Fact #11: Abortion is more dangerous than childbirth.

Home » Facts » Fact #11: Abortion is more dangerous than childbirth.

Not only does every abortion kill an innocent human being in the womb; but abortion is also more dangerous to the mother than if she were to give birth to the child. The evidence overwhelmingly proves that the morbidity and mortality rates of legal abortion are several times higher than that for carrying a pregnancy to term.

Abortion is not safer than full-term pregnancy and childbirth. Less than one in ten thousand pregnancies results in the mother’s death. [1]
Government statistics indicate that the chances of death by abortion are even less. But while deaths from childbirth are accurately reported, many deaths by legal abortion are not. This completely skews the statistics. Furthermore, “abortion actually increases the chance of maternal death in later pregnancies.” [2]
This means that some maternal deaths in full-term pregnancies are actually caused by earlier abortions, which creates a double inaccuracy.

But even if abortion did result in fewer maternal deaths, that wouldn’t make it safer. The nonfatal but significant complications of abortion are much more frequent and serious than those of full-term pregnancy. One researcher states: [3]

The evidence overwhelmingly proves that the morbidity and mortality rates of legal abortion are several times higher than that for carrying a pregnancy to term.

Not Just About BabiesA year 2000 government-funded study in Finland revealed that women who abort are four times more likely to die in the year following the abortion than women who carry their pregnancies to term. Women who carry to term are only half as likely to die as women who are not pregnant.

Researchers from the statistical analysis unit of Finland’s National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health examined death certificate records for all women of reproductive age (fifteen to forty-nine) who died between 1987 and 1994, a total of 9,029 women. Then they examined the national health care database to identify pregnancy-related events for the women in the twelve months prior to their deaths.

The researchers found that, compared to women who carried to term, women who had aborted in the year prior to their deaths were 60 percent more likely to die from natural causes, seven times more likely to die from suicide, four times more likely to die of injuries related to accidents and fourteen times more likely to die from homicide. Researchers believe that the higher rate of deaths related to accidents and homicide may be linked to higher rates of suicidal or risk-taking behavior. [4]

Though the chances of a woman’s safe abortion are now greater, the number of suffering women is also greater because of the huge increase in abortions.

No one doubts that legal abortion is marginally safer than illegal abortion, but neither is there any doubt that decriminalization has encouraged more women to undergo abortions than ever before. Risk goes down, but numbers go up…. This combination means that though the odds of any particular woman suffering ill effects from an abortion have dropped, the total number of women who suffer…from abortion is far greater than ever before. [5]

Even if abortion were safer for the mother than childbirth, it would still remain fatal for the innocent child.

Having a baby is a low-risk undertaking, but suppose the risk were much higher. When an innocent life is at stake, isn’t there a moral obligation to take risk? Childbirth is much safer than trying to rescue a drowning child in the ocean or trying to rescue a woman who is being beaten or raped. An adult swimming to shore from a capsized boat has a much greater chance of survival if he doesn’t try to save a child. But does that mean he shouldn’t?

Abortion can produce many serious medical problems.

Ectopic pregnancies occur when gestation takes place outside the uterus, commonly in a fallopian tube. Though usually not fatal, such pregnancies are nonetheless responsible for 12 percent of all pregnancy-related maternal deaths. [6]
Studies show that the risk of an ectopic pregnancy is twice as high for women who have had one abortion, and up to four times as high for women with two or more previous abortions. [7]
There has been a 300 percent increase of ectopic pregnancies since abortion was legalized. In 1970 the incidence was 4.8 per 1,000 births; by 1980 it had risen to 14.5 per 1,000 births. [8]

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is an infection that leads to fever and infertility. Researchers state: [9]

Pelvic infection is a common and serious complication of induced abortion and has been reported in up to 30% of all cases.

