Women who have abortions face numerous health issues

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The Article

Our nation’s highest civilian honour has been bestowed upon Dr. Henry Morgentaler, thereby granting him official recognition for his contributions to health care and humanitarian work in Canada.

Uh huh. So what exactly are those contributions?

Dr. (I use this term loosely) Morgentaler made abortion ‘legal’ through a challenge to the Supreme Court. The Court struck down the law against abortion in 1988. Twenty years later, Canada still has no law against abortion at any time during gestation, but we do have an international reputation for having the most liberal abortion policies in the developed world. Apparently, this is something to be celebrated.

He made abortion available. His great healthcare legacy is a chain of private abortion clinics where doctors can make great wads of cash outside of the medical/ethical oversight of hospital committees and other doctors.

Finally, he is credited with making abortion safe. He said this week that his efforts made abortion “one of the safest surgical procedures” and women are no longer killed, injured or left infertile.

Too many have bought into these claims that Morgentaler is somehow the medical saviour of Canadian women. They likely support the view of one pro-abortion advocate who said, “Like him or not, the man brought safety to women in Canada and we should finally give him credit.”

It is an inarguable fact that Dr. Morgentaler made abortion ‘legal’ (if only because there are no laws) and more readily available. But a growing number of medical studies suggest abortion is hardly the “safe surgical procedure’ that Dr. Morgentaler proclaims it to be.

He may have made abortions ‘safer’ by cutting the so-called back-alley butcher out of the abortion market, but since then ‘safe’ abortions have put women at an increased risk for hospitalization, breast cancer and psychological events like suicide.

Abortion has been repeatedly documented as a major risk factor for pregnancies resulting in low birth weight and premature birth. In 2001, the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that having one abortion increases a woman’s risk of premature delivery by 30 per cent; two abortions by 90 per cent.

In 2003, a study in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons evaluated 49 studies that showed a significant increase in the risk of premature births or low birth weight babies in women who had abortions.

Is small size really such a big problem? It is for the baby. Premature birth is a leading cause of cerebral palsy and small babies are at increased risk for infant mortality, disabilities, lower cognitive abilities and greater behavioural problems. The risk of these complications is increased further if the mother has had repeat abortions.

In 1996, a paper in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health provided the first real evidence of a connection between abortion and breast cancer. Pooled data from 28 different studies demonstrated that women who had abortions had increased their risk of developing breast cancer by 30 per cent.

Subsequent studies supposedly disproved this association, but a 2005 Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons paper showed these studies had methodologies that were sufficiently flawed “to invalidate their findings.” And, in 2007, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons reported that induced abortion was the risk factor that best predicted the incidence of breast cancer in European women.

The risk of psychological harm as a result of abortion has also been well documented.

When compared to women who gave birth, women who had abortions were shown to be six times more likely to commit suicide (British Medical Journal, 1996), five times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol (American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2000) and 63 per cent more likely to need mental care within 90 days of the abortion (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2002).

Finally, a 2001 study by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario showed that in the first three months after abortion, women have a higher rate of hospitalization for infection (four times greater), other surgical procedures (five times greater) and psychiatric problems (five times greater).

All of the above suggests that Dr. Morgentaler’s contribution to the health and safety of Canadian women is questionable, at best.

In fact, the data suggest he could just as easily be cited for putting women at increased risk for major health problems.

If his achievements are suspect, so is his skill as a doctor. In 1976, he was charged by the Quebec College of Physicians for not taking a patient history, blood or urine tests prior to an abortion procedure.

In 1998, he was found guilty of negligence by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for allowing a woman to leave the clinic — unattended — within 30 minutes of undergoing an abortion.

She complained of pain and shakiness, yet he allowed her to get into her car and drive. She subsequently fainted and swerved into oncoming traffic.

Based on the facts (and not ideology), there is no good reason for Canadians to recognize — let alone celebrate — this man’s so-called achievements.

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