May 14, 2005


Revealed: how an abortion puts the next baby at risk (Michael Day, 15/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Having an abortion almost doubles a woman's risk of giving birth dangerously early in a later pregnancy, according to research that will provoke fresh debate over the most controversial of all medical procedures.

A French study of 2,837 births - the first to investigate the link between terminations and extremely premature births - found that mothers who had previously had an abortion were 1.7 times more likely to give birth to a baby at less than 28 weeks' gestation. Many babies born this early die soon after birth, and a large number who survive suffer serious disability.

The research leader, Dr Caroline Moreau, an epidemiologist at the Hôpital de Bicêtre in Paris, said the results of the study, which appear in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, provided conclusive evidence of a link between induced abortion and subsequent pre-term births. [...]

Her study compared the medical histories of 2,219 women with babies born at less than 34 weeks with another 618 who had given birth at full term. Overall, women who had had an abortion were 40 per cent more likely to have a very pre-term delivery (less than 33 weeks) than those without such a history. The risk of an extremely premature baby - one born at less than 28 weeks - was raised even more sharply, by 70 per cent. Abortion appeared to increase the risk of most major causes of premature birth, including premature rupture of membranes, incorrect position of the foetus on the placenta and spontaneous early labour. The only common cause of premature birth not linked to abortion was high blood pressure.

Mr Peter Bowen-Simpkins, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and a consultant obstetrician at the Sancta Maria Hospital in Swansea, said the study revealed that abortion might not be as safe as previously supposed. "This study shows that surgical termination of pregnancies may have late complications and may not be without risk," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 14, 2005 8:47 PM

Correlation does not imply causation. It's certainly plausible that there are factors that correlate to both abortion and premature birth (substance abuse? socio-economic status?); I can't tell from the article if they tried to factor these out, but it isn't mentioned.

Posted by: Mike Earl at May 15, 2005 12:03 AM

Mike - There's considerable evidence linking abortion to sterility, so a link to premature delivery is no surprise.

It's interesting how biomedical research keeps confirming the Biblical teaching that those who obey God's commandments flourish better than those who don't.

Posted by: pj at May 15, 2005 8:59 AM

Mike, given that the study appeared in an academic journal -- presuambly a refereed one -- it would be a shocking lapse if they didn't control for the factors you note.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 15, 2005 11:28 AM

"It's interesting how biomedical research keeps confirming the Biblical teaching that those who obey God's commandments flourish better than those who don't."

Certainly makes sense, in that the commandments tend to reflect the tried and tested rules of the community.

Posted by: creeper at May 15, 2005 2:23 PM

Mike Earl, read the excerpt AGAIN: they obviously factored in other things and also found a positive correlation with High blood pressure. The politically Correct thing to have done was to throw in drug use and push THAT, rather than Abortion, as the REAL cause. The numbers didn't add up, so they couldn't.

Posted by: Ptah at May 15, 2005 5:11 PM


I read it again, and no, it's not obvious to me if they tried to factor out multiple correlations or reduce it to, um, eigenvectors or principle components, or any of that.

High-blood pressure was the only thing that *didn't* correlate.

None of which says this isn't true; it probably is, I just don't think that's ironclad proof without knowing more details.

Posted by: Mike Earl at May 15, 2005 10:35 PM

In my severely depressed youth (that's an explanation, but not an excuse), I had two abortions. Now, in early middle age, my husband and I have been trying for two years to have a baby, so far without success (two early miscarriages and two failed IVF attempts).

A sample size of one doesn't prove anything, I know. By itself, my story is only anecdotal evidence. Take it for whatever it's worth.

Posted by: Sadder and Wiser at May 16, 2005 10:16 PM