the rules and standards change when the topic is abortion. Overwhelming medical evidence becomes ‘apparently real’, a 36% increase becomes a ‘very small’ increase, Philadelphia public health department responsibilities to women's health become a joke. Worse. An unspeakable travesty.'

Well it will far harder for the abortion industry and RCOG to play down abortion complications now.

I wonder how long it will be before the first mother with a prior abortion brings a case against a doctor or health authority for not being told that she was at increased risk of having a premature baby in a subsequent pregnancy. Especially if that baby suffers one of the more severe and expensive complications of prematurity.


  1. Excellent article, Peter. Well done!
    But I will not be holding my breath either. The PC establishment will not allow this to hinder their pro-abortion agenda, hence their use of the words "small increase" for what is a HUGELY significant risk factor.

  2. Excellent article Peter.

    As someone who has never had an abortion but did have a 24 week gestation baby, I can assure your readers that the presumed "psychological damage" from carrying a healthy but unwanted baby for the 7 or 8 months from discovering the pregnancy to term, then giving it up for adoption is nothing compared to the "psychological trauma" of sitting by an incubator for a similar period of time willing your critically ill baby to survive, then taking home a child whose entire life might be marred by disability.

    Better to spend your life wondering if your unwanted baby is happy to be alive rather than aborted than to spend your life knowing your wanted baby is suffering, especially when that suffering is preventable. We put warnings on cigarettes saying that smoking when pregnant may damage your unborn child. Why not have similar warnings for abortions about future wanted pregnancies?


  3. Great article... The life of a premature baby should be dealt great care as they are more prone to small diseases and they require extra care and attention.

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