Barbara Kay, Poland's "preemie miracle" is an embarrassing postscript to Henry Morgentaler's Order of Canada
Posted: October 10, 2008, 7:56 AM by Jonathan Kay
Abortion czar Dr Henry Morgentaler will be receiving his Order of Canada in a quiet little ceremony in Quebec City today. The typical OC is inducted in Ottawa amongst his or her peers. So it is fitting that Dr Morgentaler's should be in Quebec, where the abortion rate is double that of the rest of Canada, and therefore the least likely place in Canada to draw a large protest. Ah well, just one more symbolic displacement from the centre of Canadian life for the peripatetic abortionist.
Dr Morgentaler was born in Poland. By coincidence CNN has been running a series this week, Eye on Poland, which offers "wide-ranging reports on this complex country tackling a time of transition; from Warsaw to Sopot, to Gdansk, Krakow and Lodz." The series has much to say about the country' history, economy, political progress, arts and so forth. But thanks to information I received via Vancouver medical researcher Brent Rooney, who focuses on premature risk factors, here is a little known fact about Poland that is unlikely to be aired on CNN: Since 1995, Poland's extreme preterm birth rate (XPT) per 100 live births has plummeted by 98% .
An XPT birth is one that occurs at 28 or under weeks gestation (normal gestation is between 39 and 42 weeks) - and amongst the many other deficits associated with XPT is Cerebral Palsy. The risk of Cerebral Palsy is about 38 times higher in XPB births than in the overall newborn population: that is, a live birth at 28 weeks or less leads to a more than 3700% increase in Cerebral Palsy. So naturally any young woman contemplating a family would want to know how to minimize the risk of an XPT birth.
Here's where the statistic I mentioned above about Poland gets interesting. While the Polish XPT rate has dropped by 21% between 1980-2006, the U.S. preterm birth rate has escalated by 44%. The reason for Poland's "preemie miracle" can be found in the induced abortion rates for the corresponding years. In 1989 Poland instituted a very restrictive abortion law. In the next four years induced abortion rates went down by 98% per 100 live births. Opponents of the law predicted a health disaster. But not only did the preterm rate decrease, maternal mortality also declined by 41% according to studies reflecting rates from 1995-97, while infant mortality decreased by 25%. You can check out the uncontested research link between "prior first trimester induced abortion" as an "immutable medical risk factor associated with preterm birth" here.
Let me be clear: I am not advocating a repeal of the right to abortion for Canadian women. I am, however, advocating for stricter "informed consent" laws around abortion. Dr Henry Morgentaler is the reason most women in Canada believe that abortion is a risk-free intervention. You will not see XPT birth listed as an elevated risk for a future pregnancy on pro-choice websites or on the consent forms at any Morgentaler clinic nor, to my knowledge, at any other abortion clinic. Indeed, as became clear when, as I reported in a previous column, I sent a "sleuth" to a Morgentaler clinic posing as a woman contemplating an abortion, she was told by a doctor there in no uncertain term: "One, two, three abortions, there are no risks [for future pregnancies].”
If women knew about these and other risks of induced abortion, the only surgical intervention that is routinely performed on women without having been performed first in animal studies, at the very least the rate of multiple abortions would decrease. The benefit to our health care system is obvious: fewer future high-risk pregnancies would immediately reduce pregnancy-related costs and high-tech, labour-intensive care in neo-natal units, not to mention the dramatic decrease in the high lifetime burden of care associated with the stricken children. The emotional costs to the parents of these children are of course incalculable, and any information that would lead to fewer such tragedies should be an outcome all Canadians, including the most fervently pro-choice amongst us, should welcome.
And so, as Dr Morgentaler receives his Order of Canada today, let us reflect on the irony of life. We so often hear the phrase "rush to judgment" when we speak of people charged with a crime they may not have committed. We should also be careful of the "rush to honour" those whose legacy may embarrass us. And here in Quebec City today is, verily, a case in point of a rush to honour I believe will one day prove a cautionary tale for the Order of Canada committee.