The Viability of Roe, Part 5: Is Abortion Good for Women?

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“All factors-physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age-relevant to the well-being of the patient…”[1]

“Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases … the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.”[2]

These are the words used by Justice Blackmun in Roe and her companion case Doe v Bolton, to describe the so-called “health exception” in regards to the right to abortion. Additionally, Justice Blackmun implied that abortion was safer for the mother[3]. He also repeats this and go, saying that “advances in medicine and medical techniques have made it safer for a woman to have a medically induced abortion than for her to bear a child.”[4] But the credibility of these sources cited in regards to this claim, has been seriously called into question by many people.[5] Even today, maternal mortality and abortion mortality rates cannot be compared, due to the fact that neither federal nor state governments maintain any system of human form and mandatory reporting of abortion deaths or injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depends completely on voluntary reporting systems and estimates the maternal deaths are underreported by 30 to 150 percent.[6] also things that have nothing to do with the biological risks of pregnancy, such as accidents, and homicides are also included in maternal death figures, this means that maternal death numbers are likely inflated, while the lack of reporting requirements means that abortion death figures are likely under  reported.[7]

Even Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, acknowledges that abortion has many short-term risks, including blood loss, blood clots, incomplete abortions (which occur when part of the unborn child or other products of pregnancy are not completely emptied from the uterus), infections, and injury to the cervix or other organs, including cervical lacerations and incompetent cervix – a condition that can also affect subsequent pregnancies.[8]

Additionally, at that time there had been no studies done on the long-term effects abortion can have on women, both physically and emotionally. In the more than 40 years since Roe, doctors and psychologists have documented at least six long-term risks associated with abortion[9]:

  • Increased risk of preterm birth or premature delivery and future pregnancies.
  • Increased risk of placenta previa and future pregnancies.[10]
  • Increased incidence of drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Increased risk of suicide in psychiatric admission after abortion.
  • Loss of the protective effect against breast cancer of the first full term pregnancy.
  • Increased risk of violence and assault after abortion

Preterm birth occurs when the child is born prior to the 37th week of pregnancy, and it is very dangerous to the child. In fact, according to the US Center for Disease Control premature birth is a leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.[11] Preterm birth can also be a risk factor for later disabilities, including cerebral palsy and behavior problems in the child.[12]

As of right now over 130 published studies have shown statistically significant association between induced abortion and subsequent preterm birth or low birth weight. Three different systematic studies were performed in 2009, and each one demonstrated the risk of preterm birth following induced abortions.[13] The increased risk of preterm birth in these studies fell between 20% and 37%, increasing exponentially to over 100% when the woman had multiple abortions. The Institute of Medicine, a section within the National Academy of Science, also lists first trimester abortion as a risk factor for subsequent preterm birth. [14]

Placenta previa, which is when the placenta covers all or some of the cervix, is another condition associated with previous abortions that can cause serious health risks for women. The mother can experience life-threatening hemorrhaging, and the child is placed in danger of perinatal death or medically indicated preterm birth.[15] Three separate studies showed a 50 percent increase in the risk of placenta previa after an induced abortion,[16] while another study found that the risk of placenta previa can more than double when the mother has had two or more abortions.[17]

The link between breast cancer and abortion has been hotly contested over the years, but it is scientifically indisputable, that a woman’s first full-term pregnancy can reduce her lifetime risk of breast cancer.[18] A 2003 study concluded that “clinicians are obligated to inform a pregnant woman that a decision to abort her first pregnancy. They almost doubled her lifetime risk of breast cancer through loss of the protective effect of a completed full-term pregnancy earlier in life.”[19] Additionally, at least thirty-one studies have raised the possibility that induced abortion is an “independent risk” for breast cancer, or that induced abortion can directly cause breast cancer.[20]

One of the most disturbing consequences of abortion is the mental health impact. While Justice Blackmun focused on the opinion that pregnancy and motherhood could lead to psychological distress or harm, we now have evidence that abortion increases a woman’s risk of mental health problems. As Dr. Mary Calderone, the former medical director of Planned Parenthood, once admitted: “…in almost every case, abortion, whether legal or illegal, is a traumatic experience that may have severe consequences later on.”[21]

