Michael Cook

Study finds abortion linked to shortened lifespan of mother

Michael Cook
By Michael Cook
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September 14, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - In a study published last week in the European Journal of Public Health, Priscilla Coleman and colleagues report that mothers who have experienced natural pregnancy loss or induced abortion are more likely to die over a 25-year period than those who have experienced only giving birth. Dr Coleman, a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University, responds here to MercatorNet’s questions about the study.

What was your aim in this study?

The study was undertaken to provide reliable data pertaining to the relative risk of death associated with distinct reproductive history patterns over many years. Acquiring and disseminating accurate data pertaining to maternal mortality have been longstanding global concerns. Inconsistent definitions regarding what constitutes a maternal death and incomplete data confined to very brief time periods have left society largely in the dark regarding true mortality risks associated with pregnancy generally and with particular outcomes, both immediately after pregnancy resolution and across the years that follow.

Regarding the data problem, the World Health Organization has noted: “Maternal deaths are hard to identify because this requires information about deaths among women of reproductive age, pregnancy status at or near the time of death, and the medical cause of death. All three components can be difficult to measure accurately.”

Most existing statistics rely upon death certificates to estimate maternal mortality and as noted by Gissler and colleagues in 2004, without data linkage to complete pregnancy and abortion records, 73% of all pregnancy associated deaths could not be identified from death certificates alone. Large population-based record-linkage studies, containing complete reproductive history data and data related to deaths, provide a unique opportunity to bypass many of the limitations of the currently available maternal mortality data in most countries. Our study was this type of study.

In a nutshell, what did it show about pregnancy loss compared with giving birth?

Pregnancy loss, whether due to induced abortion or natural loss (miscarriage or stillbirth), was associated with a higher probability of dying over the 25 year study period when compared to giving birth. However, the results related to natural loss should be interpreted cautiously, because only the most serious cases requiring hospitalization are captured in the data.

Are the results robust compared with other studies on this subject?

The results are comparable to other record-based studies. In a record-based study by Reardon and colleagues, U.S. women who aborted, when compared to women who delivered, were 62% more likely to die over an 8 year period from any cause after adjustments were made for age. Further, consistent findings were reported in large Finnish population-based studies by Gissler and colleagues published in 1997 and in 2004.

In the first study, post-pregnancy death rates within 1 year were reported to be nearly 4 times greater among women who had an induced abortion (100.5 per 100,000) compared to women who carried to term (26.7 per 100,000). Spontaneous abortion had a pregnancy associated mortality rate of 47.8 per 100,000. In the later study, Gissler and colleagues again found that mortality was significantly lower after a birth (28.2 per 100,000) than after a spontaneous abortion (51.9 per 100,000) and following an induced abortion (83.1 per 100,000).

Our results then are consistent with prior work and extend what is known by examining combinations of different reproductive outcomes and by examining the associations between repeated experiences of the same outcome in association with mortality risk.

What, specifically, did your study show about the risk or benefit of a) induced abortion, b) miscarriages and stillbirths, c) births only?

With controls for the number of pregnancies, year of birth, and age at last pregnancy, when compared to only giving birth, having only induced abortion(s) was associated with a 66% increased risk of dying. A reproductive history entailing only natural losses (compared to birth) was associated with a 181% increased risk of dying across the study period.

Did it make any difference how often a woman experienced abortion, miscarriage etc, or the birth of child?—or what combination of these different outcomes she experienced?

Yes, both things made a difference. Women who had experienced both induced abortion and natural loss were, on average, more than three times (327%) more likely to die over the 25-year period. When induced abortion and birth were combined, the risk of dying was increased by 56%. Natural loss in conjunction with birth was associated with a 29% increased mortality risk. When all reproductive outcomes were present in women’s lives, when compared to only birth(s), a 94% increased risk of death was observed. Risk of death was over 6 times greater among women who had never been pregnant compared to those in the birth(s) only group.

Multiple abortions, compared to no experience of abortion, and after applying controls, increased the risk of mortality as follows: one abortion, 45%; two abortions, 114%; three abortions, 191%. Similarly, increased risks of death were equal to 44%, 86%, and 150% for one, two, and three natural losses respectively compared to no natural losses.

