Abortion isn’t a risk-free procedure- there is a very real risk of physical complications.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is one of the most common complications of abortion1. PID occurs when an infection in the lower reproductive tract spreads to the upper tract. The abortion procedure can make it easier for infection to travel to the upper reproductive tract. PID carries potential risks of chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and infertility2. Women who have undiagnosed chlamydia have up to a 72% risk of developing PID after an abortion3.
1 Levallois et al, “Prophylactic antibiotics for suction curettage abortion: results of a clinical controlled trial,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,158(1):100-5 p 100, 1998
2 Sorenson et al, “A double-blind randomized study of the effect of erythromycin in preventing pelvic inflammatory disease after first trimester abortion,” British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 1992 May, 99(5):434-8
3 Sawaya et al, “Antibiotics at the time of induced abortion: the case for universal prophylaxis based on a metaanalysis,” Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1996 May, 87 (5 pt 2): 884-90
During the abortion procedure, there is a risk of the uterus being damage or even punctured by the surgical instruments used in the procedure. It is difficult to know for certain how often this complication occurs, but studies suggest that many of these complications go undetected, and are often not discovered until the woman has subsequent surgery. One study estimates that uterine perforation occurs as often as a rate of 30.4 per 1000 procedures4.
4 White M et al, “A case-controlled study of uterine perforations documented at laparoscopy,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 129:623, 1977
Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta grows in an incorrect position on the wall of the uterus, and may cover the cervix. This is a serious condition that usually manifests in the second or third trimester of pregnancy and usually requires a casearean section. If untreated it carries a risk of death both for the woman and the baby. One study found that women with a previous history of induced abortion were 7 to 15 times more likely to develop placenta praevia in a later pregnancy5. Other studies confirm a significant risk6,7.
5 Barrett et al, “Induced Abortion: A risk factor for Placenta Praevia,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 141:769, 1981
6 Hutchinson F, “The relationship between placenta praevia and history of induced abortion,” International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, May 2003, 81(2):191-8
7 Anath C V et al, “The Association of Placenta Praevia with History of Caesarean Delivery and Abortion: A Meta- Analysis,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 177: 1071, 1997
Studies indicate that abortion can increase a woman’s risk of suffering from cervical cancer. A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that the incidence of cervical cancer increased amongst women with a history of previous induced abortion8. Another study stated that “…cervical cancer was directly associated with induced abortions.”9 The risk of cervical cancer also increases with the number of abortions the woman undergoes10. By contrast, one study showed that carrying a pregnancy to term actually decreased the risk of cancer11.
8 Brock K E, Berry G, Brinton L A, Kerr C, MacLenann R, Mock P A et al, “Sexual, reproductive and contraceptive risk factors for carcinoma-in-situ of the uterine cervix in Sydney,” Medical Journal of Australia 1989 February 6; 150(3): 125-30
9 La Vecchia C, Negri E, Franceschi S, Parazzini F, “Long-term impact of reproductive factors on cancer risk,” International Journal of Cancer 1993 January 21; 53: 215- 9, p 127
10 Parazzini F et al “Risk of Invasive and Intraepithelial Cervical Neoplasia”, British Journal of Cancer, 59:805-809
11 Albrektsen G, Heuch I, Tretli S, Kvale G, “Is the risk of cancer of the corpus uteri reduced by a recent pregnancy? A prospective study of 765,756 Norwegian women,” International Journal of Cancer; 1995, May 16;61 (4):485- 90, p 485
Ectopic pregnancy is a condition where the newly formed embryo does not implant in the lining of the uterus, instead lodging in another place in the reproductive organs (usually the fallopian tube). The ectopic pregnancy can subsequently rupture. If undiagnosed, ectopic pregnancy almost always results in the death of the embryo, and carries a serious risk of death for the woman as well.
Studies confirm a relationship between abortion and an increased risk of subsequent ectopic pregnancy12. This risk can be up to thirteen times greater than for women who have given birth13. The risk also increases with the number of abortions a woman undergoes13.
12 Michalas et al, “Pelvic surgery, reproductive factors and risk of ectopic pregnancy: A case controlled study,” International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,1992, 38(2):101-5, p 101
13 Parazzini et al, “Induced abortions and risk of ectopic pregnancy,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 1995, 10(7):1841-4
Having an abortion can increase the risk of very premature birth in later pregnancies14. A possible reason for this complication is that the forced widening of the cervix that takes place under many of the common abortion techniques can result in a permanent weakening of the cervix14. This means that it is harder to carry a subsequent pregnancy to term, and the woman is at an increased risk of miscarriage. One study confirms the possibility that abortions can weaken the cervix and lead to increased risk of subsequent pregnancy loss15.
14 Moreau C. et al. Previous induced abortions and the risk of very preterm delivery: results of the EPIPAGE study. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2005 Feb 19; 112(4): 430-437. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2004.00478.x
14 Schulz K et al, “Measures to prevent Cervical Injuries during suction curettage abortion,” The Lancet, May 28 1983, pp 1182-1184
15 Zlatnik F J et al, “Radiological appearance of the upper canal in women with a history of premature delivery,” Journal of Reproductive Medicine; 34(8):525-30