NRL News

Link Between Abortion and Subsequent Preterm Birth Shown Again

by | Aug 24, 2015

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

Preemie245Editor’s note. My family will be on vacation through the end of this week. I will be posting an occasional new story, but for the most part we will be re-posting columns that ran over the last year. Many will be strictly educational while some will about remind us of notable victories this legislative cycle.

The irony was hard to miss. First long-time abortion apologist Dr. David Grimes ridicules the link between abortion and subsequent premature births (“Abortion and Prematurity: A False Alarm” 6/10/15) in the Huffington Post. The very next day there is a press release from a researcher presenting at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lisbon confirming that there is indeed an association between a standard dilatation and curettage (D&C) abortion and an increased risk of prematurity in a subsequent pregnancy (ESHRE release, 6/16/15).

The researcher, Dr. Pim Ankum of the Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam, analyzed 21 cohort studies covering almost 2 million women. Ankum found that D&Cs performed for abortion or miscarriage increase the risk of a subsequent premature birth (under 37 weeks) by 29%, and the risk of very premature birth (under 32 weeks) by 69%.

Ankum notes that these statistically significant increases were seen even when measured against control groups of similar women who did not have a D&C prior to pregnancy. (One of Grime’s complaints was that other potential risk factors were not fully considered.). And, Ankum warns, risks were higher for women with histories of multiple D&Cs.

As Ankum points out, it is not hard to figure out why there might well be a problem. He suggests that dilating the cervix may result in permanent damage affecting tightness, leading to premature opening in a subsequent pregnancy. Also potentially affected, says Ankum, is the cervix’s anti-microbial defense mechanism, raising the possibility of an ascending genital tract infection, a known contributor to premature birth.

What says Grimes in his Huffington Post article? He tries to make it sound as if there are only a handful of ambiguous studies showing, at best, a weak association. However Ankum’s analysis is consistent with more than a hundred studies that have found an association between abortion and subsequent premature birth. [1]

Grimes also attempts to divert attention to other factors such as socioeconomic status, smoking, drug or alcohol use or other factors that have been linked to prematurity. But such factors were controlled for in many of these studies.

Though they vary in size, detail, and strength, these studies consistently show not only the association between abortion and subsequent prematurity, but also a “dose-response” relationship showing the risk increasing with the number of prior abortions.

Moreover Grimes ignores the plethora of studies and points people to one Finnish study (Klemetti, et al., “Birth Outcomes…,” Human Reproduction, 8/29/12) that he says is a “favorite citation of abortion opponents.” In fact it is but one of a basketful of studies pro-lifers cite, and nowhere near as weak as Grimes implies.

Grimes says that while the Finnish study finds a 40% risk of subsequent prematurity among women having three or more abortions, it finds (unlike other studies the Finnish study itself cites) “No significant relationship” between one or two abortions and later prematurity.

However Grimes fails to share with readers that while this was true of this particular study’s data for prematurity when the threshold was 37 weeks, there was still a clear association between abortion and much more serious “very preterm birth” (less than 28 weeks) for even a single abortion (+19% risk).

The risk of subsequent significant prematurity was in fact dose dependent. It increased to 69% for two previous abortions and to 178% for three or more.

This is no “false alarm.”

In a word aborting the first child thus not only means the loss of that child, but quite possibly threatens the life or health of any future children. Consider:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say that “Preterm-related causes of death together accounted for 35% of all infant deaths in 2010, more than any other single cause.” Moreover the CDC says that “Preterm birth is also a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children. Preterm birth costs the U.S. health care system more than $26 billion in 2005.”

Abortion’s role in this national tragedy cannot be ignored or dismissed.

In an October 2007 review published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, researchers Byron Calhoun, Elizabeth Shadigan, and Brent Rooney found that induced abortion increased the early preterm delivery rates of subsequent children by 31.5%, with a resulting annual increase of $1.2 billion in just initial neonatal hospital costs.

At this rate, Calhoun, Shadigan and Rooney estimated that abortion accounted for 22,917 excess early preterm births (less than 32 weeks in their analysis) a year and an additional 1,096 cases of cerebral palsy among very-low birthweight newborns (less than 1500 grams).

Grimes tries to hide behind the official statements (or lack of statements) from medical organizations he has lobbied or been a part of over the years. But this data is too extensive, too significant, and too serious to ignore.

Grimes compromised his medical integrity years ago when he decided to become a shill for the abortion industry. And now, not just aborted babies, but their younger siblings, are paying the price for it.

[1] To read a 47-page summary chart of over a hundred peer-reviewed studies involving mothers and newborns from 34 countries stretching back from the present to 1972, see here.

Categories: Abortion