WASHINGTON — Surgical and medical abortions are associated with a host of untold and under-reported medical and psychological risks, said a panel of doctors at a recent conference in the nation’s capital.
“Abortion reporting has been a major impediment in receiving accurate information about abortion complications,” said Dr. Monique Chireau, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine.
She added that “improved abortion reporting, informed consent and public information regarding abortion complications should help reduce abortion rates.”
Chireau was part of a medical panel that spoke at the Americans United for Life Symposium on Jan. 24 in Washington. She examined the complications that can arise from surgical abortion, observing that for every additional week of gestational age, “there’s a 38% increase in mortality.”
She also noted that states with heavier restrictions and mandatory waiting periods for later-term abortions have a 25% lower rate of complications than those without such limitations.
Dr. Donna Harrison, director of research and public policy for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, also spoke at the symposium, discussing medical abortions, which use chemicals to kill unborn children and expel them from their mothers’ bodies.
The complications of medical abortion can be quite severe and include “hemorrhage, incomplete abortion and death,” she said, noting that the rate of complications increases drastically after the eighth week of pregnancy.
Also concerning is the fact that first-trimester medical abortions are generally unrestricted and unsupervised, she added, but these abortions are being promoted around the world.
Harrison also warned of a rise in the unrestricted use of Ella, an “emergency contraceptive” that is nearly identical chemically to the abortion pill RU-486.
While Ella is labeled as safe for one-time use at the recommended dosage, Harrison noted that there are almost no Food and Drug Administration restrictions on the drug, and many women abuse it, taking multiple doses at a time or using the drug after every sexual encounter within a cycle.
These risky behaviors go unsupervised, she said, and women who use the drugs face potentially deadly complications, often without receiving adequate medical screenings or exams to check for problems.
Dr. Priscilla Coleman, professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University, offered commentary on the psychological aspects surrounding abortion.
A number of psychiatric and societal influences impact the mental health of women who have undergone abortions, she said, pointing to studies indicating that those with pre-existing psychological factors experience increased complications from abortion.
However, it is not just “those with pre-existing issues that are harmed by abortion,” Coleman said. Rather, research demonstrates that, across the board, abortion “significantly increases risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”
Furthermore, she observed, recent studies show that abortions result in a 20% increase in mental distress “compared with unintended pregnancy carried to term.”