Abortion Debate Intensifies

Evidence Mounts About Negative Consequences

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By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, MARCH 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Abortion is at the center of political debates in both Spain and Italy, as the two countries are in the midst of campaigning for national elections. Concern over the issue is, however, not limited to these two countries.

On Jan. 28, Canada marked the 20th anniversary of abortion's decriminalization by the nation's Supreme Court. The case leading to abortion involved a clinic run by Henry Morgentaler, who since then has become one of the country's best-known abortion providers.

"The struggle gave meaning to my life," said Morgentaler in comments quoted in a Jan. 26 article published in the Canadian newspaper National Post. The article also mentioned that out of approximately half-a-million pregnancies a year there is currently one abortion for every three live births.

This isn't enough, however, for some activists. The article cited Sanda Rodgers, a University of Ottawa law professor, as declaring that too many barriers to abortion remain and that, "Canada still has shockingly far to go."

In a separate commentary published the same day by the National Post, Michael Coren drew attention to the fact that in the last two decades almost two million babies have been killed by abortion. He also commented that this has involved spending around $1 billion of public money, at a time when many medical procedures have been de-funded by the government.

Survival

Meanwhile, in Britain the matter of lowering the time limit for abortions continues to be discussed. Currently abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, although it is permitted beyond this in the case of babies with medical problems.

On Feb. 1 the Telegraph newspaper published from the University College London Hospital, showing that survival rates for premature babies have risen notably. One-third of babies born between 22 and 25 weeks' gestation survived in the early 1980s, but this rose to 71% by the late 1990s.

Then, on Feb. 4, the Daily Mail newspaper reported that a significant number of babies survive abortions. The article was based on statistics in an official report by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health.

In one year alone a total of 66 infants survived abortion procedures in National Health Service installations. They were able to breathe unaided, and about half were alive for an hour, the newspaper reported.

"The fact that babies are being aborted so late in pregnancy that they are capable of survival will make many support the notion that the upper time limit should be reduced," Julia Millington, of the Pro-Life Alliance, told the Daily Mail.

Cancer risk

Apart from causing the death of the unborn, abortion also damages women's health. The question of whether abortion increases the risk of breast cancer for women has long been disputed. A recent analysis from an independent observer indicates that there is a real risk.

Patrick Carroll, director of research at the UK's Pension and Population Research Institute, published an article on the issue in last November's issue of "The Actuary," the official publication of the actuarial profession in the United Kingdom.

Carroll first pointed out that the increase in the incidence of breast cancer is undeniable, averaging over 80% across all ages since the 1970s.

Most of the known risk factors, Carroll explained, are reproductive, pregnancy related or hormonal. "Induced abortion has a carcinogenic effect that is greater when the woman is nulliparous -- no previous full-term pregnancy -- by leaving the breast cells in a state of interrupted hormonal development where they are more susceptible to cancer," he said.

Just over half -- 53% -- of abortions in Britain involve nulliparous women, noted Carroll. As well, giving birth also brings with it an increased protection from breast cancer. He then looked at the evidence of the recent decades and concluded that the rates of abortion and fertility, "are the best predictors of breast cancer trends."

The media, however, tend to silence the evidence about dangers to women resulting from abortion, commented Dennis Byrne, writing in the opinion pages of the Chicago Tribune, Oct. 22.

Byrne observed that a recent study reporting the danger of breast cancer for women who drink more than the recommended amount was given ample publicity. "Coincidentally, a new study reported that abortion is an important breast cancer risk factor, yet I couldn't find a word describing the research in mainstream media," he added.

The study, he explained, was published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. Based on data from eight European countries, researchers found that the incidence of breast cancer increases with the incidence of earlier abortions.

Inquiry

Concern over abortion's consequences for women led Missouri Governor Matt Blunt to create a task force to investigate the matter, reported the Washington Times on Dec.19.

Georgette Forney, cofounder of Silent No More, a network for people who have suffered because of abortion, told the Washington Times, "The evidence for the devastation wrought by abortion is everywhere."

A view supported in a study carried out by doctors from Virginia Commonwealth University. After studying more than 45,000 births they concluded that a single miscarriage or abortion almost triples the risk of a subsequent baby being born premature or underweight, reported the Times newspaper of London on Dec. 18.

According to the study, published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, two miscarriages or abortions increased the risk about fivefold and three increased the risk ninefold.

The results hold true even after adjusting for other factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and heavy drinking, the Times reported.

Abortion's after-effects are also psychological. In England a young woman, Emma Beck, recently committed suicide, tormented by the guilt of aborting, the Daily Mail reported Feb. 22.

In September, 2006, she aborted the twins she was carrying. The suicide dates back to February 2007, but the facts of her situation only just became public, during an inquest held into her death. "Living is hell for me. I should never have had an abortion," she wrote in a note before taking her life.

The inquest was told that Beck's boyfriend "reacted badly" to the news of her pregnancy and did not support her. Beck's mother also told the inquiry that she felt her daughter did not receive more counseling from the hospital where the abortion was performed.

Fundamental right

Benedict XVI has spoken out a number of times against abortion. "The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself," he affirmed in his Sept. 7 address to the diplomatic corps in Vienna during his visit last year.

"This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -- it is the very opposite," the Pope warned.

Then, on Nov. 19, addressing the bishops of Kenya in Rome for their five-yearly visit, he referred to pressure by the "globalized secular culture" to promote abortion. "This direct destruction of an innocent human life can never be justified, however difficult the circumstances that may lead some to consider taking such a grave step," the Pontiff declared.

"When you preach the Gospel of Life, remind your people that the right to life of every innocent human being, born or unborn, is absolute and applies equally to all people with no exception whatsoever," the Pope told the Kenyan bishops. A Gospel that still needs to be preached to many people around the world.