Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

Brent Rooney & Byron C. Calhoun, Induced Abortion and Risk of Later Premature Births

Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

Brent Rooney & Byron C. Calhoun, Induced Abortion and Risk of Later Premature Births

Article excerpt

J. AM. PHYSlCIANS AND SURGEONS, Summer 2003, at 46.

Informed consent for an elective surgical procedure must generally cover long-term consequences and not just immediate risk. A woman considering an induced abortion should thus expect to be informed of potential effects on her fertility and the health of future infants, as well as her own future health. An elevated risk of bearing a child with a serious disability such as cerebral palsy might influence her decision, as well as future liability determinations by courts.

Low birth weight and premature birth are the most important risk factors for infant mortality or later disabilities as well as for lower cognitive abilities and greater behavioral problems and thus contribute importantly to the liability exposure of obstetricians. At least forty-nine studies have demonstrated a statistically significant increase in premature births or low birth weight risk in women with prior induced abortions. This article focuses on the risk of early premature births (<32 weeks gestation) and extremely early premature births (<28 weeks gestation). Large studies have reported a doubling of early premature birth risk from two prior induced abortions. Women who had four or more induced abortions experienced, on average, nine times the risk of early premature births, an increase of 800%.

These results suggest that women contemplating induced abortion should be informed of this potential risk to subsequent pregnancies, and that physicians should be aware of the potential liability and possible need for intensified prenatal care. …

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