In blog

I have to say that I was rather pleased to learn that in this week’s edition of CRACCUM, the student magazine of Auckland University, the Campus Feminist Collective (CFC) have finally attempted to engage in debate with Prolife Auckland about the Right to Know pamphlet distributed at Auckland University back in May.

This week’s development of a public dialogue is a very positive step forward from the initial attempts that were made to try and punish Prolife Auckland and deny them their right to freedom of expression by disaffiliating them as a club over the Right to Know pamphlet. Thankfully commonsense prevailed and the student body sent the resounding message that disaffiliating clubs just because they happen to hold views we disagree with is NOT a welcome practice at Auckland University.

So before I respond to the CFC’s reply about Right to Know, I think they should be credited for actually entering into a proper discourse over this matter – something that is a hallmark of a healthy and vibrant academic culture.

Now, let’s have a look at what the CFC have stated in this week’s edition of CRACCUM…

“The Campus Feminist Collective does not have the funds to create and distribute pretty flyers…”

One would assume that this is meant to be a bit of a cheap shot at Prolife Auckland, suggesting that they are somehow flush with cash and that’s why they are able to produce flyers like the Right to Know one – I guess the Notorious B.I.G was right when he said ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’.

The truth is that Prolife Auckland is not flushed with cash and they have not applied for one single red cent from the AUSA to fund their club. Not only that, but the Right to Know flyer was not a flashy, graphics-laden, expensive flyer. It was a simple printed text flyer.

“Abortion isn’t a risk-free procedure” – no reference

I’m not sure if the CFC realize this or not, but you don’t actually need to reference EVERY SINGLE STATEMENT you make in a flyer of this sort, especially when you immediately go on to list some of those possible risks you are alluding to and then providing references for subsequent statements, so I’m really not sure why they would even bother to point this out (nitpicking perhaps?)

More importantly, what are the CFC actually trying to suggest by pointing this reference-less statement out – that abortion has ZERO risks associated with it?

Because if they are, then not only does that mean that they are proposing something that medical science quite clearly disagrees with, but it also means that they are refuting themselves when they later, in this same rebuttal, go on to actually point out that abortion does have certain risk factors (they just claim they are so low we shouldn’t worry about them).

“…there is a small amount of evidence to suggest that abortion has an increased risk of subsequent premature births. However, this data was collected in France in 1997, and since then there have been significant advances in abortion procedures (medical abortions, for example). The authors also note that there is a potential for this data to be confounded with other variables (for example socio-economic status, smoking status, weight, physical activity levels) all of which are also associated with premature births.”

Oh dear, it seems that the CFC haven’t actually been keeping up with the news regarding abortion and subsequent premature birth.

If they were keeping tabs on this issue, then they would know that it isn’t actually just data collected in France in 1997 which shows a link between abortion and subsequent premature birth.

One example of the other studies which show this link is the new study from Aberdeen University which examined more than 600,000 pregnancies and found that women who had experienced abortions were 33 per cent more likely to subsequently deliver pre-term than those who had never had an abortion.

They also found that women who had abortions were also 44 per cent more likely to give birth extremely prematurely, that is; before 34 weeks.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, while this study couldn’t control for smoking, it DID control for other factors known to have an impact on premature birth.

The researchers have stated that they believe that this risk of premature birth is caused by the fact that surgical implements are used on the cervix during surgical abortions.

“Miscarriages” (not referenced) – no conclusive, statistically significant evidence from studies conducted NZ.

Now it’s worth pointing out that, at this point in their rebuttal, the CFC have started engaging in some deceptive skullduggery with this statement.

You see, they have added a qualifier to this statement when they state: “from studies conducted NZ” (I assume they mean ‘in NZ’).

Including this totally arbitrary qualifier is not only completely illogical – NOT ONCE does the Right to know pamphlet include this qualifier, or suggest that it was referring to studies conducted in NZ – but more importantly, it is also an attempt to try and exclude research conducted in other countries showing a link between abortion and miscarriage.

Like this one from the International Journal of Epidemiology from 2003, which concluded that: “Induced abortion by vacuum aspiration is associated with an increased risk of first-trimester miscarriage in the subsequent pregnancy.”

Another large-scale Danish study from 2000 showed an increased risk of miscarriage following abortion among women who got pregnant within 3 months after their abortion.

“Infertility” (not referenced) – no conclusive, statistically significant evidence from NZ

Notice the use of the totally arbitrary and unjustified ‘NZ qualifier’ again?

The simple fact is that while infertility after abortion carried out under optimal conditions and according to best practice is rare, it certainly can and does still happen, so including it in the Right to Know pamphlet was justified.

