October 17th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Mao's long shadow over China

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Mr Turnbull in a dilemma of his own making

VICTORIA: Partial backdown over Equal Opportunity Act

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Political lobby groups funded by your taxes

FOREIGN INVESTMENT: New foreign investment rules still fall short

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Immigration and Australia's economic future

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Why Ireland voted for the Lisbon Treaty

ENERGY: Nuclear power policy shift for Germany

WORLD WAR II: Odilo Globocnik, forgotten co-author of the Holocaust

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Abortion's dangers to health of future babies

OVERSEAS AID: Salesian missions to Philippines floods, Samoan tsunami

UNITED STATES: Message to America: learn to like taxes

OPINION: The Left's flawed concept of society

AS THE WORLD TURNS: China spells end of US dollar hegemony; Morality Hollywood-style; Australia's Frank Brennan SJ on same-sex marriage

CINEMA: Forgotten story of Victoria's early life - The Young Victoria (rated PG)

BOOK REVIEW: THE MARCH OF PATRIOTS: The Struggle for Modern Australia, by Paul Kelly

BOOK REVIEW: THE LOST SPY: An American in Stalin's Secret Service, by Andrew Meier

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Abortion's dangers to health of future babies

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, October 17, 2009
Britain's left-wing daily paper The Guardian has recently reported that women who abort a baby are in greater danger of giving birth to premature or low-weight babies later. But then it characteristically added that "the review of a large amount of research, carried out in Canada, is likely to be seized on by the anti-abortion lobby as evidence that termination is damaging to future babies". (The Guardian, September 16, 2009).

Nevertheless, the US pro-life news service LifeNews.com praised this grudging acceptance of medical fact, with its recent headline, "Even 'Guardian' accepts new study of abortion's dangers to future babies".

Dr Prakesh Shah, professor at the paediatrics department, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, and leading author of a study on abortion and premature births published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), said a number of reasons could explain their findings, the most likely being physical damage to the cervix which the abortionist must dilate, or to the womb. The study found that women who aborted a baby in the first or second trimester ran a 35 per cent greater risk of a low-birth-weight baby and a 36 per cent greater risk of a pre-term baby in later pregnancies.

Premature births

Shah said there was "a need for better [sic] methods of terminating pregnancy and women needed better information. With premature births leading to an assortment of physical and mental health problems for unborn children, women should be told of the risk before having an abortion".

He warned that the risk substantially increases for the millions of women who have had more than one abortion and become pregnant. Women having multiple abortions have a 93 per cent risk of subsequently having a premature baby and a 72 per cent risk of having an underweight baby.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists announced it would take the new research into consideration when updating its abortion guidelines. Shah's Toronto research group has been examining all the reasons why babies are born premature and underweight to learn whether a previous abortion might be a factor.

Many women with a history of abortion tend to be unmarried, young and from socio-economically disadvantaged groups; but the researchers believe they allowed for this in their calculations.

Professor Philip Steer, editor-in-chief of BJOG, argued: "Any medical procedure is likely to have side-
effects." Paradoxically, Steer and Shah have both suggested the study should not be used to deter women from abortion!

Brent Rooney, M.Sc., another Canadian researcher on premature birth, says the abortion-premature birth link highlights the risk of cerebral palsy for subsequent infants and is very significant because it is a meta-analysis. That is, Dr Shah didn't conduct just one study, but examined 37 published studies in medical journals, conducted between 1965 and 2001, to find an overall result.

Babies under 32 weeks' gestation have 55 times the cerebral palsy risk as full-term (at least 37 weeks) newborns. As a result, if abortions increase the risk of a low birth-weight baby - and low birth-weigh significantly contributes to an unborn child having cerebral palsy - then the performance of abortions clearly results in more children being diagnosed with the condition.

The financial impact is significant. Dr Byron C. Calhoun, Dr Elizabeth Shadigian and Brent Rooney, in a joint study published in 2007, estimated there were 1,096 newborn US babies under 1,500 grams with cerebral palsy in 2002 due to their mother's prior induced abortions. (Byron C. Calhoun, Elizabeth Shadigian and Brent Rooney, "Cost consequences of induced abortion as an attributable risk for preterm birth and impact on informed consent", Journal of Reproductive Medicine, Vol. 52, No. 10, October 2007, pp.929-37.)

Approximately 7.7 per cent of children with very low birth weight develop cerebral palsy. In their paper, Calhoun, Shadigian and Rooney calculate that a direct cost to the US health system of abortion-related pre-term births in 2002 was approximately US $1.2 billion. This estimate did not include long-term costs for ongoing, often life-long, medical expenses and lost income such children will suffer.

As there is a vigorous political debate in the US about universal coverage for health care amid skyrocketing costs - and we are facing similar issues in Australia - one wonders when our economic gurus will include the costs of "negative behaviours" which would include abortion.

"Population controllers" will argue that an abortion costs less than a live baby, but babies grow up to be workers and taxpayers who help pay the health costs of retirees. An aborted baby can't pay for anything and its killing may damage the next pregnancy.

• In Poland between 1989 and 1993, when Solidarity took power and abortion was restricted, the rate of premature births (before 36 weeks gestation) dropped 40 per cent.

• Ireland, where abortion is illegal, had a premature birth rate in 2003 of 5.48 per cent, less than half the US rate of 12.3 per cent.

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.


Byron C. Calhoun, Elizabeth Shadigian and Brent Rooney, "Cost consequences of induced abortion as an attributable risk for preterm birth and impact on informed consent", Journal of Reproductive Medicine, Vol. 52, No. 10 (October 2007), pp.929-37.

Susan Boseley, "Abortions may pose risk to future babies, according to study", The Guardian (UK), September 16, 2009.
URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/sep/16/abortion-risk-weight-premature-study

"Even 'Guardian' accepts new study of abortion's dangers to future babies", Family & Life (Dublin), September 28, 2009.
URL: http://www.familyandlife.org/Abortion-and-Embryo/1275/9/14.html

Prakesh S. Shah and J. Zao, "Induced termination of pregnancy and low birthweight and preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analyses", British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Vol. 116, Issue 11, October 2009, pp.1425-1442.
URL: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122591273/abstract

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