A new Canadian study has shown that abortion increases the risk of future premature pregnancies and low birth-weight babies; however, the author has refused to say that abortion should be avoided, instead calling for improved abortion techniques.
Published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the Canadian researchers found that women who had undergone a first or second trimester of pregnancy, when most are conducted, increased the risk of low birth-weight babies and premature babies 35 and 36 per cent respectively.
Those women who had undergone more than one abortion had a 72 per cent increased risk for low birth weight and 93 per cent risk of prematurity.
The figures come from an analysis of 37 studies around the world, carried out between 1965 and 2001, to discover reasons why babies are born underweight and premature.
Far from recommending that women not have abortions, the lead author of the study, Dr. Prakesh Shah of the department of paediatrics at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto, said that the solution is to improve abortion techniques.
However, "when a woman comes for induced termination of pregnancy, she should be counselled about that risk. At least she will be able to make an informed choice," he said.
Shah told media that he was fearful that "anti-abortion groups" would seize upon the study as proof of the damage abortion does to women.
"I think it should not be used as a way of saying, this is bad and we should not be doing this kind of thing. There is an association which we should be aware of, and we should let mothers be aware. I don’t want unintended pregnancies to increase."
The Guardian newspaper reports that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concurs. The RCOG spoke of the "importance of support for women’s choices." "Abortion remains an essential part of women’s healthcare services," they said.
Professor Philip Steer, editor in chief of BJOG, was also anxious that the study not be used by the pro-life movement. "The most important message is not that this should be used in any way to prevent women having a termination of pregnancy.
"The effect has to be balanced against the serious effects of forcing women to continue with unwanted pregnancies," he said. "Any medical procedure is likely to have side-effects."
Anthony Ozimic of Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) commented, however, that the evidence speaks for itself. "The more evidence which emerges about the harm abortion causes, the more the supporters of abortion insist that abortion not be restricted. We will be exposing the contradictions in their responses to the study’s findings."