A study of women having first-trimester abortions demonstrated that “women with post-labor pelvic inflammatory disease had significantly higher rates of…spontaneous abortion, secondary infertility, dyspareunia, and chronic pelvic pain. [10]
Other infectious complications, as well as endometriosis, follow approximately 5 percent of abortion procedures. [11]

Internal bleeding is normal following abortions, but in some cases it is severe due to a perforated uterus. This can cause sterility and other serious and permanent problems. A perforated uterus was the cause of at least twenty-four deaths among U.S. women having abortions between 1972 and 1979. [12]

Tragically, some women are unable to conceive after having abortions. Tubai infertility has been found to be up to 30 percent more common among women who have had abortions. [14]
Having taken the life of a child they did not want, they will never be able to carry a child they do want.

The health of future children is also at risk, as both premature births and low birth weights are more common among women who have had abortions. [15]
Malformations, both major and minor, of later children are increased by abortion. [16]

The Elliot Institute has published data indicating that women who abort are twice as likely to have preterm or postterm deliveries. [18]
Placenta previa is a condition occurring when the placenta covers the cervix, preventing the baby from passing through the birth canal. It usually requires a caesarian section and can threaten the life of both mother and child. Placenta previa is seven to fifteen times more common among women who have had abortions than among those who have not. [19]

Calculations of abortion complication rates vary considerably, but even the lower estimates are significant: [20]

The reported immediate complication rate, alone, of abortion is no less than 10 percent. In addition, studies of long-range complications show rates no less than 17 percent and frequently report complication rates in the range of 25 to 40 percent.

After carefully studying the vast body of the world’s medical literature on the subject, Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers concluded: [21]

The medical hazards of legally induced abortion are very significant and should be conscientiously weighed.

The statistics on abortion complications and risks are often understated due to the inadequate means of gathering data.

It is not only abortion deaths that go unreported. Researchers warn that studies are likely to underestimate the risks and complications of abortion because of the reluctance of women to report prior abortions and the difficulty of following up women who may have been injured through abortions. [22]
A former director of several abortion climes told me: [23]

Most abortion complications are never made known to the public, because abortion has a built-in cover-up. Women want to deny it and forget it, not talk about it.

Furthermore, the accuracy of reported complications is largely dependent upon the willingness of abortion clinics to give out this information.405 An abortion clinic director told me of a young woman at her clinic whose uterus was perforated during her abortion. The abortionist proceeded to accidentally pull out her bowel with the abortion instrument. No ambulance was called, because the clinic didn’t want the bad publicity. The girl was driven to the hospital in a clinic worker’s car. The damage was permanent, and she had to have a colostomy. Yet this was not reported as an abortion-related incident. [24]

The true risks of abortion are rarely explained to women by those who perform abortions.

It is common to talk to women physically or psychologically damaged by abortions, who say, “I had no idea this could happen; no one told me about the risks.” Many people do not realize the privileged status of abortion climes: [25]

Abortion is the only surgery for which the surgeon is not obligated to inform the patient of the possible risks of the procedure, or even the exact nature of the procedure. Indeed, abortion providers are the only medical personnel who have a “constitutional right” to withhold information, even when directly questioned by the patient.

Not The Only Person DestroyedThe large body of evidence indicating significant abortion risks has been suppressed and ignored. This suppression is made possible by pro-choice advocates who zealously oppose any requirements for abortion climes to provide information. The “immunity to stating the facts” enjoyed by abortion clinics increases their profits, but only at the expense of women who are not allowed to make an informed choice.

The Court guarantees “freedom of choice” but denies the right to “informed choice.” Abortionists can legally withhold information, or even avoid their clients’ direct questions, in order to ensure that the patient will agree to an abortion which will be, they assume, “in her best interests.”

Why is there such widespread silence about the dangers of legal abortion? Wasn’t abortion legalized in order to improve health care for women rather than to encourage them to take unnecessary risks? [26]

Some abortion clinics may object that they voluntarily offer consent forms which patients must sign. Yet many patients testify that they did not read these forms, that the forms did not give specific information, or that they did not understand what they signed. The few who do ask questions are assured by clinic workers that any references to possible complications are just a formality, and there is nothing to worry about. Because of the nervous anxiety associated with an abortion, and the desire to get it over with, signing such a form is no different than not signing a form at all—except that it absolves the clinic of legal responsibility for the health problems the woman may suffer later.

