Warnings About Abortion and Premature Birth Still Ignored After 40 Years


Brent Rooney, M.Sc.

In 1967, long-time, high-profile abortion advocate Dr. Malcolm Potts wrote:

… there seems little doubt that there is a true relationship between the high incidence of therapeutic abortion and prematurity. The interruption of pregnancy in the young (under seventeen) is more dangerous than in other cases … [1]

In what medical publication did Potts’ quote appear? Answer: a journal that pushed eugenics, namely, Eugenics Review.

Hungarian flagForty years ago, Hungarian-born Dr. Leslie Iffy warned U.S. medical professionals in a medical journal that the “preemie” disaster that Hungary had suffered through presaged a preemie debacle in the U.S. Here is a key paragraph from Iffy’s letter to the editor, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in January 1975:

A recent article in the MAGYAR HIREK, a journal sponsored by the government, contained detailed explanations for the new legislation [restricting abortion]. The columnist referred extensively to the research of Professor Jeno Sarkany, who had presented evidence considered conclusive by the government, that artificially induced abortions predisposed to premature births in subsequent pregnancies. His study of perinatal and infant morbidity statistics revealed a striking increase in physically and/or mentally handicapped babies among those born to mothers who had had a therapeutic abortion previously. Apparently, this unforeseen social burden outweighed the benefits on economic pressures of free abortion, and the government, while emphasizing the unchanged importance of population control, felt compelled to repeal its abortion laws. [2]

Prematurely born babies have a raised risk of mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy disorders, plus higher odds of blindness, deafness, respiratory distress, “gut” injuries, and serious infections.

Premature birth is a major health concern in Canada and the U.S. There are over 60 risk factors for prematurity, but this article will focus on one important risk factor that is avoidable.

Not Turning a Blind Eye to History

In the 1960s and early 1970s Hungary was known to have the highest premature birth rate in Europe, with many of Hungary’s preemies suffering serious medical problems. The Hungarian government commissioned Professor Jeno Sarkany to investigate the reason or reasons for this preemie epidemic.

In December 1973, in a government-controlled publication, Magyar Hirek (Hungarian News) the results of Sarkany’s extensive study were spelled out for the public. Here is a key excerpt from that article:

The result of the professor’s research: mothers who underwent induced abortions between giving births had far fewer healthy babies. Only half of the mothers who had an induced abortion between childbirths gave birth to healthy babies. Many women [had an] induced abortion before their 25th birthday although it was known for a long time that the procedure was not without danger …*

Before this December 1973 report a majority of Hungarian women’s pregnancies were ended via induced abortions.

NOT Water Under the Bridge

After reading about the Hungarian disaster some may be inclined to think, “Whatever the induced abortion problems in Hungary were in the 1970s, they have been fixed, and surely, induced abortion poses no preemie risk in the 21st century in advanced countries.”

But in 2013, three McGill University doctors, led by Dr. Ghislain Hardy, reminded readers that premature delivery is a risk factor for cerebral palsy. [3] Their study reported that Canadian women with prior induced abortions (IAs) multiply the risk of very preterm birth (between 28 and 32 weeks’ gestation) by 1.45 (ie. a 45 percent higher risk). Such very small babies have 55 times the CP risk as full-term babies. The study results were statistically significant. Thus, the abortion-preemie debacle continues into the 21st century.

Settled Science

In 2009, via two “study of studies” papers (systematic reviews), it became settled science that prior induced abortions significantly elevate the risk of having a premature birth in the future. [4, 5] One of the authors, Dr. Prakesh Shah of the University of Toronto, had his study published in the prestigious British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. Dr. Shah reported that one prior IA multiplies premature birth risk by 1.36, but more than one prior IA almost doubles the risk (1.93 times the risk).**

These two reviews confirm the 2007 finding by the U.S. Institute of Medicine that one of fourteen “Immutable Medical Risk Factors Associated with Preterm Birth” is “prior first trimester induced abortion.” [6]

The $64 million question is why no one born prematurely and with a serious handicap in Canada or the U.S. has sued an abortion doctor for putting him/her at increased risk of a premature birth. It is a rare abortion consent form that warns about raised risk of a future premature delivery.


