Women denied an abortion suffer worse health 5 years later than those who are granted one – even in the second trimester, study finds
- Previous studies have looked short-term at women who had abortions versus those who had wanted pregnancies
- This paper by UCSF looked long-term at those who carried out unwanted pregnancies, versus women who had abortions
Abortions are not more dangerous to women than childbirth, a new study concludes.
In fact, researchers found women denied abortions had worse health five years later than women who were granted abortions in their first or second trimester.
The team at the University of California, San Francisco, found that five years after seeking an abortion, women whose request was denied had higher rates of chronic pain and overall poor health than those who were granted abortions.
What’s more, two of the 160 women who were denied abortions (1.2 percent) died immediately after giving birth – a rate higher than the national average of pregnancy-related deaths.
It is one of the first studies to look long-term not only at the health of women who had abortions versus wanted pregnancies, but with those who carried out unwanted pregnancies after being refused abortions, too.
The study was a bid to deliver more concrete data on the health outcomes surrounding abortions as more US states move to ban them, with some groups suggesting it’s for women’s good.
The study by California, researchers is one of the first to look long-term not only at women who had abortions versus wanted pregnancies, but also at those who carried out unwanted pregnancies (file image)
Lead author Dr Lauren Ralph told DailyMail.com: ‘Maternal mortality is high in the United States but still, maternal death is an uncommon event – about one-tenth of one percent.
‘But in this study, 1.2 percent died. It’s so rare of an event, we can’t assess this statistically, but we can say this highlights one of the more serious concerns.’
The study was based on 3,000 women in a five-year study of women who sought abortions at 30 centers across the US between 2008 and 2010.
Of those, 558 remained in the study for five years.
They found 874 women sought abortions. That included 328 who had abortions in the first trimester, 383 who had second-trimester abortions, and 163 who gave birth after being denied an abortion.
Each woman (a third white, a third black, a fifth Hispanic) was interviewed about her health – how she felt, her weight, any ailments.
Twenty percent of the women who received abortions said their health was fair or poor after five years, compared to 27 percent of the women who were denied abortions.
The study was limited by the fact that the data was self-reported, and that just 59 percent of the women stayed through to the end of the study.
Dr Ralph insists the fact that drop-out was even among women who were denied and granted abortions suggests it did not skew the data.
In an accompanying editorial, Lisa H. Harris, MD, PhD and Vanessa Dalton, MD, MPH, both of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said the findings suggest the sheer fact that a woman has sought an abortion should suggest her risks of childbirth complications may be elevated.
‘These small but startling numbers of deaths are too few to compare the abortion and birth groups,’ Harris and Dalton wrote.
‘However, they raise the question of whether seeking an abortion is itself a marker of unmeasured risk factors for premature death.
‘These risk factors might plausibly include intersecting effects of lack of access to health care (including contraception), racism, stress, economic instability, partner violence, unsafe neighborhoods, substance use disorders, or sex trafficking, all of which are tied independently to unwanted pregnancy and death.’