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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A protester rallies against Hobby Lobby, protesting against the Supreme Court decision Dan Holm/Shutterstock
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

DNC chairwoman exhorts constituents to boycott local Hobby Lobby store

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision was nearly two months ago, but the issue as hot as ever, as was demonstrated yesterday when Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, D-FL, urged constituents to boycott a Hobby Lobby store in her district.

In a press conference one lot away from the Hobby Lobby location in Davie, which opened in April, Wasserman-Schultz said that she wanted "people to know that this Hobby Lobby is here and they should vote with their purses and their pocketbooks, and women should not shop here."

"If you didn’t know this Hobby Lobby was here before, know it now and don’t shop here. They don’t deserve women’s business because they are the ones that all across the country have made it harder for women to get access to birth control,” she said.

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Wasserman-Schultz said that Hobby Lobby's corporate ownership "doesn’t support its employees" and "wants to be able to get in the personal business of their employees and make health care decisions and replace their own values, replace their employees’ health care decisions, with their values…."

She also criticized the Supreme Court's late June decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, which had sued the federal government over the Obama administration's HHS Mandate.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, say it violates their conscience to pay for coverage for the four abortifacients and potential abortifacients that the mandate required them to cover.

"The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case was not only disappointing, it was dangerous," said the Democrat. "No boss should have the right to dictate and employee’s health decisions because [they] don’t belong in the bedrooms, doctor’s offices or pharmacies of their employees.

"A woman and her doctor know what’s best for their body. Not an insurance company. Not a politician. And certainly not a manager at a Hobby Lobby."

The Supreme Court's decision allowed closely held corporations to not fund coverage of contraception or abortion drugs and devices.

Wasserman-Schultz's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Through a spokesperson, the Green family declined to comment about the Congresswoman's statements. 

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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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America is rejecting abortion because pro-lifers are having more children: study

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

According to a new Northwestern University study, American attitudes about abortion are trending more conservatively than other contentious social issues, a phenomenon the authors credit to the simple fact that pro-lifers have more kids.

“We find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes,” the authors wrote. Using GSS data collected between 1977 and 2010, “We test[ed] the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population.”

The authors wrote: “Support for abortion rights has turned flat after a period of increase following Roe v. Wade, and in recent years there are even indications of a reversal toward more restrictive attitudes. This U-turn is evinced particularly among younger cohorts, and is happening despite liberalizing trends in several ostensibly related issue domains.”

The authors speculated that the reason for the increase in pro-life attitudes among young people is that their parents had more children than their pro-abortion counterparts. When they examined the data, they found that pro-life individuals had, on average, 27 percent more children than those who considered themselves “pro-choice.”

Not only that, but pro-life parents appear to be much more likely to pass their views on to their children. The researchers found that the younger generation’s pro-life shift was too strong to be blamed solely on differences in fertility – meaning children of pro-abortion parents are rejecting their parents’ views.

“[E]ither pro-life beliefs are always more faithfully transmitted than pro-choice ones; or, there has been a cultural shift towards more pro-life beliefs that is being reflected in the parent-child correlations,” the authors wrote.

The study concluded that if it wasn’t for the higher fertility rate among pro-life people, the nation as a whole would favor abortion by about five percentage points more than it does currently – and researchers predict the pro-life trend will continue.

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“Taken together, these findings suggest that fertility has had at least some part in leading the population in a more pro-life direction over time,” the authors wrote. “Further investigation into this pattern indicates that not only are abortion attitudes associated with fertility, but in proportional terms—which is what matters for cultural change—the gap is widening.”

“Fertility has declined for both pro-choice and pro-life groups over the past 30 years, but fertility has declined far less markedly for pro-life individuals,” they added. “Whereas pro-[life] individuals born before 1940 were only having about 1.2 children per one child born to a pro-choice parent, this ratio has grown to over 1.5 for those born in the mid to late 1970s. This pattern suggests that future cohorts may place an even stronger demographic drag on the liberalization of abortion attitudes.”

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A declaration that PP is an 'enemy of the Church' would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication. American Life League
Lisa Bourne

New campaign asks Pope Francis to declare Planned Parenthood an ‘enemy of the Church’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

The Catholic pro-life organization American Life League (ALL) is launching a campaign calling for the Catholic Church to declare Planned Parenthood an “enemy of the Church.”

