Witnesses Ask US Senate for Research into Side Effects of Abortion on Women

A medical researcher from the University of Michigan Medical School told the US Senate last week that “abortion increases rates of breast cancer, placenta previa, pre-term births, and maternal suicide.” Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian, testifying before the Senate Sub-Committee on Science, Technology, and Space, said that “statistically, all types of deaths are higher with women who have had induced abortions.”  According to sub-committee chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), the hearing was the first of its kind to look into the physical and psychological effects of abortion on women. As expected, the hearing was not without controversy.

In his opening statement, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) belittled the idea that the Senate would spend its time looking at the effects of abortion on women. Lautenberg tried to convince his fellow Senators that looking at such effects are not within the scope of the subcommittee, and that there was no research to substantiate the claim that abortion is harmful to women. Lautenberg made it clear he was not interested in finding any.

Shadigian, one of three witnesses calling for such further study, told the committee that because “25% of all recognized pregnancies are terminated. The high prevalence of a history of induced abortion means that even small, negative effects on long-term health could influence the lives of many women.” Shadigian said, “obstetrics and gynecology is relying on old data.  I’m surprised that people aren’t talking about this more.”

Shadigian referred to her study in which she reviewed the global research on the harmful effects of abortion. She said that two European studies showed “a strong association between induced abortion and ectopic pregnancy.” Five combined studies “found that women with prior induced abortion had a relative risk of placenta previa,” which results “in high rates of preterm birth, low birth weight, and perinatal death.”

Shadigian said one study “concluded that induced abortion is an independent risk factor for breast carcinoma,” and emphasized this “clearly demonstrated the need for additional studies, [since] the high incidence of both breast cancer and induced abortion would ensure a substantial impact on women’s health if their conclusions are correct.”

For psychological risks, Shadigian said “of particular note is the association between induced abortion and either suicide or suicide attempt. This is an objective rather than a subjective outcome, and the fact that the effects are seen after induced abortion rather than before indicates either common risk factors for both choosing abortion and attempting suicide, such as depression, or harmful effects of induced abortion on mental health.”

Shadigian argued that as the “current literature is insufficient to be informative for counseling,” and that more studies were still needed, “so that women can get better answers for their health care choices.”  Shadigian said,” women deserve to be fully and accurately informed about potential health effects of elective abortion, preferably in a health education context separate and distinct from the timeframe of actually being faced with making difficult decisions about whether to continue or end a pregnancy.” Shadigian pointed out that “not only do women need to know, doctors need to know.”

Two pro-abortion witnesses testified that no research is needed into the health risks associated with abortion. In fact, Reverend Dr. Roselyn Smith-Withers of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said she had never met a woman who regretted her abortion but had met many women who “regretted having children.”

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