The evidence indicates that the only way to avoid the risks of abortion is not to have one.

Not only does every abortion kill an innocent human being in the womb; but abortion is also more dangerous to the mother than if she were to give birth to the child. The evidence overwhelmingly proves that the morbidity and mortality rates of legal abortion are several times higher than that for carrying a pregnancy to term.


  1. American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine, ed. Charles B. Clayton (New York: Random House, 1989), 58.
  2. Reardon, Aborted Women, 113.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Abortion Nearly Four Times Deadlier Than Childbirth,” 16 June 2000, www.afterabortion.org^AR/V8/n2/Mand.html.
  5. Reardon, Aborted Women, 113-4.
  6. Family Planning Perspectives, March-April 1983,85-6.
  7. Ann Aschengrau Levin, “Ectopic Pregnancy and Prior Induced Abortion,” Amencan Journal of Public Health (March 1982): 253.
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 55 (April 1984).
  9. Allan Osser, M.D. and Kenneth Persson, M.D., “Postabortal Pelvic Infection Associated with Chlamydia Tracomatis and the Influence of Humoral Immunity,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (November 1984): 669-703.
  10. Lars Heisterberg, M.D., et al., “Sequelae of Induced First-Trimester Abortion,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology July 1986): 79
  11. Ronald T. Burkman, M.D., “Culture and Treatment Results in Endometritis Following Elective Abortion,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (July 1977): 556-9.
  12. David A. Grimes, “Fatal Hemorrhage from Legal Abortion in the United States,” Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics (November 1983): 461—6.
  13. Ann Anschengrau Levin, “Association of Induced Abortion with Subsequent Pregnancyloss,” Journal ofthe American Medical Association (June 1980): 2495-9; Carol Madore, “A Study on the Effects of Induced Abortion on Subsequent Pregnancy Outcome,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology(March 1981): 516-21; Shari linn, M.D., “The Relationship Between Induced Abortion and Outcome of Subsequent Pregnancies,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (May 1983): 136-40.
  14. Janet R. Daling, Ph.D., “Tubai Infertility in Relation to Prior Induced Abortion,” Fertility and Sterility (March 1985): 389-94.
  15. Madore, “Effects of Induced Abortion,” 516-21; Linn, “Outcome of Subsequent Pregnancies,” 136-40.
  16. Linn, “Outcome of Subsequent Pregnancies,”136-40.
  17. John A. Richardson and Geoffrey Dixon, “Effects of Legal Termination on Subsequent Pregnancy,” British Medical Journal (1976): 1303-4.
  18. The Elliot Institute, www.afterabortion.org.
  19. Jeffrey M. Barrett, M.D., “Induced Abortion: A Risk Factor for Placental Previa,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (December 1981): 769.
  20. Reardon, Aborted Women, 106.
  21. Thomas W. Hilgers and Dennis J. Horan, Abortion and Social Justice (Thaxton, Va.: SunIife,1980),58,77
  22. Stephen L. Corson, M.D., “Clinical Perspectives: Morbidity and Morality from Second-Trimester Abortions,” Journal of Reproductive Medicine 0uly 1985): 505-14.
  23. Everett, conversation with Randy Alcorn.
  24. Miller, “Tale of Two Abortions,” 2.
  25. Everett, conversation with Randy Alcorn.
  26. Reardon, Aborted Women, 254.
  27. Ibid., 106-7

John C. Willke M.D.

John Charles Willke was an American author, physician, and anti-abortion activist. He served as president of National Right to Life and, along with his wife Barbara, authored a number of books on abortion and human sexuality. Selected content reprinted with permission from John C. Willke M.D., Barbara H. Willke R.N., John Jefferson Davis Ph.D., David C. Reardon Ph.D., Abort73.com, Eternal Perspective Ministries, Abolish Human Abortion, Life Issues Institute, BlackGenocide.org, Heritage House '76, Inc. & The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. Please click here to donate to these organizations.