The Possible Link between Surgical Abortion and Cerebral Palsy

Very low birth weight (VLBW) babies are at increased risk of cerebral palsy. Damage caused to the cervix during a surgical abortion can lead to subsequent pre-term births.

  • VLBW babies have 38 times the risk of cerebral palsy as normal weight babies.
  • At least 17 studies have found that previous abortions increase preterm birth risk.
  • A second risk factor for prematurity is infection.
  • "If a previous pregnancy ended in induced abortion, the risk of intra-amniotic infection increased by 140%." (Daling)
  • The incidence of cerebral palsy is increasing in developed countries.
Cerebral palsy is a brain injury that results in improper balance, posture and movement. Preterm (premature) birth and 'incompetent cervix', where the cervix becomes dilated before term, are considered to be factors for cerebral palsy.

There are at least seventeen studies that have found that previous induced abortions increase preterm birth risk. One of these studies reported on 61,000 Danish women and is one of the largest studies ever linking "terminations" to later prematurity.1 (See also: Abortion and Later Prematurity)

Obstetric expert Barbara Luke (PhD), has identified one mechanism that explains abortion causing prematurity risk.

"The procedures for first-trimester abortion involve dilating the cervix slightly and suctioning the contents of the uterus. The procedures for second-trimester abortion are more involved, including dilating the cervix wider and for longer periods, and scraping the inside of the uterus. Women who had had several second-trimester abortions may have a higher incidence of incompetent cervix, a premature spontaneous dilation of the cervix, because the cervix has been artificially dilated several times before this pregnancy." 2

The second biological risk that helps to explain higher prematurity is infection risk. "Our findings indicate that an abortion in a woman's first pregnancy does not have the same protective effect of lowering the risk for intrapartum infection in the following pregnancy as does a live birth." So wrote researchers from the University of Washington in the journal Epidemiology in 1996.3

Quite apart from being the leading cause of death from induced abortion, infection is a risk factor for premature birth.

Dr Janet Daling and her colleagues reported in 1992 that if the previous pregnancy ended in induced abortion, the risk of intra-amniotic infection increased by 140%.

Judith Lumley wrote in 1998: "One possible mechanism is that cervical instrumentation can facilitate the passage of organisms into the upper part of the uterus, increasing the probability of inapparent infection and subsequent preterm birth."4

The incidence of cerebral palsy is increasing in developed countries, especially following the legalisation or liberalisation of abortion laws.

Low Birth-weight Babies
A preterm new-born is much more likely to be Very Low Birth Weight (VLBW: birth weight under 1500grams) than a full-term newborn.

A 1991 Cerebral Palsy VLBW meta-analysis (ie. a review of previous studies) found that VLBW newborns had 38 times the risk of CP as normal weight newborns.

"If one assumes the incidence of cerebral palsy in the general population to be 2 in 1000 live births .... then the relative risk for cerebral palsy among surviving VLBW infants would be 38 times that in the general population." 5

Informed Consent
Since induced abortion is usually an elective surgical procedure, full information about possible risks should be given to women. Informed medical consent is a right all patients have and in New Zealand it is protected by The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights. (See (abortionmedicalkeyissuesinformedconsent/) Abortion and Informed Consent)

Medical practitioners need to be aware of the possibility of litigation.

In Australia, women have successfully sued abortion providers for medical malpractice and for not fully informing them of possible risks.

The state of Texas is now informing women who are considering an abortion that the procedure boosts the risk of delivering a future baby with cerebral palsy. ((abortionmedicalkeyissuesriskcerebralpalsy.htm ) Cerebral palsy is connected with low birth-weight babies.)

See Doctors and NZ Law where it is explained how NZ medical professionals could face complaint proceedings for breaches to the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights.

  1. Zhou W, Sorenson HT, Olsen H. Induced Abortion and Subsequent Pregnancy Duration. Obstetrics Gynecology 1999;94:948-953
  2. Luke B, Every Pregnant Woman's Guide to Preventing Premature Birth (1995, pp. 32-33)
  3. Muhlemann K, Germain M, Krohn M. Does an Abortion Increase the Risk of Intrapartum Infection in the Following Pregnancy? Epidemiology 1996;7:194-198
  4. Lumley J. The association between prior spontaneous abortion, prior induced abortion and preterm birth in first singleton births. Prenat Neonat Med 1998; 3:21-24
  5. Escobar GJ, Littenberg B, Petitti DB. Outcome among surviving very low birthweight infants; a meta-analysis. Arch Dis Child 1991;66:204-211