Abortion increases risk of preterm birth

Kim Ketola of Cradle My Heart Radio discusses life issues on Faith Radio Mornings

KIm Ketola

KIm Ketola

Here are the Q&A talking points from today’s conversation with Dr. Bill Maier Live on Faith Radio. We discussed:

  • new medical research on abortion showing an increased risk of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies
  • the economic cost of preterm births
  • abortion and science reporting
  • legal protections afforded to unborn children, and
  • equipping to engage the abortion debate.

BM: So we know from previous research that abortion can have significant health impacts on women—but this latest study focuses on what happens when women choose to give birth to a child after a having an abortion in the past. What did the researchers find?

KK: The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a meta-analysis from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia finding that “surgical methods used in a common form of abortion or to clear the womb after a spontaneous miscarriage appears to significantly increase the risk of a later preterm birth based on analysis of 36 studies that enrolled more than 1 million women.” The goal was to look at women who subsequently delivered a child before the 37th week of pregnancy. The issue is important because preterm birth is the number one cause of perinatal mortality in many countries, including the U.S.

BM: Kim, we don’t want to get into the graphic medical details of abortion, but can you give us a general explanation of why abortion is believed to be linked to later pre-mature births?

Dr. Bill Maier

Dr. Bill Maier

KK: Surgical evacuation of the uterus mechanically stretches the cervix, and does so quickly, the study’s lead physician says. “In normal birth, dilation of the cervix occurs slowly over a period of many hours. Mechanically stretching the cervix, however, may result in permanent physical injury to the cervix.” Resulting scar tissue, for example, could increase the probability of faulty placental implantation in the womb, and could increase risk for infectious diseases, he adds.

BM: Given the number of abortions in this country and the increased risk for premature babies, what kind of numbers are we talking about?

KK: Every year one-fourth of pregnant women will choose elective abortion and one-fourth will spontaneously miscarry and that equates to roughly a half-million women annually.

Randall O’Bannon, National Right to Life Director of Education and Research illustrates it this way: If 80% of the 58.5 million women who have aborted in the United States since 1973 had surgical abortions and 50% of those subsequently went on to give birth to just one child, that would mean that this additional risk would be responsible for 234,000 preterm births, enough to populate a sizeable American city.

I think it’s important to note that the researcher was not advocating for ending elective abortion, but simply stating that women deserve to know these risks before they make that choice.

BM: As sad as this is for the babies and and as difficult as it is for the mothers—there are obviously some huge ECONOMIC consequences to this increase in premature births. Medical intervention to help these babies is HUGELY expensive, and in many cases the cost is going to get passed along to those of us who pay taxes. Am I right?

KK: In 2012, researchers estimated that the hospital costs alone associated with prematurity connected to previous abortions were more than $1.2 billion a year. This did not include other costs involved with the cerebral palsy, deafness, vision, breathing difficulties, conditions often associated with premature births. And the emotional costs are also huge because the reality of the risk of preterm birth is that in addition to low birth weight, some of these premature babies will die, especially if born exceptionally early, others will have permanent disabilities.

BM: Kim, one of the arguments we often hear from pro-choice advocates which I’ve always found a bit suspect—and frankly a bit odd-is that abortion is safer than childbirth. But is that supported by the research?

KK: Other meta analyses published in 2012 and 2009 showed the same findings. In a briefing paper published April 28, 2012, by the International Organizations Research Group titled “Abortion and Preterm Birth: Why Medical Journals Aren’t Giving Us The Real Picture,” Dr. Bryan Calhoun presents both evidence of the link between abortion and subsequent preterm birth and the medical establishment’s unwillingness to acknowledge clear data and the danger. Dr Calhoun is a professor and vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at West Virginian University in Charleston. Dr. Calhoun has researched, published, and presented more than a hundred scientific papers, 68 appearing in peer reviewed medical journals, many dealing with the topic of preterm birth and its causes.

BM: I have a friend who is a psychologist who related that the American Psychological Association has admitted off the record that they are not interested in the science showing increased risk of mental health issues after abortion, because “abortion is political.” Is the same thing going on here with the physical risks?

KK: It’s not just psychologists–clergy also feel silenced by abortion politics. It just shows how effective the abortion lobby has been in controlling the discussion. Again, NRL News Today reports Dr. Calhoun found that preterm birth and abortion has been buried in medical literature.” He notes there are 127 peer reviewed studies demonstrating a statistically significant risk of preterm birth after abortion, a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO)  report continues to assert that “Very little is known about the causes and mechanisms of preterm birth, and without this knowledge, preterm birth will continue.”

That same WHO report finds that 15 million babies are born prematurely each year, that preterm birth rates are increasing in nearly every country with reliable data, and that prematurity is the leading cause of newborn deaths. Calhoun reports that preterm births lead to some three million deaths a year worldwide.

BM: So given these serious medical implications—it seems we should redouble our efforts to reach out to abortion-minded women in LOVE—and warn them about the risks that the pro-abortion lobby would prefer to sweep under the rug.

KK: Many of us don’t speak up because we don’t feel confident. But there are ways to learn how to make the case for life in a winning way and connect people to the resources needed to protect both mother and child. Science is on the side of life, just as God’s design shows there is no dichotomy between mother and unborn child–they are unified–there is no conflict between defending unborn life and the science to show the value of doing so. If you want to learn to defend life and be a better prolife apologist, I really hope you’ll look into Oklahoma Wesleyan University’s Applied Bioethics course. The deadline has been extended and the course is still open for registration this summer, with two weeks spent on campus just outside of Tulsa. It’s very affordable and grants college credit for studying with Scott Klusendorf, Marc Newman and John Ensor to gain a solid grounding on the case for life, and engaging the debate, including the questions of theology.

BM: Finally, Kim, there is some GOOD NEWS on the abortion front—involving state laws to protect pre-born babies in 38 states. Can you give us an update on those laws?

KKBound 4 Life posted a great piece this month as a comprehensive answer to the question of the rights of the unborn. They noted that Missouri is just one of many states which have recently passed a personhood measure. Missouri’s proposed amendment states, “All persons, including unborn human children at every stage of biological development, have a natural right to life. When government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.”  Personhood bills in Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, and South Carolina seek to finally recognize that all human beings, including unborn children, are persons with rights and dignity under the law. They also report that as of 2014, 38 states provide certain levels of legal protection for lives in the womb; and 23 of these states protect the fetus from conception until birth. All U.S. states, by either statute, court rule or case law, permit a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the unborn.

[NOTE: This is not a transcript of the actual broadcast interview, but accurately reflects the essence of the content and news sources of the conversation. Kim Ketola covers life issues in the news with Dr. Bill Maier Live on Thursdays at 6:30 am CT.]

Join us for Cradle My Heart Radio with Kim Ketola Live on Sundays 9-10 pm ET, and Wednesdays at 8:30 pm ET on NewLife FM


Cradle My Heart, Finding God’s Love After Abortion provides affirmation and hope after abortion from the Scriptures. Here are more resources for help and healing. If you are pregnant and need free, confidential help call 1-800-712-HELP. If you’ve had an abortion and need immediate help call 1-866-482-LIFE. Join us on Cradle My Heart Radio! Call 1-800-811-3003 LIVE from 9:30-10 pm ET Sundays on Faith Radio or voicemail 24/7. Ask a question at kim @ kimketola. For a list of radio stations or for live streaming, go here. Podcast on iTunes and archived here.

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