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Complicating ChoiceComplicating Choice

Complicating Choice

Pushing morality aside still leaves critical concerns about the medical complications of abortion.

Anne Francis
3 minute read

Complications is a masterwork—a comprehensive and fascinating summary of international research evidence about the various unexpected “complications” of abortion. It includes results from a survey of over 100 women who experienced an abortion. These first-hand narratives are compelling in and of themselves and echo various points captured by the research.

The book represents 10 painstaking years of compiling, summarizing and analyzing research from around the world. It draws from 650 sources, according to its bibliography, including papers published in medical and psychological journals, books and other official publications. The three co-authors—Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, an American breast-cancer surgeon; Dr. Ian Gentles, professor of history at Tyndale University College and research director of The deVeber Institute; and Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy, senior research associate—were assisted in this monumental effort by a half dozen medical doctors and a host of student interns.

Complications clearly sets out the unexpected and terrible impact abortion has on the health and well-being of those that undergo it and, in many cases, on their subsequent children. The subject matter of this book is not for the faint-hearted: there are descriptions that literally threw me into a state of shock. I sometimes felt sickened by the evidence provided about the results of this “procedure,” which appears all the more troublesome as one realizes that so many women and their families likely have no idea what they are really getting into when they submit themselves to it.

The book starts off with an overview of some of the macro issues related to abortion. This section analyzes empirical data regarding a number of topics, including spiritual and psychological healing after abortion, maternal and infant mortality, gender-selected abortion and the resultant gender imbalance in a number of countries, the link between abortion and crime, and informed consent.

The argument is often made in international forums that legalizing abortion is necessary to reduce the risks of maternal mortality. However, the authors of Complications have accumulated and analyzed data from around the world showing that countries where abortion is restricted (e.g., Ireland, Chile, Poland, Nicaragua and El Salvador) have lower maternal mortality rates than countries where abortion is legalized (e.g., the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Hungary and South Africa). Countries with high mortality rates from unsafe abortions also tend to have the least effective and accessible health-care services, so that complications are more likely.

The second section of the book focuses on research findings about medical complications. This includes evidence linking abortion to a higher incidence of breast cancer, fetal anomaly, infection and infertility, injury, miscarriage, placenta previa (i.e., when the placenta implants in the lower uterine segment, near or covering the cervix, often causing uterine bleeding), auto-immune diseases, maternal mortality from abortion, pain, and premature or preterm births after abortion.

The third section of Complications summarizes research data concerning psychological and social complications. Dealing with abortion’s impact on the family, it argues on the basis of empirical evidence that abortion leads to a lowering of rates of marriage, an increase in rates of divorce and a growing feminization of poverty. This section also sets out substantial evidence that abortion correlates with a higher rate of abuse of subsequent children, with a worsening of women’s mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal behaviours) and with greater intimate partner violence.

The fourth section of Complications adopts the growing trend in research to capture first-hand narratives by setting out the results of a survey of over 100 women who have experienced an abortion.

The experience of these women coincided in various important and telling aspects, which resonate with some of the findings in other sections of the book. For example, 69 per cent of these women declared they felt pressured or coerced to have an abortion, and 70 per cent reported that the procedure was not properly explained to them by medical professionals. In fact, whenever advice was given, it was to allay any possible concern about complications. A short time after the abortion, almost all of these women experienced depression. Some 40 per cent resorted to alcohol and drugs as a means of coping with their feelings of depression and regret, and more than 40 per cent considered suicide. Almost 25 per cent were unable to have a child after their abortion. Although some were able to find emotional and spiritual healing after the abortion, all continued to be troubled by the memory.

Overall, Complications is well-organized and accessible to readers who are not adept in the medical field. The layout is easy to follow, and despite the scientific research focus, the book is easy to read, with the more technical terms clearly defined in a glossary.

While the book is challenging due to its troubling subject matter, it is a must-read for not only health-care professionals but everyone seeking to be better informed on the real complications of abortion. The deVeber Institute merits much thanks and praise for Complications. I hope the book will lead to greater discussion, awareness and research to better understand the complications of abortion on women and their families.

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