In 2011, a groundbreaking study on the effects of abortion on mental health was published in the British Journal of psychiatry, which is a publication of Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. The results of this study showed a moderate to high increased risk of mental health problems after abortion, specifically a 34% higher risk of anxiety, 30% higher risk of depression, 110% higher rate of alcohol use, 220% higher marijuana use, and 155% higher risk of suicidal behavior.[22] In fact, in his book Abuse of Discretion, Clarke Forsythe points to the fact that there have been more than one hundred peer-reviewed studies published in international medical journals, suggesting an association between abortion and adverse mental health outcomes.[23]

Recently there have been disturbing cases of men attempting to force or trick their partners into abortions, such as New York pharmacist Orbin Tercero, who was convicted in 2011 of lacing his partners drink with an abortive drug or Thomas Hill, who sexually assaulted his partner in front of their children after she refused to get an abortion for a subsequent pregnancy.[24]

While not all studies agree with these outcomes, and some come down on both sides of the issue, there’s clearly a need for further research into this issue. At the very least, these studies suggest that the Supreme Court was too hasty in supposing that abortion was good for women.

 

[1]

[2] Doe, 410 US at 192

[3] Roe, 410 US at 149

[4] Doe, 410 US at 190

[5] Abuse of discretion, pages 155-180

[6] Letter of Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H, , director, Centers for Disease Control, July 20, 2004, reprinted in brief amicus cure I have the American Center for Law and Justice in Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 US 124 (2007), Gonzales v Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 2005 US briefs, 1382.

[7] Abuse of discretion, page 175.

[8] See http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures-4359.asp

[9] The cost of choice (Erika bachioci); Reardon, strahan, thorpe and shuping, deaths associated with abortion compared to childbirth, 20 J.contemporary health law and policy, 279, spring 2004; Clarke Forsythe and Stephen B Presser, tragic failure of Roe V Wade: why abortion should be returned to the states, 10 Texas review of law and policy, 87, 2005; abuse of discretion, pages 155 through 180;  Thorpe, hartmann and shadigian, “long-term physical and psychological health consequences of induced abortion.

[11] Jim Thorpe et al, long-term physical and psychological health consequences of induced abortions: review of the evidence, obstrectial and gynecological survey 58(1):67, 68 (2003).

[12] W.M. Callaghan, contribution of preterm birth to infant mortality rates in the US, pediatrics 118(4): 1566 (oct 2006); B.Rooney & B.C Calhoun, induced abortion and risk of  later premature births. Physicisans & Surgeons 8(2): 46, 46-47 (2003).

[13] P. shah et al. induced termination of pregnancy and low birth weight and preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis, B.J.O.G. 116(11):1425 (2009); R.H. van Oppenraaij et al, predicting adverse obstetric outcome after early pregnancy events and complications: a review, Human Reproduction. Update Advance Access 1:1 (Mar. 7, 2009); H.M. Swingle et al., Abortion and the Risk of Subsequent preterm Birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis, J. Repro. Med. 54:95 (2009).

[14] R.E. Behrman, Preterm Birth: Casues, Consequences and Prevention 519 (2006)

[15] J.M Thorpe et al., supra at 75.

[16] see  Forsythe abuse of discretion, page 255

[17] J.M. Thorpe et al., supra at 70-71

[18] Reeves, Kan, Key, et al., Breast Cancer Risk in Relation to Abortion, at 1741. See also Forscythe, Abuse of Discretion, supra pg 263-4

[19] JM Thorpe et al., supra, at 76

[20] See generally, Lanfranchi, The Abortion-Breast Cancer Link; M.C. Pike et al. Oral Contraceotive Use and Early Abortion as Risj Factors for Breast Cancer in Young Women, British Journal of Cancer 43 (1981); L.A. Brinton et al., Reproductive Factors in the Etiology of Breast Cancer, British Journal of Cancer 47 (1983)

[21] Calderone, illegal abortion as a public health problem, at 951.

[22] P. Coleman, Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009, BJP 199:180-186 (2011)

[23] Page 257 ,citing  Letter to office of the United Nations High Commissioner on human rights, November 27, 2009 attachment  two, available at http://www.aaplog.org/internationalissues/aaplog-objection-to-incusion-of-universal-acess-to-reproductive-healthcare-as-a-part-of-mdg-5-letter-to-un-high-commissioner-on-human-rights/.see, e.g., Berlin at all, reasons for induced abortion, 36; Cougle, Rearden and Coleman, generalized anxiety following unintended pregnancies; Gissler et al., injury, death, suicides and homicide; Bradshaw and Slade, the effects of induced abortion or emotional experiences and relationships.

[24] Forsythe, Clarke D. (2013-09-24). Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade (p. 442). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.