Should We Talk About Abortion’s Aftereffects?

Medicine Says Yes; Politics Says No

All medical and surgical procedures come with risks. Patients consider potential negative outcomes beforehand, discuss them with their doctors, research them, weigh the odds. Then they make informed decisions.

That’s hard to do when it comes to abortion.

Surveys of medical research indicate that induced abortion (as opposed to miscarriage, which is known as “spontaneous abortion”) carries the potential for harm to the mother of the aborted child and also to her subsequent children. Abortion has been linked by some researchers to breast cancer, to pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies, and to “alarmingly high rates of such maladies as PTSD, eating disorders, depression, substance abuse, and suicide in post-abortive women.” A quick search on PubMed and Google Scholar shows thousands of medical articles (and debates) about the physical aftereffects of abortion, including assessments of recent data from China.

And yet many people are unaware of any potential negative aftereffects, or think they’re nothing but pro-life scare tactics. Why? Because if you go where people generally go for medical information—to big public-information websites like the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and others—they’ll tell you there’s no cause for concern.

Keeping Women in the Dark

As the documentary Hush: A Liberating Conversation about Women's Health and Abortion explains, this apparently is a conversation we’re simply not supposed to have. Why not? In an information age, shouldn’t women considering abortion be provided with this information?

Traditional healthcare protocol says yes; patients should be encouraged to make informed decisions about their medical care. Politics, however, says no. Giving patients data with which to make informed decisions would be “a very overt attempt to dissuade or discourage women from exercising their right to have an abortion.” Other proponents of suppressing information say that women should be spared the psychological burden of knowing the risks they’re taking.

So—as Hush troublingly documents—women are making medical decisions largely in the dark. (The investigative reporter behind Hush, by the way, is pro-choice.)

Controlled “Consensus”

This manipulation of medical information in order to further a political viewpoint is not a new problem. Way back in 2003 the supposed “expert consensus” on the safety of abortion apparently was achieved by holding a conference and “systematically [excluding] anyone who disagreed with the pre-determined ‘consensus.’ No one with competing views was allowed to present a paper or even ask a question from the floor.”

This politicking is not the way to do science, and when people catch on, it causes a loss of credibility for the scientific enterprise. As one writer and researcher notes with regard to this area of inquiry,

Greater credibility will be achieved ... if key advocates of the abortion-breast cancer hypothesis, such as Joel Brind, are invited to participate in the study design. Such an invitation would seem to be in the collaborative spirit of the group. The only way to assure both sides of this contentious issue that the data are being fully and properly analysed is to allow opposing advocates access to the same data.

Controlled Access to Information

Unfortunately, the suppression of information continues apace. In a digital age it’s troublingly easy. Search engines can prioritize certain viewpoints and push other viewpoints way down in the results. In databases, inconvenient articles may appear without abstracts, whereas “politically correct” articles have them—a problem I encountered while writing this piece. The absence of an abstract (a summary) means that you can’t tell the authors’ conclusions at a glance. You have to go elsewhere, work harder, dig deeper. Sometimes even then you’ll be thwarted by a notice that an article “has been retired” due to “outdated information.”

And, of course, social media platforms can allow or ban content at will. Recently YouTube pulled three videos by Ruth Institute on the topic of abortion risks. The first video features biologist Dr. Joel Brind, and the other two feature breast cancer surgeon Dr. Angela Lanfranchi.

As Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of Ruth Institute, notes, “YouTube says our videos contradict ‘expert consensus from health authorities’ when the videos were of doctors showing the link between abortion and an increased risk for breast cancer!”

FOX News Lighthouse Faith interviewed Roback Morse and asked her why, if the videos were so dangerously anti-science, it took YouTube almost a year to remove them. Morse’s take: the Sexual State “has become more aggressive about abortion after the Dobbs decision, and more committed to the idea that if abortion is legal, it will always be safe.”

In other words, they’re trying to avoid illegal back-alley abortions like the one that killed my great-grandmother. One problem with “if it’s legal, it will be safe” is that it assumes the danger lies only in the procedure itself. It doesn’t take into account long-term negative effects.

How about Choice on Informed Consent?

Proponents of “choice” would do well to allow women make informed choices, rather than tilting the board. Hiding relevant information denies women agency and, moreover, may well put them and their future children in danger.

The Ruth Institute interviews censored by YouTube can be accessed elsewhere:

See Also:

PhD, is an editor for the Discovery Institute and the author of four dystopian novels and many shorter works, both fiction and non-fiction. Before turning to editing, she taught as an adjunct English and humanities professor. She and her husband homeschooled their three children.

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