One abortion or miscarriage raises the risk of giving birth to a premature baby by 20 percent, while two abortions or miscarriages raises the same risk by 90 percent, according to Dr. Robbert van Oppenraaij of the Erasmus MC University Medical Center in The Netherlands. Dr. van Oppenraaij presented his findings, which are based on 75 studies about complications during pregnancy between 1980 and 2008, at European Society of Human Production conference in Amsterdam this week. [Mirror UK]I would like to just see this study as valuable information which can help doctors provide better prenatal care to pregnant women. But I’m nervous about how politicized this issue gets, particularly because staunch anti-choice groups have a history of twisting information like this and using it to scare women away from terminating pregnancies. (For example, the National Cancer Institute has stated there is no link between abortion and breast cancer, despite what some anti-choicers say.)
My concern isn’t misplaced. The Daily Mail‘s article about the study focuses only on the abortion angle. No surprise here, because the Daily Mail is often referred to by bloggers as the Daily Fail for being tabloid-y, sensationalist and one-sided. True to form, the first half of the page is an article about the study’s findings, while the other half of the page is an article about “scores of girls as young as 12″ having abortions each year.
Indeed, it would be all too easy to say the data states that there is a link between abortion and delivering prematurely. But if women who miscarry are also more likely to give birth prematurely, wouldn’t that indicate these women have complicated pregnancies in general? True, women who terminate their pregnancies give birth prematurely, but we don’t know the reasons these women had the abortions to begin with. The pregnancy could have also been complicated and the fetus could have also had serious deformations, yet the woman’s body did not miscarry it. Regardless, all of those hypotheticals are not the same thing as abortion causing premature births.
This information is good to know if you’re hoping to be pregnant sometime soon, especially if you’ve had an abortion or two in the past or have a history of miscarriages. But please, please, please interpret the information carefully.