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Are Abortions safe?

The safe practice of abortion and risks associated with has become a hot topic with strong data both for and against. National data from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that induced abortion and miscarriage are the safest outcomes of pregnancy. In contrast, abortion opponents routinely claim that abortion is unsafe. At times, they do this by cherry-picking studies, citing obsolete literature, extrapolating inappropriately and misinterpreting results. Moreover, some abortion opponents have double standards, what they report in the medical literature is not what they claim in the newspaper etc

Here are some of the most recent ‘alleged’ abortion facts as cited by

  • “27% of the patients acquired post-abortion infection lasting 3 days or longer”
  • “3 to 5 percent of aborted women [sic] are left inadvertently sterile”
  • “12.5% of first trimester abortions required stitching for cervical lacerations”
  • “increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and complications by 300-500 percent”

Abortion complications

A sentinel report from Planned Parenthood in New York City documented extraordinary safety as well. In 170,000 first-trimester abortions, the complication rate was 1%.

Most recently, researchers at UC-San Francisco analysed date on 54,911 abortions to see how many women had an emergency room visit or hospitalization as a result. The overall complication rate was 2%, and most complications were minor. Only 0.03% of patients were transferred by ambulance to an emergency department on the day of the abortion.

Abortion-related deaths

The risk of death from abortion plummeted after legalization in the early 1970s. In recent decades, the risk of death from safe abortion practice has been around 1 per 100’000 procedures. To put that in some perspective, the estimated risk of death from an injection of penicillin is about 2 per 100’000 injections.

Pregnancy and childbirth complications

According to the CDC, about 60% of women having live births will develop one or more complications of pregnancy, birth and the post-partum interval. This translates into more than 2 million women per year in the U.S.

Other risks of daily life

Daily life carries risks (indeed, none of us gets out of this alive). These risks may provide benchmarks against which safe abortion and childbirth can be compared. Riding a motorcycle in a western country carries a risk of death of about 100 per 100’000, in contrast canoeing in a freshwater river is associated with a risk of about 1 per 100’000. Given this fact, the current preoccupation of state legislatures with gynaecology (and not canoes) clearly stems from partisan politics, not concerns about public health.