New Study Says Abortions Safer Than Birth
January 25, 2012

New Study Says Abortions Safer Than Birth

According to a report published Monday, giving birth can be far more hazardous to a woman´s health than obtaining a legal abortion, noting that pregnant women were up to 14 times more likely to die due to complications associated with childbirth compared to abortions.

The purpose of the study, the researchers said, was not to encourage women to get abortions but rather to emphasize that abortion is a safer procedure than many have been led to believe.

“We wouldn´t tell people, ℠Don´t have a baby because it´s safer to have an abortion´ — that´s ridiculous!” Dr. Anne Davis told Reuters Health.

Davis, who studies obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia´s University Medical Center in New York, wasn´t directly involved in the study but stands behind its message. She says medical experts want women to be correctly informed and to know that both options are safe.

“We´re trying to help women who are having all reproductive experiences know what to expect.”

The study, a collaboration between between Gynuity Health Projects in New York and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, collected data from government agencies on live births as well as pregnancy and abortion-related deaths. They found that between the years 1998 and 2005, one woman in 11,000 died during child birth while roughly one woman in 167,000 died from complications arising from a legal abortion.

In their study, published this week in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, Dr. Elizabeth Raymond and Dr. David Grimes noted that the basic fact that women are generally pregnant for longer when they decide to have a baby, meaning that the body simply has more time to develop pregnancy-related complications like high blood pressure, severe urinary tract infections and mental health problems.

The results of the study, said the researchers, were hardly surprising given that numerous studies have previously approached the issue from different angles and all pointed to the same conclusion: Abortion is not a particularly dangerous medical procedure.

The report flies in the face of numerous state laws which classify abortions as high-risk procedures.

Like any medical procedure, legal abortions require the consent of the patient, and that means that women need to understand all options as well as the risks associated with them, Dr. Bryna Harwood told Reuters.

Harwood is a researcher in obstetrics at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and though she didn´t directly participate in the study either, she explained that physicians often find themselves in a complicated situation when state law requires them to give patients medical information that may be tinged with politics and not entirely accurate.

Many states mandate that doctors describe the risks of abortion to patients in an intentionally exaggerated manner so as to discourage them from undergoing the procedure. Others require women seeking abortions to wait 24-hours as a sort of ℠icing´ period in the hopes that they will change their minds.

Dr. Harwood explained that these kinds of laws frequently hamstring a physicians ability to inform their patients in a fair and balanced manner.

“It is certainly an impediment to have the state dictate my informed consent process beyond the usual,” she said. “Abortion care and pregnancy care should not really be any different than consenting people for any other procedure.”

She noted that since getting the approval from the U.S. FDA in 2000, the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone has been increasingly replacing surgical abortions and has led to an increase in the overall number of abortions that take place each year .

Researchers now consider both drug-induced and traditional surgical abortions to be more or less equally safe.


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