A new study has affirmed yet again that abortions in the United States are extremely safe, with major complications happening in less than one quarter of one percent of the cases studied. Researchers at UC San Francisco, who tracked 54,911 abortions between 2009 and 2010, concluded that the procedure is as safe as a colonoscopy. Nearly all of the procedures were performed in a doctor's office or an outpatient clinic, not a hospital. None of this, naturally, will matter to the politicians and anti-abortion special interest groups who continue to insist that abortion is incredibly dangerous, needs to be performed in a hospital setting, and probably shouldn't be performed at all.
The study, published Monday in Obstetrics and Gynecology, looked at California women who obtained abortions between 2009 and 2010 through Medi-cal, the healthcare program for low-income people in the state. The researchers checked specifically for any complications that occurred within six weeks after the women underwent an abortion and found just 126 cases — 0.2 percent — with what they defined as "major complications." According to Medical Xpress, they classified that to mean any situation "that required hospital admission, surgery or a blood transfusion."
Although this is a broader and more comprehensive study than previous ones, this information isn't new. The World Health Organization found in 2008 that abortions in the United States were exceedingly safe, writing, "the death rate from induced abortion is 0.6 per 100 000 procedures, making it as safe as an injection of penicillin." They found, however, that the risk of death is "several hundred times higher" in developing countries, because of the dangers of self-induced abortion or abortions obtained in non-sterile conditions, sometimes performed by people with no medical training. The WHO found that in some countries where abortion access is limited, women resorted to inserting a "root, twig or catheter" into the uterus, or going to a traditional practitioner, who, in the WHO's words, "vigorously pummel the woman's lower abdomen to disrupt the pregnancy which can cause the uterus to rupture, killing the woman."
By contrast, in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control found that out of an estimated 730,322 abortions performed in the United States, ten women died of complications. Ten. A 2012 study found abortion is also "markedly safer than childbirth," which kills 8.8 women per 100,000 live births. Legal abortions, in other words, are 14 times safer.
Compare that to the vague junk statistics that anti-abortion organizations like Americans United for Life are peddling; they recently, for example, submitted testimony to lawmakers in Virginia claiming that "substandard care and dangerous conditions" are an "increasing problem in Virginia and across the nation." That is an absolutely bullshit claim, but, as a recent investigation from RH Reality Check showed, that's how anti-abortion outlets operate, by submitting false and misleading testimony at the state level, which makes its way into anti-abortion laws at both the state and federal levels.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood's Federation of America, released a statement on the new safety study, calling yet again for U.S. lawmakers to consider actual science in drafting abortion-related legislation.
"Yet another study affirms abortion in America today is safe," Richards is quoted as saying. "The science says abortion is safe, but time and time again elected officials are ignoring the facts and jamming through abortion restrictions under a false guise of 'safety' when they actually endanger women. We urge legislators to use the facts when making policy that affects women's lives."
Anti-abortion activists stage a die-in in Washington D.C. in January. Image via Getty