by Dr. Barry De Veber,
  Institute for Bioethics and Social Research in Toronto
  Originally published as an Op-Ed in the London Free Press

After reviewing the various letters to the editor supporting abortion on demand and Henry Morgentaler, I would like to make a few comments and corrections.

Pro-life supporters come from various moral and religious backgrounds, but they all want to see the unborn child or fetus given some recognition and status so it cannot be eliminated simply because it’s not wanted.

They see a small, defenceless human individual, which at seven weeks has a heart beat and brain activity, and by 14 weeks is fully developed. By 20 to 24 weeks these babies become viable, as in rare cases they can survive outside the womb. About this time, before birth, they can have intrauterine surgery on the heart and other organs, at which point they become patients. Of course, they have no legal status until a miraculous passage through the birth canal, when it is recognized by everyone as a legal human being.

However, since abortion supporters choose to ignore these facts, they should be concerned about complications following abortions that are increasingly reported in scientific literature: 1) A study sponsored by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, in 2001 showed that 41,000 women who had abortions had five times the number of hospital admissions for psychiatric problems, compared to a similar number of women who had no abortion. This was a short-term study done at three months, and did not deal with long-term effects of abortion. 2) A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2003 showed an increase number of psychiatric admissions among lower-income women who had induced abortions. 3) A Finnish study of the records of 600,000 women showed a six-fold increase in suicides in post-abortion women compared to those with a live birth, three times the incidence of women in general. There are other published studies in Britain and the U.S. showing similar findings. 4) It is obvious there are large numbers of women with post-abortion psychological problems, judging by the growth of hundreds of related counselling centres in North America, the largest being Project Rachel.

The pro-choice counselling service, Healing Choice, estimates at least 10 per cent of post-abortion women have severe psychological problems, and that many others who appear to have “moved forward with their lives” suffer various degrees of guilt, grief and ambivalence, sometimes for the rest of their lives. There are documented cases of women expressing grief, guilt and spiritual pain on their death beds many decades after an abortion.

Besides these psychological problems, there are documented medical problems that are less common, yet still significant, such as subsequent premature deliveries, infertility and increased risk of breast cancer. The incidence of maternal mortality from induced abortions is unknown (Statistics Canada), since maternal deaths after abortion are classified by the cause of death (hemmorrhage, infection, etc.) and not by the procedure itself.

Although post-abortion problems may not affect the majority of women, the number of women affected is significant when one considers more than a million abortions have occurred in Canada over the last 10 years. Finally, one wonders what sort of informed consent is offered women considering abortion, in view of the problems cited in the literature. In the United States, there are at least 12 states with right-to-know laws stipulating what information should be presented to these women, which I presume is more detailed than what women in Canada are offered.