Using prayer and education, ALL’s Defend the Family campaign seeks to expose the nation’s largest abortion provider for contribution to the destruction of human lives, as well as the family. 

The campaign, said Jim Sedlack, vice-president of ALL, is quite simply “a way of calling attention to the fact that this is a very bad organization.”

“Planned Parenthood is attacking the family, either by killing preborn children or by robbing the souls of the older children,” he said. 

A declaration that PP is an “enemy of the Church” would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication.

Such a declaration would not be unprecedented. Popes in the past have identified and condemned organizations that posed a grave threat to the Church, most recently Pope Pius XII in 1949 with Communism and Pope Clement XII in 1738 with Freemasonry.

While specifics would depend on the wording of the Papal pronouncement, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews if the Holy Father makes the declaration there would be no mistaking its intent.

“When the pope makes the declaration it becomes crystal clear,” Sedlak said. “There’ll be no shades of gray, it’ll be black and white, it’ll be clear to the world.”

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'Now is the time'

There are still people who are not fully aware of the extent of the societal damage inflicted by Planned Parenthood, said Sedlak, including members of the Church hierarchy. He said it’s important to emphasize the truth of what the abortion giant does.

“That’s why we’re focusing on the enemy,” said Sedlak. “When people really stop and focus on Planned Parenthood, they realize it’s the enemy.”

ALL cites Planned Parenthood’s targeting of children to sexualize them as a major cause of the destruction of the family and a fundamental reason for the Defend the Family campaign.

“They really push for getting young people into lives of sexual sin,” Sedlak said. “Young people who aren’t pulled into sexual activity do not provide a cent of income to Planned Parenthood, but young people who are pulled in provide millions of dollars to the Planned Parenthood empire.”

ALL compiled a comprehensive report on Planned Parenthood titled, “The Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood,” as part of the Defend the Family campaign.

“The document builds the case,” said Sedlak. “Why Planned Parenthood, why now is the time.”

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that for its part Planned Parenthood has always recognized that its greatest enemy is the Catholic Church, even working to have the Church lose its status at the UN.

“They fight anybody who wants to take sex away from the kids in any way possible,” Sedlak said. “That’s one reason why Planned Parenthood is the sex mafia.”

And when Sedlak uses the term “mafia,” he means it literally, pointing out that the Holy Father condemned the mafia in his June 21, 2014, homily in Calabria, Italy, denouncing its, “Adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

“Planned Parenthood kills far more people than the mafia,” Sedlak said.

Also underscoring the need for the Vatican to act on declaring Planned Parenthood an enemy of the Church, is the convening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this October in Rome, which will lead into the general synod in 2015.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that these, along with the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, are events that ALL will rally around to raise awareness of the Defend the Family campaign.

Preliminary response to the campaign has been very positive, he said.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that the “Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood” report was so well received upon initial presentation to Vatican officials, that ALL was asked to translate it into three more languages.

“The support we’ve gotten from talking to bishops has been overwhelming,” Sedlak said.

Prayer is priority #1

The Defend the Family campaign consists first and foremost of prayer, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews.

“Our approach is that we need prayer support,” he said. “The only way that we’re going to succeed is through prayer to the Blessed Mother; the only way it will succeed is if God wants it to succeed.”

Participants are asked to say regular prayers after Mass, to offer prayers for the pope and to initiate communication with local bishops about the dangers that Planned Parenthood poses to the faithful.

Sedlak also added that The Defend the Family campaign is for everyone, not just Catholics.

He said pro-life supporters of all faith traditions are invited to contact ALL for assistance in encouraging their religious denomination or church leader to declare Planned Parenthood an enemy.

In addition to prayers for the campaign, ALL is asking people to sign and submit ALL’s Declaration of Encouragement to the Holy Father, enroll in the Spiritual Bouquet for the Holy Father and to share ALL resources on Planned Parenthood.

Information, links and resources are available on the campaign website, defendthefamily.org.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that ALL is giving the success of the Defend the Family campaign up to God.

“This is all happening in God’s time, and so far he’s been blessing us mightily,” Sedlak said. “And we’re going to go wherever God takes us.”

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