“Australia recently experienced its first adult death as a result of medical abortion, which is supposed to be one of the safer methods of terminating a pregnancy” – no reference

When I saw that the CFC had added ‘no reference’ beside this statement I just about fell off my chair in disbelief.

Are the CFC being deliberately deceptive here, or do they just not know how to use Google?

If you Google ‘abortion death Australia’, the very first news article that appears at the top of the search listing is this one:

Abortion pill death sparked warning
AUSTRALIA has had its first death of a woman using the abortion pill to terminate her pregnancy at home.
-The Australian, March 19, 2012

…on their own website ProLife state that between 2009 and 2011, Marie Stopes International Australia (the clinic who provided the woman with the medical abortion) supervised over 18,000 medical abortions. This works out to approximately 0.33 deaths out of 6000 abortions per year, in this clinic alone. MSIA is just one provider of medical abortions in Australia. Even with a 1 in 18,000 risk of death from medical abortions, you are three times more likely to be killed in a car accident in the next year (Harvard Centre for Risk Analysis) than you are by a medical abortion using these statistics.

Two important things to note about this statement:

It completely fails to mention any of the following important facts about risk factors associated with medical abortions (those which use the Mifegyne drug – also known as RU 486 and mifepristone)…

a. An “audit” of nearly 7000 abortions performed in South Australia in 2009 and 2010 found that Mifegyne medical abortions result in more complications for women than surgical abortions do. The research survey found that 3.3 per cent of women using Mifegyne had later turned up at emergency departments to seek treatment for problems, whereas only 2.2 per cent of women who had undergone surgical abortions had done so.

The survey also found that 5.7 per cent of women undergoing early medical abortions using Mifegyne had to be admitted to hospital for post-operative treatment, compared to only 0.4 per cent of women undergoing surgical abortions experiencing such outcomes.

b. Statistics released by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia in October 2010 revealed that 110 cases of “adverse effects” were reported in 2009 by doctors authorised to prescribe Mifegyne in Australia. These adverse effects included the retention of placental remains and other “products of conception” (i.e. human fetal remains). These same Therapeutic Goods Administration statistics also revealed that there were another 14 Australian cases where RU486 had failed and subsequent surgical abortions had to be carried out to complete those botched Mifegyne medical abortions.

c. A report released by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011 stated that the deaths of 14 US women are now associated with the use of Mifegyne, and there are 2,207 reports of adverse effects associated with it (including significant blood loss requiring transfusion, infections and “severe infections”)

d. Research carried out in England, by Teresa Kelly and colleagues at Newcastle University, followed 122 women who had either a surgical abortion or a Mifegyne medical abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy, and it revealed that the women who had participated in a Mifegyne medical abortion complained of more medical problems and more mental health issues following the use of Mifegyne, and the passing of the body of the dead baby, than woman who underwent surgical abortions. (Findings published in the obstetrics journal BJOG in 2011).

e. In may 2011, at the 21st European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Milan, it was announced that a 16-year old Portuguese female had died as a result of a septic shock caused by Clostridium Sordellii (an infection that until that point had only been diagnosed in abortion drug related deaths in the United States) after a Mifegyne medical abortion.

Comparing the risk factors associated with two completely different things, and then suggesting that because one of those things has a greater risk of negative outcomes that makes the other totally safe is just farcical. It’s a common tactic used by those who wish to run from the inconvenient truth about the risk factors that are associated with abortion, but it is completely lacking in logical soundness.

This sort of reasoning is like saying “cyanide is more dangerous to ingest than arsenic, so therefore arsenic should be considered safe” – the safety, or otherwise, of abortion has nothing to do with the safety, or otherwise, of other different actions, such as driving a car (which, for starters, is something that far more people do each year than abortion!)

The BMJ study cited referring to suicide among women who had undergone abortion procedures stated that 5.4% of all suicides in women are attributable to pregnancy related causes. A rate of 5.9 per 100,000 population was attributed to birth, 18.1 to miscarriage and 34.7 to induced abortion. Recalculating this for proportionality, this demonstrates that only 3.21% of all suicides in women during the measurement period are attributable to undergoing abortion. This article was published in 1996, and the data was collected between 1987 and 1994 in Finland – this study is from so long ago and from a country with a non-comparable health system to our own that these findings are simply not transferable to a New Zealand setting.

Yet more deceptive skullduggery from the CFC.

Firstly, the issue of ‘recalculating for proportionality’ is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, because it doesn’t change the fact that the leading cause of pregnancy-related suicide amongst these women is still abortion!

And should we even bother to respond to the CFC’s logical fallacy that “this study is from so long ago and from a country with a non-comparable health system to our own” that its findings should be rejected?

What sort of unscientific nonsense is that?

If we were to apply such illogical sentiment across the board then we’d have to say that the scientific discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton must not actually apply here in New Zealand, because they are hundreds of years old and from another country.

