Abortion is safer than childbirth. Except for Chicago's Tonya Reaves

Ms. Reaves, 24, bled to death last week from a second trimester abortion (a description of the surgical procedure is here) that she had at a Planned Parenthood facility in Chicago. The death brought forth condemnations from pro-life groups and expressions of regret and sympathy from Planned Parenthood. And demands for answers from Ms. Reaves' family.

Good luck at getting them.

As a surgical procedure, abortion is in a class by itself when it comes to reporting complications. The abortion industry has gone so far as to sue to shield abortion providers from standard health and reporting regulations.  (The suit in Illinois was filed by a Rockford abortion clinic that said, among other things, that requiring abortion clinics to have doors and hallways wide enough to accommodate a paramedic's gurney was somehow an assault on a woman's right to choose.)

And when there are reporting requirements, that often are ignored. In Illinois, for example, the Chicago Tribune found these serious reporting flaws:

Health care providers are failing to detail abortion complications to the state as required by law, one of many gaps in a surveillance system viewed as crucial to protecting patients, a Tribune review has found.

The state's system for tracking abortions is so broken that regulators also may be missing more than 7,000 of the procedures per year.

This is thanks to the influence on lawmakers and bureaucrats  exerted by the abortion industry lobby that includes Planned Parenthood. Highly organized, the abortion industry has its own research arm , the Guttmacher Institute, which busily spits out data that supports the pro-choice pitch. Such assertions are accepted on their face by the media.

But a closer look belies such claims. Says the Elliot Institute:

Springfield, IL (January 25, 2012) — Hundreds of news articles appeared this week claiming, once again, that the best medical evidence shows that abortion is safer than childbirth.  The rash of articles were all tied to a blatant piece of propaganda published in Obstetrics and Gynecology by Dr. David Grimes, an abortion provider and chief propagandist for “medical proof” of abortion’s safety.

The new study repeats the same discredited practice of simply comparing nationally reported maternal mortality rates with Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported deaths associated with abortion.  Sounds reasonable, until you learn that there is no accurate or formal mechanism for reporting abortion-related deaths. Indeed, the rules regarding completion of death certificatesspecifically exclude identifying abortion as a cause of death.

At least in part, this is why CDC officials have admitted that maternal mortality rates and abortion mortality rates “are conceptually different and are used by the CDC for different public health purposes.”

In other words, the CDC numbers on abortion-related deaths cannot be meaningfully compared to maternal mortality rates.  CDC methods simply do not rely on a uniform method of collecting data on abortion related deaths.

In short, Grimes used a very incomplete record of abortion-associated deaths and compared it to a complete record of deaths associated with non-aborted pregnancies, and found that the death rate is lower. Therefore, he concludes, abortion is safer than childbirth.

As they say: junk in, junk out.

Back to Ms. Reaves' family's demand for answers. I could start with a few questions myself that state health authorities ought to address:

  • Dr. Caroline M. Hoke is listed as the facility's  medical director. Did she perform the abortion?
  • If not, was she present while someone else did the abortion? Who?
  • If she was not present, why not?
  • When was the actual surgery done and when did the hemorrhaging begin? Was it in the clinic or did Ms. Reaves return to the clinic after it started somewhere else?
  • How long was Ms. Reaves hemorrhaging before paramedics were called? Was she dead when they arrived?
  • What was the quality of the follow-up? (Second semester abortions can require several days of preparation.) He she reported earlier bleeding, pain or infection?

The importance of follow-up is evidenced by these possible problems related to induced abortions as elaborated by Beverly McMillan, M.D. an ob/gyn who stopped doing abortions because she saw first-hand the problems they caused:

The most common, immediate, and short-term complications include excessive bleeding, chronic and acute infections, intense pain, high fever, convulsions, shock, coma, incomplete removal of the baby or placenta (which can cause life-threatening infections and sterility), pelvic inflammatory disease, punctured or torn uteruses, and even death.

Abortion can also result in uterine scarring, a weakened cervix, blocked fallopian tubes, and other damage to reproductive organs that can make it difficult to conceive or carry a child to term in the future. This latent morbidity of abortion results in long-term and sometimes permanent damage.

Women who have had abortions also experience more ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, infertility, hysterectomies, stillbirths, miscarriages, and premature births (the leading cause of birth defects) than women who have not had abortions. Abortion has also been linked to increased risks of developing breast, cervical, and uterine cancer.(1)

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1. See Thomas Strahan’s Detrimental Effects of Abortion: An Annotated Bibliography with Commentary (Third Edition) An online version can be found at AbortionRisks.org  This resource includes brief summaries of major finding drawn from medical and psychology journal articles, books, and related materials, divided into major categories of relevant injuries.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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