Springfield, IL (Nov. 29, 2005) — Compared to women who have not been pregnant in the prior year, deaths from suicide, accidents and homicide are 248 percent higher in the year following an abortion, according to a new 13-year study of the entire population of women in Finland.
The study also found that majority of the extra deaths among women who had abortions were due to suicide. The suicide rate among women who had abortions was six times higher than that of women who had given birth in the prior year and double that of women who had miscarriages.
The epidemiological study, published in the European Journal of Public Health, was conducted by Finland’s National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health (STAKES). The researchers looked at data between 1987 and 2000 on all deaths among women of reproductive age (15 to 49).
While the risk of death from suicide, accidents, and homicide was highest among women who had abortions within the prior year, the risk of death was lowest among women who gave birth within the prior year, who had less than half the death rate of women who had not been pregnant. The risk of death following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, however, did not significantly differ from the risk of death among non-pregnant women.
The new study confirms findings from previous record-based studies carried out in Finland and the United States that have found elevated risks of death among women who have abortions. A 1997 government-funded study in Finland found that aborting women were 3.5 times more likely to die within the next year compared to women who gave birth.
In addition, researchers examining death records linked to medical payments for birth and abortion for 173,000 California women found that aborting women were 62 percent more likely to die than delivering women over the eight year period examined. That study also found that the increase risk of death was most prominent from suicides and accidents, with a 154 percent higher risk of death from suicide and an 82 percent higher risk of death from accidental injuries.
The lead author of the California study, David Reardon, Ph.D., said that record-linkage studies are vital to getting an accurate picture of pregnancy-associated mortality rates. “In most cases, coroners simply have no way of knowing that the deceased recently had an abortion, which is why these new record linkage studies are so important,” he said.
Indeed, another recent study by government health officials in Finland found that 94 percent of maternal deaths associated with abortion could not be identified by looking at death certificates alone. This finding applies to the data published by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States.
Previous studies have also linked abortion to higher rates of substance abuse, anxiety, sleep disorders, suicidal thoughts, psychiatric illness, relationship problems, and risk-taking behavior, any of which may increase a women’s risk of death by suicide or accident. The authors of the new Finland study also speculated that there might be common risk factors between having an induced abortion and dying from an accidental injury, and called on medical professional to be aware of these risks.
“Women seeking abortions should be informed that abortion is associated with significant physical and mental health risks, and it also deprives them of numerous physical and mental health benefits associated with childbirth.” Reardon said. “It is especially important for health care providers to be aware of these risks and the risk factors which identify those women who are at highest risk. Providing women with the resources to help them resolve emotional issues relating to past abortions will not only increase their well-being but may possibly save their lives.”
M. Gissler et. al., “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000,” European J. Public Health 15(5):459-63 (2005).
M Gissler et. al., “Pregnancy Associated Deaths in Finland 1987-1994 — definition problems and benefits of record linkage,” Acta Obsetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 76:651-657 (1997).
DC Reardon et. al., “Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women,” Southern Medical Journal 95(8):834-41 (2002).
M. Gissler, et. al., “Methods for identifying pregnancy-associated deaths: population-based data from Finland 19872000,” Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 18(6): 448-55 (2004).