Book on health effects of abortion an excellent resource

Women’s Health after Abortion. The Medical and Psychological Evidence
By Elizabeth Ring-Cassisdy and Ian Gentles (The de Veber Institute, $24.95, 333 pages)

I was working for a pro-life group in Los Angeles when I first heard about Women’s Health after Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Evidence by Elizabeth Ring-Cassisdy and Ian Gentles. My boss exclaimed joyfully “We have to get this book!” Whenever my normally staid boss exclaimed anything I took notice. The book seemed a Godsend. Pro-lifers know that information about the negative health effects of abortion is “out there” somewhere, but it is often difficult to lay one’s hands on an article about the particular subject one is looking for at any given time. A comprehensive collection of available information would make preparing for presentations, and research for essays (and Interim stories) so much easier.

I was surprised (and proud) to find that this book was written by Canadians, as it was living in the United States that helped me to understand what a moral swamp Canada has become. It was refreshing and reassuring to hear there were still a few honest voices in my homeland, and better yet, they were loud voices. Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy is a psychometrist in Alberta, while Ian Gentles is Professor of History at York University’s Glendon College and research director of the deVeber Institue for Bioethics.

I did have some reservations about the tome before reading it. After all, things always sound good when the person trying to sell them is doing the describing. Unfortunately, there are pro-life books out there that are poorly researched, or more often simply so poorly laid out as to be almost useless. I was ecstatic to find that this was not the case with Women’s Health after Abortion. The book is exceptionally well organized, with the first 10 chapters dealing with physical and medical after-effects of abortion and chapters 11 to 16 dealing with psychological consequences. Chapters 17 and 18 address professional issues with abortion and researching it. The authors maintained the scientific integrity of the content, while making the information accessible to the layman by providing an extensive glossary and explanations of the journals and organizations whose research is cited, as well as summing up the most important information in point form at the end of each chapter.

The book covers all the health problems that afflict post-abortive women, from reproductive cancers to suicidal depressive states, and does so in an orderly, easy to understand fashion. Ring-Cassidy and Gentles describe their goals for the book as follows “to inform women who may be contemplating an abortion and the medical professionals who care for them [and] to encourage the North-American medical research establishment to re-examine their existing assumptions about the effects of abortion on women’s health.” One hopes they succeed in both those endeavours, but it is certain that they have produced an excellent reference for someone who answers questions every day about these issues, and must give accurate and responsible answers to activists and the general public.

Chapters on “Subsequent Pregnancies” and “Future Fertility” are particularly pertinent as Parliament debates Bill C-13, which deals with, in part, in vitro fertilization (IVF). Recent articles in the Toronto Star nearly canonizing couples seeking medical intervention to help them conceive underline the reproductive problems Canadians are currently suffering, partly due to the large number of abortions to which Canadian women have subjected themselves (and, of course, their children). “Lax coding systems in hospitals and lack of follow up by abortion clinics have delayed our recognition of the magnitude of the link between induced abortion and hysterectomy, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and premature birth of a non-surviving baby,” the authors report. The book clearly lays out the reasons abortions cause the aforementioned problems, and their vastly higher rates in post-abortive women. One can hope that the information will become available to and will resonate with women now desperate to have children, and women who hope to have children in the future.

Suicide in post-abortive women is covered in Chapter 14. Studies have been done all over the world comparing rates of suicide of women who have abortions, as compared to women who give birth. The numbers for the U.S. are given in an easy to read table form, revealing that the suicide rate for all women in the States is 5.2 per 100,000 women of childbearing age. This goes up to 7.8 in post-abortive women, while the rate for new mothers drops to 3.0. As an explanation for this the authors excerpt from David Reardon’s important essay The Abortion/Suicide Connection: “Perhaps one reason for the strong abortion/suicide link exists in the fact that in many ways abortion is like suicide. Just as a suicidal person is crying out for help when she tells others she wishes she were dead, so a woman who is distressed over a pregnancy is crying out for help when she tell other she is considering abortion.”

Chapter 16 “Abortion: Its Effect on Men” is especially interesting. The authors themselves indicate that this is not a well-researched topic. It is certainly neglected for the more immediate problems women suffer. But in my experience talking to university students, most of them pro-abortion, I know men do indeed suffer when their children are killed, even if they don’t express it as such. I have had not one but two men tell me they turned to the homosexual lifestyle after their children were aborted, so that no one could ever “do that” to them again. I have met many men who remember either their child’s due date or the anniversary of their child’s extermination for decades after the fact. And yet few articles or books, even those by pro-lifers, ever address this issue.

The authors sum up what little research there is on this topic and even extend their discussion to the legal disenfranchisement men experience when it comes to abortion, making for an interesting argument against those who claim abortion is a “women’s issue.”

The authors maintain a dispassionate and professional voice throughout the volume, allowing the facts to speak for themselves. They also make the point that as serious and substantial the evidence they have gathered is, it is still only accounts for a portion of the ill-effects women suffer, due to research and recording problems that don’t always identify a woman as having had an abortion. Women’s Health after Abortion is an important addition to women’s health literature, because, as the authors point out in the introduction “the increased risks associated with induced abortion are serious enough to merit dissemination beyond the pages of professional journals.” After all, most women don’t have easy access to medical journals, and if they did, do not have the training to sift out the pertinent information, information they desperately need, for, again in the authors’ words, “If there is a right to choose, there is also a right to know. Without accurate, up-to-date knowledge, how can informed consent be given in any meaningful sense?” We know, of course, that it can’t. We can only hope that women in crisis pregnancies are given the opportunity to read this book before they make any decisions, and we have to be prepared to give them that chance.