The most frequent question I’m asked by women concerned about abortion is, “Can I still have children after this?” This is especially important since American women are having their first babies at increasingly older ages. The average age of first-time mothers in 2014 was 26.3, up from 21.4 in 1970. Fortunately, in today’s safe, legal abortion environment, the answer to that question is a resounding YES. But around the world, in countries where abortion is illegal, it remains a leading cause of maternal deaths. An estimated 68,000 women worldwide die each year from unsafe abortions, from complications such as uterine perforation, retained placenta, hemorrhage, infection, poisoning, shock, and gangrene. In this country, many doctors like me (see my first blog post, “Why I Perform Abortions”) are committed to providing this service under medically safe conditions because they witnessed (and still remember) the tragic cases of women who were hospitalized after botched illegal abortions.
Serious complications arising from early aspiration (suction) procedures are rare. Of these patients, 98% report no complications; 1.7% have minor problems than can be handled in the office; and .3% have more serious problems that require additional surgical procedures or hospitalization. The skill and training of the provider is an important consideration. I am proud to say that in my practice, the numbers are even lower.
With medical (“pill”) terminations, serious complications also occur in less that .5% of cases. Most of these are related to infections or toxic shock from rare bacterial infections of the uterus. Interestingly, similar complications can happen after miscarriage or childbirth. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found absolutely no link between the medications used for abortion and infection. In these serious cases, what usually happens is that the patient develops a fever and decides to “tough it out” without calling the doctor.
According to the CDC, deaths from legal U.S. abortions occurred in only .0015% of cases. As with all statistics, the question is always, Compared to What? In this case, the comparison is to keeping the pregnancy and going through labor and delivery. This is called the Maternal Mortality Rate, which is .01% in the United States. Put another way, from the standpoint of lethality, it is 65 times riskier to have a full-term pregnancy than to have an abortion! Funny how the Pro-Life faction never mentions this.
As for having a baby after termination, this has also been thoroughly studied by the CDC as early as 1980. Comprehensive reviews of the data have concluded that early abortion poses virtually no risk to future reproductive health. Therefore, beware of anti-abortion activist claims that abortion endangers getting pregnant of carrying a pregnancy. These are just unscientific, outrageous statements intended to dissuade women from exercising their rights to choose.