Can You Trust Abortion Industry ‘Science’?
By Catherine Glenn Foster
Originally published in The Federalist on June 14, 2017.
Lobbyists and in-house mouthpieces masquerading as unbiased analysts often try to infiltrate political discourse. The practice is so common that it’s a TV trope—fans of “Mad Men” watched the quintessential example in the show’s verbal sparring over the purported health benefits of smoking.
In the real world, this behavior can be devastating. As U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote in United States v. Philip Morris USA, “In short, [the companies] have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.”
The same could be said of the abortion industry, which hides year after year behind reports generated by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion advocacy organization created to be Planned Parenthood’s research arm. Unsurprisingly, the Guttmacher Institute consistently releases data they say shows that their allies and funders have done no harm.
Founded in 1968 “within the corporate structure of Planned Parenthood Federation of America,” the Guttmacher Institute was championed by Dr. Alan F. Guttmacher, an associate of Margaret Sanger, after the two had worked together in the American Eugenics Society. As NPR notes: “Eugenics, a dark offshoot of the science of genetics, was an early 20th century movement that sought to prevent social ills by seeing that those who caused them were never born.”
“Never born.” That is a crucial component of so much of the work of both Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute. It’s so much so that, as numerous studies come to light from around the world documenting the many dangers, risks, and harms of abortion, the Guttmacher Institute can see no evil in how women are affected.
Science Versus the Guttmacher Institute
For example, Guttmacher recently released a report claiming that science doesn’t support legislation regulating the abortion industry. In response, Americans United for Life’s legal team prepared a “Fact v. Fiction” analysis, evaluating Guttmacher’s claims. Here are a few examples of how the scientific facts compare to Guttmacher’s fiction.
Guttmacher Fiction: Ambulatory surgical center requirements for abortion clinics and admitting privileges requirements for individual abortion providers are not necessary because abortion is “safe.”
Fact: Abortion carries inherent medical risks, and U.S. abortion clinics have a deplorable track record of substandard conditions and practices.
After Karnamaya Mongar died in the “house of horrors” abortion clinic run by convicted murderer Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the grand jury report released findings of filthy conditions, unlicensed personnel, and deaths of women and babies born alive. In Mongar’s case, after several hours in the clinic her life hung in the balance.
When paramedics were finally called, they faced obstacles in getting her to the hospital: “(B)ecause of the cluttered hallways and the padlocked emergency door, it took them over twenty minutes just to find a way to get her out of the building.” In failing to follow laws regulating health facilities, Gosnell’s clinic endangered women and the abortion procedure itself.
It is undisputed that the potential immediate medical complications from abortion include blood clots, hemorrhage, incomplete abortions, infection, and injury to the cervix and other organs. Other complications from abortion include cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, renal failure, metabolic disorder, shock, and missed ectopic pregnancy. One recent study concluded that immediate medical complications affect approximately 10 percent of women undergoing abortions, and approximately one-fifth of these complications are life threatening.
While Guttmacher points to a study finding that less than 0.3 percent of women require hospitalization for abortion-related complications, under that conservative estimate, 3,180 women were hospitalized following abortions in 2011 (using Guttmacher’s latest abortion surveillance data). Moreover, the abortion industry routinely claims that 2.5 percent of women who have a first-trimester abortion will “undergo minor complications.” Taking this conservative estimate at face value and using the latest abortion statistics from Guttmacher (again for 2011), this means that 26,500 women experienced abortion-related complications in 2011 alone.
Further, data keepers have meticulously documented longstanding and pervasive problems with substandard and often dangerous abortion providers. Most recently, following an examination of confirmed reports of dangerous abortion clinic conditions over the last eight years, Americans United for Life released a groundbreaking investigative report in December 2016: “Unsafe: How the Public Health Crisis in America’s Abortion Clinics Endangers Women.” The report details horrific abortion clinic conditions, documents that at least 227 abortion providers in 32 states were cited for more than 1,400 health and safety deficiencies between 2008 and 2016, and discusses hundreds of significant violations of state laws regulating abortion providers.
Sure, Induce an Abortion at Home with Dangerous Drugs
Guttmacher Fiction: “Telemedicine” abortions are safe.
Fact: “Telemedicine” abortions put women at even greater risk of injury.
After working for Planned Parenthood for 17 years, Sue Thayer understands both how the abortion industry uses chemical abortion drugs and their risks. Testifying before a U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing, she spoke of how Planned Parenthood’s business model shift toward pushing life-ending drugs made her rethink her support of her employer. She said: “Planned Parenthood cut costs to the bone by performing abortions on a shoestring budget with little medical involvement. But none of this was focused on the woman’s health or her best interests. When I raised concerns about this, I was forced out.”
In a “telemedicine” abortion, an abortion provider consults with a woman via webcam then remotely dispenses the dangerous abortion-inducing drug known as RU-486. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the drug manufacturer have acknowledged that RU-486 poses serious health risks for women, including the risk of death. In fact, the drug label for Mifeprex (the first drug in the two-drug regimen) acknowledges that “[n]early all of the women who receive Mifeprex and misoprostol [the RU-486 regimen] will report adverse reactions, and many can be expected to report more than one such reaction.”
In fact, the same study Guttmacher cited, as evidence for why ambulatory surgical center requirements and admitting privilege mandates are not necessary, found that the complication rate for RU-486 (or chemical) abortions was nearly four times as high as that for surgical abortions, with approximately 5.2 percent of women experiencing a complication requiring medical attention within six weeks of their abortions.
Abortion Hurts Many Women Long-Term
Guttmacher Fiction: Abortion does not increase women’s risk of mental health problems.
Fact: Decades of medical evidence has revealed that abortion carries significant psychological risks, including increased risks of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
A growing number of medical studies demonstrate a high correlation between abortion and an increased risk of mental health problems. More than 110 studies establish a connection between abortion and subsequent mental health problems. A study team headed by Dr. John M. Thorp found that women whose first pregnancies ended in abortion were 65 percent more likely to score in the “high risk” range for clinical depression than women whose first pregnancies resulted in a birth. Importantly, studies have found that up to 10 percent of mental health problems women suffer are directly attributable to abortion.
Medical studies also reveal an increased risk of suicidal ideation and suicide following induced abortion. One of the leading studies, led by a pro-abortion researcher and controlling for all relevant factors (including prior history of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation), found that 27 percent of women who aborted reported experiencing suicidal ideation, with as many as 50 percent of minors experiencing suicide or suicidal ideation. The risk of suicide was three times greater for women who aborted than for women who delivered. The study also found that 42 percent of women who aborted reported major depression by age 25, and 39 percent of post-abortive women suffered from anxiety disorders by age 25.
Push Studies Aren’t Science
We shouldn’t be surprised that an abortion industry advocate like the Guttmacher Institute would ignore the true science behind the dangers women face from abortion. After all, they are paid to produce research that allows their allies to keep profits high and medical standards low.
But those who promote abortion face a different legal environment since the Supreme Court said in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt that health and safety standards for abortion clinics could be found constitutional with proof of the need. AUL’s legal team has answered that challenge, equipping legislators with facts about the health risks of abortion and evidence of dangerous conditions in abortion clinics. The science and evidence is on the side of life.
When considering the science and sociological data associated with abortion, it’s important to look beyond the findings of those who make a living on behalf of a point of view. As Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, said of tobacco industry spin doctoring in defiance of scientific evidence: “These are people who make their living producing results that their clients want. And that’s not science.”