In the past thirty years, the issue of abortion has prevailed as possibly the most controversial health issue facing our nation. Within the issue clear sides can be drawn. Activists on either side are highly organized, pummeling the public with proof that abortion is either wrong or right. Stripped down, the abortion argument becomes a dispute between those who perceive the unborn fetus to be viable human life and likewise abortion as murder, and those who prioritize the rights of the living mother over those of an unborn fetus. The anti-abortion campaign is one based almost exclusively on religious notions and ideals. In contrast, those who support a woman's right to an ...view middle of the document...
Early in the pregnancy, when most abortions are performed, the "baby" is no more than a mass of dividing and specializing cells, hardly a viable organism let alone a human life. However, the difficulty with the debate of viability is that it varies from fetus to fetus and with improvement in technology.
Anti-abortionists also express concern for both the mental and physical health of women who has under go abortions. Studies have found that both of these concerns deal with a small minority of women. A common misconception is that after receiving an abortion, a woman puts herself at a highly increased for a successful pregnancy in the future.
A population-based study in Denmark was done to determine if an induced abortion in the first pregnancy increases the risk of spontaneous abortion in a subsequent pregnancy. The subjects were 15,727 women who had a first-trimester induced abortion and 40,616 women who had a live birth or stillbirth in their first pregnancy in 1980-82. Women who had a spontaneous abortion in their first pregnancy were excluded. 38% of abortions were performed at 48 weeks gestation and 62% at 9-12 weeks. Vacuum aspiration was used for 92% of induced abortions and evacuation for 8%. The groups were identified and followed-up through the Danish national birth registry, induced abortion registry, and hospital discharge registry.
For women in their second pregnancy, the odds ratio for spontaneous abortion was 4.1 if the inter-pregnancy interval was 0-3 months, but the risk was not elevated if the interval was 4 months or longer. This result held true regardless of maternal age, gestational age at abortion, and method of abortion. The odds ratio for spontaneous abortion were 1.02 after one induced abortion, 0.84 after two, and 0.80 after three or more.
The study concluded that induced abortion in a first pregnancy did not increase the risk of spontaneous abortion in a subsequent pregnancy, except when conception occurred within 3 months of the abortion.
Studies have also found that women who have undergone an abortion experienced minimal psychiatric problems following the procedure. The likelihood for psychiatric problems is actually similar to that experienced by women who go through with the live birth. Though some women experience sadness and guilt, these reactions tend to be transient and not to rise to the level of psychiatric disorder. Risk factors for subsequent psychiatric problems include per-existing psychiatric illness, lack of social supports, and coercion.
Women who deliver children can either assume lifelong responsibility for their care or allow them to be adopted or raised by others. As adoption is often cited as an abortion alternative, psychiatric problems as a result of adoption should be studied and compared to those of abortions as well. Women whose infants are adopted by others wish to put the experience behind them and, often, to hide it from others. Something of the same is true of abortion.