Is it true that the embryo comes from only a part of the cell after the ovum in fertilized? M.P. Toronto

What happens is that soon after fertilization the first cell—the zygote—undergoes a rapid series of cell divisions, and within a few days the cells separate into two groups. One group, the smaller inner portions of the cells, gives rise to the embryo. The larger and outer group of cells develops into membranes that surround the embryo to protect and nourish it. It is, for example, this larger group of cells that develops into the placenta and the umbilical cord.

What proportion of abortions are done for rape, incest and serious fetal problems? How many to save the mother’s life? M.J. Hamilton.

It is estimated that under two percent of abortions are for rape, incest and fetal handicaps combined. Today, abortions to save the mother’s life number zero. Over 98 per cent of pro-born children are killed for socio-economic reasons.

Do we know the links between infertility and the workplace? A.M. Vancouver

This was a discussed by the Royal commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Early reports acknowledged that there is a lack of good factual information as to whether exposure to certain chemicals etc., causes infertility, birth defects and early miscarriage, and if so these are caused. It was agreed that there was much speculation, but little direct evidence, and the question was asked “Why no evidence?”

One answer is “the sheer magnitude of the problem.” It is estimated that there are between 50 000 to 100 000 chemicals in today’s workplaces. Defining the problem is another difficulty. Such data as are available are collecting on the assumption that “X” and “Y” are the villains, when for all we know “A” and “F” are the dangers. As Dr. Baird, for Commission’s Chairman, pointed out; “We don’t have the answers because we don’t know the questions.”

The discussion made it clear that certain aspects of infertility – and possible birth defects – are getting little attention. The focus of the effects of the workplace is on women, and the potential danger to the male reproductive system is overlooked. Thus there is virtually no information on the effects of the sperm. In the woman the tendency is to focus on the effects on the fetus, not how the workplace is affecting her whole reproductive system.

One major criticism is that the usual response to a hazard – e.g. to fertility or birth defects—is to removed the person, not in danger. Thus a pregnant woman is removed from a particular job, but others (both men and women) are left exposed to hazards of unknown dimensions.

This discussion is only just the beginning of medical circles.

There are some statistics for the number of babies aborted. Are there any for Canadian women who have had abortions? L.M. Winnipeg

Any numbers will be, at best, guess-estimates. In a study of the abortion records from all Ontario hospitals in the early 1980s we found that many hospital records were incomplete, and though the number – if any – of previous abortions as required, the information was missing. We also found that the data provided, in some age groups, about 20 per cent of mothers were have their second, third even up to ninth abortions.

However, the article by Dr. Philip G. Ney in Child Psychology and Human Development quoted some estimates that shocked me. The studies he quoted were from the late 1970s to early 1980s, and today as the numbers are likely to be worse. “A reasonable estimate” was that 50 per cent of North American women would have had an abortion. Dr. Ney made specific mention of the Canadian National Population Survey in The Report of the Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law—the Badgley Report. He wrote: “The Canadian National Population Survey, done four years after the abortion law was liberalized, found 46.3 per cent of women 30 to 49 years had had an abortion.”

Dr. Ney’s concern was with the potential severity and magnitude of the problem of psychological damage to “abortion survivors”—that is the people who discover that one or more of their siblings were deliberately aborted by their mothers. Survivor syndrome is well documented today; ‘abortion-survivor’ syndrome joins post-abortion syndrome in the fall-out after abortion.