The Elliot Institute News  
From the Leader in Post-Abortion Research
Vol. 8, No. 10 -- Oct. 28, 2009


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New Review Links Abortion
to Higher Risk of Preterm Birth

Dozens of Studies Find Women With History of Abortion More Likely to Later Have a Preterm Birth 


Researchers studying findings from dozens of studies have concluded that abortion is linked to an increased risk of preterm birth among subsequently born babies.


In a paper recently published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, a Canadian research team examined data from 37 studies and found that having a prior abortion increased the risk of subsequent preterm birth by 35 percent, while having more than one prior abortion increased the risk by 93 percent.1 (Preterm birth is defined as a birth that takes place before 37 weeks gestation.)


In other words, children whose mothers had a previous abortion were more likely to be born prematurely, putting them at greater risk for problems such as low-birth weight (which has been linked to physical and developmental problems), epilepsy, autism, mental retardation2 and cerebral palsy. A research team looking at data from 2002 estimated that prior abortions led to 1,096 cases of cerebral palsy among babies born prematurely that year.3


There are risks to the mother with preterm birth as well, as other studies have found that women who give birth at less than 32 weeks double their lifetime risk of breast cancer.4


Evidence linking abortion and preterm birth continues to pile up, researchers and advocates say. Another paper published earlier this year found that found that having a previous abortion raised a woman's relative odds of having a subsequent birth at less than 32 weeks by 64 percent.5


Further, as far back as 2006 the Institute of Medicine included "prior first trimester abortion" on a list of risk factors associated with premature birth.6 However, as Brent Rooney, Director of Research for the Reduce Preterm Birth Coalition, has pointed out, abortions continue to be performed despite the strong evidence of risks—and in the absence of any evidence showing the procedure to be harmless.


"In the 'Court of Medicine' a 'defendant' new surgery or new drug is presumed guilty of serious adverse side effects until by strong evidence it is demonstrated to be innocent,"  Rooney noted in a news release. Yet 50 years after the development of the suction abortion procedure, he said, there has never been a "'study of studies' or systematic review" that has proven that abortion does not cause premature birth. Instead, the evidence seems to be pointing in the opposite direction.




Learn more: Access the world's most extensive online library of studies on the physical and psychological effects of abortion at


Download free fact sheets on the risks of abortion at




1. P.S. Shah and J. Zao, "Induced termination of pregnancy and low birthweight and preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis," BJOG 116(11): 1425-1442 (2009).


2. Barbara Kay, "The abortion issue we're ignoring," National Post, June 10, 2009.


3. B.C. Calhoun, E. Shadigan and B. Rooney, "Cost Consequences of Induced Abortion as an Attributable Risk for Preterm Brith and Informed Consent," Journal of Reproductive Medicine 52(10): 929-937 (2007).


4. M. Melbye et. al., "Preterm Delivery and risk of breast cancer," British Journal of Cancer, 80(3-4): 609-613 (1999); and K.E. Innes and T.E. Byers, "First pregnancy characteristics and subsequent breast cancer risk among young women," International Journal of Cancer, 112(2): 306-311 (2004).


5. H.M. Swingle et. al., " Abortion and the Risk of Subsequent Preterm Birth: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," Journal of Reproductive Medicine 54:95-108 (2009).


6. R.E. Behrman et. al., Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences and Prevention (Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, 2007).







Book by Woman Who Had 15 Abortions
Highlights Problems of Multiple Abortions



A woman has published a book detailing her experiences of having 15 abortions.


Irene Vilar describes herself as pro-choice and writes on the web site for her book, Impossible Motherhood, that she believes women need access to abortion. But she also writes about her need to explore why she had repeated abortions and the circumstances leading up to them in order to deal with the effects it caused and break free from the cycle.


"For years, it didn't occur to me that there was anything to tell about abortion," Vilar writes on her site. "The opposite. There was much to forget ...."


Excerpts from the book posted on Vilar's site speak of a troubled childhood and the suicide of Vilar's mother, followed by Vilar's relationship with a much older and controlling man who insisted that having children ruined relationships. Vilar writes that she went on to have 15 abortions in 15 years, saying that when abortion takes on "repetitive and self-mutilating [sic] qualities it can point to an addiction."


Vilar became pregnant again while working on the book and credits the self-reflective process involved in the writing with helping her break from the cycle of repeat abortion and continue her pregnancy. She insists that her book is not about pro-life or pro-choice, but about speaking out about her experience.


"I know I'm destined to be misunderstood, that many will see my nightmare as a story of abusing a right, of using abortion as a means of birth control," she writes. "It isn't that. My nightmare is part of the awful secret, and the real story is shrouded in shame, colonialism, self-mutilation and a family history

that features a heroic grandmother, a suicidal mother, and two heroin-addicted brothers."


Understanding Repeat Abortions


It is thought that approximately 45 percent of the abortions occurring in the U.S. are repeat abortions. Repeat abortions carry increased physical and mental health risks for women, including a higher risk of substance abuse and subsequent preterm birth. Women who have repeat abortions are also more likely to be living in unstable situations, be divorced or be dependent on social services.


Experts say that there are a number of reasons why women might have multiple abortions. One reason is traumatic reenactment, a symptom related to post-traumatic stress disorder, in which a person continually repeats the trauma in an attempt to resolve it. The problem may also be compounded by the desire of many women to have a "replacement pregnancy" after an abortion, only to find that the problems and pressures that led to abortion in the first place still exist and they once again see no other alternative. If abuse, pressure or force from others is involved it may be very difficult for her to break away from the abusive cycle.


Repeat abortions are also often facilitated by the fact that abortions are frequently performed without any effort to determine why a woman or girl is aborting, even when there is coercion or abuse involved. A study of U.S. women who had abortions found that even though 64 percent are pressured to abort and more than half felt rushed or uncertain about about abortion, 67 percent said they didn't receive any counseling before abortion and 84 percent said they didn't receive enough counseling to make an informed decision.


Further, abortions are usually performed without any attempt to screen women or girls for coercion or for factors, including repeat abortions, that put them at risk for psychological problems afterward.


To learn more about repeat abortions, read an excerpt from the book Forbidden Grief here.




Click here to read an excerpt on repeat abortions from Forbidden Grief. For ordering information, visit or call 1-888-412-2676.







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