Report released on post-abortion health effects

By Karri E. Christiansen

A U.S. Surgeon General report claims abortion is not any more negative than positive to a woman’s health.

In July of 1987, the U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop conducted a report on the health affects of abortion.

Koop said when the report was requested “it was a foregone conclusion that the negative health effects of abortion on women were so overwhelming that the evidence would force the reversal of Roe vs. Wade.”

There are about 250 studies reporting on the psychological aspects of abortion, Koop said.

He said past studies were evaluated by the Public Health Service and considered flawed.

Additionally, both Koop and the agencies evaluating the studies felt the studies do not support the premise that abortion does or does not cause or contribute to psychological problems, Koop said.

Koop’s report said the scientific evidence can support neither the pro-choice nor the pro-life camp’s view on the affects of abortion.

He also said when a pregnancy is carried full term, there is a well-documented low incidence of negative health effects, regardless of whether the pregnancy is wanted or unwanted.

It has been documented that abortion can cause infertility, damage to the cervix, miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight babies in the future, Koop said.

However, these conditions are difficult to prove primarily as results of abortion, he said.

This is because about half of the abortions are provided in abortion clinics where records were not kept, Koop said. Of the abortions performed annually, half of the women who have had them deny ever doing so, he said.

He also said those conditions are difficult to prove as results of an abortion because the same conditions might arise after childbirth.

Negative conditions following an abortion are clearly higher when the abortion is performed or attempted by an unqualified doctor or if the abortion is performed in unsterile conditions, Koop said.

The report stated any study conducted on the affects of abortion would most likely be inadequate.

Koop said other variables should be included in a study looking at the psychological effects of abortion including a woman’s inability to conceive, the effects of carrying a pregnancy full term and the possibilty of miscarriage.

“The scientific studies do not provide conclusive data about the health affects of abortion on women,” he said.

Father Eric Barr of the Newman Foundation Catholic Student Center said abortion is difficult to study because it is such an emotionally heated issue.

Koop said he met with 27 different abortion-interest groups including the Right to Life National Committee and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well as women who had abortions.

Individual cases cannot be used to reach scientifically sound conclusions, Koop said.

NIU Women’s Studies Director Lois Self said individual cases might be difficult to use because women who have had abortions might find it difficult to talk about them.

“Deciding on abortion is the most difficult decision a woman would ever make,” Self said.

Koop’s report stated each year about six million women become pregnant and 54 percent or 3.3 million of those pregnancies are unplanned. It said 25 percent or 1.5 million women who are pregnant choose to have abortions.

“It is not easy or happy and it is up to the individual. It depends on her upbringing and other motivating factors,” Self said.

Koop added since the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, 20 million abortions have been performed.

“Even among groups committed to confirming a woman’s right to legal abortion there was a consensus that any abortion presented a failure in some part of society’s support system—indiviual, family, church, public health, economic or social,” the report said.

“Abortion is a failure of society because society is ignoring its commitment to preserve life. Society’s primary objective is to preserve life and a person’s basic rights,” Barr said.

“A society that allows the killing will be destroyed,” he said.

Self said, “Abortion is not a failure of society and not a failure of family.”

Unwanted pregnancies are caused by there being no contraceptive “100 percent fool-proof” and a failure to teach the means of birth control, she said.