Abortion Is Four Times Deadlier Than Childbirth
New Studies Unmask High Maternal Death Rates From Abortion

The Post-Abortion Review
Vol. 8, No. 2, Jul-Sept 2000
David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
The Elliot Institute
Reproduced with Permission

Abortion advocates, relying on inaccurate maternal death data in the United States, routinely claim that a woman's risk of dying from childbirth is six, ten, or even twelve times higher than the risk of death from abortion.

In contrast, abortion critics have long contended that the statistics relied upon for maternal mortality calculations have been distorted and that the broader claim that "abortion is many times safer than childbirth" completely ignores high rates of other physical and psychological complications associated with abortion. Now a recent, unimpeachable study of pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland has shown that the risk of dying within a year after an abortion is several times higher than the risk of dying after miscarriage or childbirth.(1)

This well-designed record-based study is from STAKES, the statistical analysis unit of Finland's National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health. In an effort to evaluate the accuracy of maternal death reports, STAKES researchers pulled the death certificate records for all the women of reproductive age (15-49) who died between 1987 and 1994 -- a total of 9,192 women. They then culled through the national health care data base to identify any pregnancy-related events for each of these women in the 12 months prior to their deaths.

Since Finland has socialized medical care, these records are very accurate and complete. In this fashion, the STAKES researchers identified 281 women who had died within a year of their last pregnancy. The unadjusted mortality rate per 100,000cases was 27 for women who had given birth, 48 for women who had miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, and 101 for women who had abortions.

The researchers then calculated the age-adjusted odds ratio of death, using the death rate of women who had not been pregnant as the standard equal to one. Table 1 shows that the age-adjusted odds ratio of women dying in the year they give birth as being half that of women who are not pregnant, whereas women who have abortions are 76 percent more likely to die in the year following abortion compared to non-pregnant women. Compared to women who carry to term, women who abort are 3.5 times more likely to die within a year.

Such figures are always subject to statistical variation from year to year, country to country, study to study. For this reason, the researchers also reported what is known as "95 percent confidence intervals." This means that the available data indicates that 95 percent of all similar studies would report a finding within a specified range around the actual reported figure.

For example, the .50 odds ratio for childbirth has a confidence interval of .32 to .78. In other words, it is probable that 95 percent of the time, the odds ratio of death following childbirth will be found to be between 32 percent and 78 percent of the non-pregnant woman rate. The 95 percent confidence interval for the odds ratio of death following abortion was reported to be 1.27 to 2.42 of the annual rate for non-pregnant women.

Deaths from Suicide

Using a subset of the same data, STAKES researchers had previously reported that the risk of death from suicide within the year of an abortion was more than seven times higher than the risk of suicide within a year of childbirth.(2) Two of these suicides were also connected with infanticide. Examples of post-abortion suicide/infanticide attempts have also been documented in the United States.(3)

The same finding was reported in STAKES' more recent study. Among the 281 women who died within a year of their last pregnancy, 77 (27 percent) had committed suicide. Figure 2 shows the age-adjusted odds ratio for suicide for the three pregnancy groups compared to the "no pregnancy" control group.

Notably, the risk of suicide following a birth was about half that of the general population of women. This finding is consistent with previous studies that have shown that an undisturbed pregnancy actually reduces the risk of suicide.(4)

Abortion, on the other hand, is clearly linked to a dramatic increase in suicide risk. This statistical finding is corroborated by interview-based studies which have consistently shown extraordinarily high levels of suicidal ideation (30-55 percent) and reports of suicide attempts (7-30 percent) among women who have had an abortion.(5) In many of these studies, the women interviewed have explicitly described the abortion as the cause of their suicidal impulses.

The original publication of the STAKES suicide data prompted researchers at the South Glamorgan (population 408,000) Health Authority in Great Britain to examine their own data on admissions for suicide attempts both before and after pregnancy events. They found that among those who aborted, there was a shift from a roughly "normal" suicide attempt rate before the abortion to a significantly higher suicide attempt rate after the abortion. After their pregnancies, there were 8.1 suicide attempts per thousand women among those who had abortions, compared to only 1.9 suicide attempts among those who gave birth. The higher rate of suicide attempts subsequent to abortion was particularly evident among women under 30 years of age.

As in the STAKES sample, birth was associated with a significantly lower risk of suicide attempts. The South Glamorgan researchers concluded that their data did not support the view that suicide after an abortion was predicated on prior poor mental health, at least as measured by prior suicide attempts. Instead, "the increased risk of suicide after an induced abortion may therefore be a consequence of the procedure itself."(6)

Interpretation of these statistical studies is aided by numerous publications describing individual cases of completed suicide following abortion.(7) In many cases, the attempted or completed suicides have been intentionally or subconsciously timed to coincide with the anniversary date of the abortion or the expected due date of the aborted child.(8) Suicide attempts among male partners following abortion have also been reported.(9)

Teens are generally at higher risk for both suicide and abortion. In a survey of teenaged girls, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the rate of attempted suicide in the six months prior to the study increased ten fold--from 0.4 percent for girls who had not aborted during that time period to 4 percent for teens who had aborted in the previous six months.(10) Other studies also suggest that the risk of suicide after an abortion may be higher for women with a prior history of psychological disturbances or suicidal tendencies.(11)

For full text and more information view: http://www.afterabortion.org/PAR/V8/n2/finland.html