Brent Rooney, M.Sc., is the director of the Vancouver-based Reduce Preterm Risk Coalition and publishes the Justice for Kids NOW bulletin.

Learn More:
Induced Abortion and Risk of Later Preterm Births
Informed Consent for Abortion (see p. 3)
Video Exposes Link Between Abortion and Preterm Birth
New Study Links Multiple Abortions, Preterm Birth
New Review Links Abortion to to Higher Risk of Preterm Birth
During Prematurity Awareness Month, Women Not Told of Abortion Link
Why Prior Abortions Raise Autism Risk
Abortion Linked to Preterm Birth, But Why Aren’t Women Being Told?


1. Potts M. Legal abortion in Eastern Europe. Eugenics Review 1967;59:232-250

2. Iffy L. Abortion Laws in Hungary. Obstetrics Gynecology Jan. 1975;45(1):116-117

3. Ghislain Hardy, Alice Benjamin, Haim A. Abenhaim. Effects of Induced Abortions on Early Preterm Births and Adverse Perinatal Outcomes. Journal Obstetrics Gynaecology Canada 2013;35(2):138-143.

4. Shah PS, Zao J. Induced termination of pregnancy and low birthweight and preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG 2009;116:1425-1442.

5. Swingle HM, Colaizy TT, Zimmerman MB, et al. Abortion and the risk of subsequent preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Reproductive Med 2009;54:95-108.

6. Behrman RS, Butler AS, Alexandar GR. Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2007) 625.

*Here is an excerpt from Judit Kovacs’ article in Magyar Hirek, entitled “Some Ideas on Our Demography: A Program for Healthier Children:”

“Only our family can fulfill our lives and only our off-spring  can make it complete” said Dr. Professor Jenö Sárkány in one of his lectures. While medical researchers try to prevent premature births and damage to the unborn baby too often physicians are asked to treat underweight and underdeveloped newborns.

During the past 15 years numerous studies were carried out and extensive statistical data and family history were collected to find out the reason for the much lower number of healthy babies who were carried to full term and were born healthy with a good chance for normal development. …  Babies who were born to mothers older than 25 and who already had one or two children often weighed less than 2500 grams (and sometimes much less than that) and were physically and mentally underdeveloped. “

The result of the professor’s research: mothers who underwent induced abortions between giving births had far fewer healthy babies. Only half of the mothers who had an induced abortion between childbirths gave births to healthy babies. Many women [had] an induced abortion before their 25th birthday although it was known for a long time that  the procedure was not without danger. Complications like sterility, chronic sickness caused by induced abortion have been known for a long time.

Other research collaborated Dr. Sárkány’s findings. Hereditary illnesses, the mother’s behaviour – smoking, drinking alcohol – and mental illnesses can also cause premature babies. But these did not disprove Dr. Sárkány’s research results. Restricting the availability of abortions can protect mothers and their new babies’ health.

Proper prenatal care is, of course, also very important. The new legislation addresses these two tasks. (Translation of Népesedéspolitikánk néhány kérdése: A Különb Utódokért Magyar Hirek 26; 10, 1973. Translated by Dr. Elizabeth Demeter, 2005)


A note from the author:

There are three systematic reviews & meta-analysis (SRMAs) confirming the abortion-preemie risk. The third came in June 2015, joining “Shah” and “Swingle:”

Ankum WM, Lemmers M, Vershoor MAC, Hooker AB, Opmeer BC. Does dilation and curettage (D & C) increase the risk of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies? A systematic review and meta-analysis.

And how many SRMAs find the reverse: a lower risk of preterm birth for women with prior induced abortions? That number = zero.

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