This study was a very short longitudinal study of women who had self-selected to participate when asked by a Principal Investigator for the study at an abortion clinic. The issues with selection bias from self-selected samples aside (which are significant in and of themselves) – you don’t need to read past the abstract of this study to find the statement under Conclusions: “Most women do not experience psychological problems or regret their abortion 2 years post-abortion, but some do. Those who do tend to be women with a prior history of depression” (Major et al., 2000, p777). These are women with a prior history of mental health issues, which not only predispose them to further mental illness but significantly confound the results of this study.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

Firstly, most research that involves living human subjects actually requires them to be invited to participate, and then it also requires them to agree to participation, so suggesting that approaching subjects at an abortion clinic, and having them say ‘yes’ invalidates this study is just nonsense.

Yes, self-selection can definitely present issues in some research situations, bit not all, and it’s hard to see exactly how self-selection could have been avoided in a study of this nature – are the CFC suggesting that women should be forced into a study of this type?

Secondly, the issue of prior depression does not invalidate this study in any way, at the very least what it shows is that, even if other women would be okay, women with previous mental health problems are contraindicated when it comes to abortion and are likely to experience serious mental health issues as a result of abortion. Far from endorsing the CFC’s opinions about abortion, this study actually indicates that more research into this matter is required in order to determine whether women with previous mental health issues should be provided more adequate warnings about this risk factor before embarking down the abortion pathway.

Just last week in the United States a federal appeals court ruled that the state of South Dakota can require abortionists to inform women seeking a termination that they face an increased risk of suicide.

In their official ruling the judges stated:

“Based on the record, the studies submitted by the State are sufficiently reliable to support the truth of the proposition that the relative risk of suicide and suicide ideation is higher for women who abort their pregnancies compared to women who give birth or have not become pregnant. It also is worth noting that Planned Parenthood does not challenge the disclosure that “[d]epression and related psychological distress” is a “known medical risk of the [abortion] procedure.”

POINT 1: After evaluating the research evidence that was presented before them, a group of federal appeal court judges have ruled that there definitely are reliable studies which show that suicide and suicide ideation is a risk factor associated with abortion

POINT 2: Planned Parenthood (America’s largest provider of for-profit abortion) does not challenge the fact that depression and related psychological distress is a known medical risk of abortion

(Maybe Planned Parenthood should have submitted this CRACCUM article by the Campus Feminist Collective as evidence in their case?)

Finally, this isn’t the only study, or anecdotal work which has shown the link between abortion and subsequent negative mental health outcomes.

I would suggest to the CFC that the research work of Priscilla Coleman would be a good place for them to start. Her study, which was recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, examined 22 separate projects which had analysed the experiences of a total of 877,000 women, of whom 163,831 had had an abortion, and it found that: “women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10 per cent of the incidence of mental health problems were shown to be directly attributable to abortion.

If the CFC actually took the time to listen to the real stories of the real women who have suffered because of abortion, rather than just parroting back the hollow denials of pro-abortion pressure groups such as the Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ (ALRANZ), then they might not only discover just how wrong they have been about these matters, but also just how damaging and harmful to women suffering post-abortive pain their strident denials of abortion related suffering actually are.

I think the best way to end this response to the CFC’S attempted rebuttal of the Right to Know flyer would be to quote from the book Giving Sorrow Words by Australian feminist author Melinda Tankard Reist…

“Attitudes towards women overwhelmed by grief following abortion demonstrate a cruel indifference to woman’s pain. Their suffering is considered a figment of their imagination; the guilt and remorse a byproduct of social/religious conditioning. In short, they are an embarrassment.

There is another constraint on their expression of grief. The politics surrounding abortion has drowned out the voices of woman harmed by it… Their experience is trivialised.

A woman’s abortion pain is discounted and minimised due to the prevailing view that termination is really no big deal, ‘just a curette’, an easy fix. Abortion is promoted by many who dominate discourse on the subject as a procedure without repercussions. Because of this, attempts to discuss women’s abortion suffering have been constrained.

Suffering post-aborted woman feel resentment towards a society which ignores or neglects their suffering. They are not allowed to acknowledge or mourn the loss openly. The disdain for woman suffering after abortion trauma sends the message: you’re only upset because you’ve chosen to get upset.

These woman might have been told ‘there is nothing there’, or that their foetuses look like ‘scraps of paper’ (the description given to one woman by a Queensland abortion counsellor). But for them, these were flesh and blood babies; for them, a baby died in an abortion…

As Margaret Nicholl points out in her important work on maternal grief, it is a myth that a mother only bonds with her child after birth. A woman never forgets a pregnancy and the baby that might have been.”


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