By contrast, giving birth to more than one child significantly decreased mortality risks. Specifically, two births were associated with an 83% lower risk of death compared to no births, three or more births corresponded to a 44% decreased risk over no births.

Early this year a US study reported that women were about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth to a live baby than to die from complications of an abortion—and it received a lot of attention. But your study suggests that birth is protective of the life of mothers compared to abortion. How do you explain the difference?

In arriving at their conclusion that abortion is many times safer than childbirth, Raymond and Grimes relied on data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to secure numbers of deaths related to childbirth and induced abortion. The authors acknowledged underreporting, but they made no attempt to address the factors associated with this shortcoming, nor did they discuss the magnitude of the problem: “Weaknesses include the likely under-reporting of deaths, possibly         differential by pregnancy outcome (abortion or childbirth.)”

Raymond and Grimes also failed to address abortion-related deaths beyond the first trimester, which constitute 12-13% of all abortions performed in the US. Using national U.S. data spanning the years from 1988 to 1997, Bartlett and colleagues reported the relative risk of mortality was 14.7 per 100,000 at 13–15 weeks of gestation, 29.5 at 16-20 weeks, and 76.6 at or after 21 weeks.

Although your study does not establish causality, do you have any theories about how pregnancy loss would shorten women’s lives—other than through immediate complications of the abortion or miscarriage?

As a psychologist without medical training, any hypotheses that I have are largely restricted to mediational processes involving mental health variables. There is significant evidence that an abortion experience increases a woman’s risk for experiencing mental health problems and when women are anxious, depressed, or abusing substances, they are more prone to experiencing accidents, negative partner relationships, and suicide, and their overall physical health may decline rendering them more susceptible to chronic and acute physical ailments.

One result in your study seems surprising—the greatly elevated risks of death among women who had not experienced any pregnancies. What do you make of that?

Without inclusion of additional demographic data, health history, and cause of death information, I think it would be premature to speculate too much. There is a great deal of medical research demonstrating physical and psychological benefits of full-term pregnancy, so women who have not experienced a pregnancy will not benefit from them. Moreover, many women in our Danish study may have died before they had opportunity to experience a pregnancy.

What further research would you like to do—or see done—on this subject?

My primary research interests relate to mental health correlates of reproductive outcomes; therefore in the future, I would like to more closely examine specific psychological pathways leading from distinct reproductive outcomes to particular causes of death using record-based data.

More specifically, I would really like to see if women who have experienced induced abortion are more likely to die from causes that may be logically associated with adverse mental health outcomes such as suicide, deaths due to engagement in risk-taking behaviors, and/ or substance abuse. 

In this regard, there are a few existing record-based studies that have addressed associations between particular reproductive outcomes and chance of death due to suicide. For example, in a population-based study, Appleby (1991) reported in the British Medical Journal that pregnant women are 1/20th as likely to commit suicide when compared to non-pregnant women of childbearing age. Appleby concluded that “Motherhood seems to protect against suicide.”

Further, Gissler and colleagues (2005) reported the annual suicide rate for women of reproductive age to be 11.3 per 100,000; whereas the rate was only 5.9 per 100,000 in association with birth (and was a startling 34.7 per 100,000 following abortion). Several other studies conducted in various countries have revealed low rates of suicide in the year following birth when compared to non-postpartum samples.

When your study showing a link between abortion and mental health problems was published a year ago in the British Journal of Psychiatry you were severely criticized by peers. Have you been attacked for these latest findings that show abortion in an unfavourable light?

Not that I am aware of. But I honestly don’t pay too much attention to what is said about me, beyond defending the rigor of the studies and the quality of the journals so that the results will be taken seriously and used to inform women and health care professionals. The satisfaction that comes from helping women to be heard far outweighs any slanderous comments about me that are floating around.

Priscilla K. Coleman is a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Dr Coleman has nearly 50 peer-reviewed journal articles published, including 33 on abortion and mental health. In recognition of her strong publication record, she has been called to serve as an expert in several state and civil court cases, has spoken at the UN, and in 2007 she testified before U.S. Congress. Dr. Coleman is currently on the editorial boards for five international psychology and medical journals.

Study citation: Coleman, P. K., & Reardon, D. C. (September, 2012) “Reproductive History Patterns and Long-Term Mortality Rates: A Danish, Population Based Record Linkage Study”. European Journal of Public Health.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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