Senate to debate abortion 'risk' bill

Posted May 8, 2013

Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke

— A proposal to require schools to teach students that abortion causes preterm births is headed for the Senate floor despite dueling University of North Carolina experts and an unclear committee vote.

Senate Bill 132 says the state's mandated health curriculum on reproductive health and safety "shall include information about the preventable causes of preterm birth, including induced abortion as a cause of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies."

"It’s a bill based on science. It’s not based on political ideology," sponsor Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke,  told the Senate Health Committee Wednesday. "It’s based on the scientific evidence that you will have a future risk of preterm birth if you decide voluntarily to have an abortion." 

What evidence is there, however, is hotly disputed within the scientific community of experts on preterm birth and reproductive health.

UNC School of Medicine Associate Professor of Pediatrics Dr.Marty McCaffrey is a member of the state's Child Fatality Task Force. He spoke in support of the bill, calling the evidence that abortions increase risk of later preterm births "immutable." 

Citing studies and meta-studies of data, McCaffrey said evidence shows abortion as a risk factor for preterm birth "dwarfs" smoking as a risk factor.

"It’s been estimated abortion may be responsible for 31 percent of preterm births in North Carolina," he told the committee. "It’s time to educate our young citizens about preterm birth."

But UNC School of Medicine Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. David Grimes called the bill “unnecessary and uninformed.”

"Senate Bill 132 would establish a state-sponsored ideology," he said. "The statement is scientifically false." 

Grimes formerly directed abortion surveillance efforts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"The World Health Organization, the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Public Health Association all have uniformly concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity," he told the committee. "How did they all get it wrong?"  

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, offered an amendment that would have removed the clause about abortion, citing the lack of scientific consensus.

"You have multiple studies to validate your research," she told Daniel. "I have extensive information from the CDC. We can use whatever we want to justify these things we want to do."

Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, also voiced concern about the abortion clause. "A risk factor is not the same as a cause," he said.

The voice vote on Robinson's amendment sounded as if it had passed, but committee Chairman Sen. Ralph Hise declared it had failed, ignoring Robinson's call for a count of hands.

Citing the time, Hise then cut off committee questions and called a vote on the measure. It appeared to pass on party lines.


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  • groovysus May 10, 2013

    martinmccaffrey--a question for you regarding the articles you cite. Did the researchers differentiate between women who received abortions due to medical complications versus those who received abortions for non-medical reasons? I ask because I noticed one of the studies included 9 women who had "spontaneous abortions" i.e. miscarriages and, quite frankly, I think allowing women with a history of problematic pregnancies would skew the results.

  • faperrigo May 9, 2013

    How does manipulating the internal workings of the human body not have potential risk for its future health?

  • faperrigo May 9, 2013

    Politics allowed the Gosnell 'health' clinic to keep operating, at great 'risk'.

  • rroadrunner99 May 9, 2013

    if you're going to let politics decide one health choice for you, then SOON they will be deciding EVERY health choice for you!

  • martinmccaffrey May 9, 2013

    1. Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science, Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention, National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2006.
    2. Bibliography of 135 Abortion Prematurity Studies: http://justiceforkids.webs.com/chap11overwhelming.htm
    3. Swingle HM et al. Abortion and the risk of subsequent preterm birth: a systematic review with meta-analyses J Reprod Med 2009 54:95–108).
    4. Shah P. et al. Induced termination of pregnancy and low birth weight and preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG 2009;116(11):1425-1442
    5. Iams JD and Berghells V. Care for women with prior preterm birth. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. August 2010;203(3):89-100
    6. Steer P. Editor’s Choice. BJOG 2009;116 (11):pages i–ii. 7. Calhoun B et al. Cost Consequences of Induced Abortion as an Attributable Risk for Preterm Birth and Impact on Informed Consent. Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2007;Oct;52:929-37.

  • martinmccaffrey May 9, 2013

    The evidence is clear, abortion is one potential cause for future preterm birth. This is not a political question. This is a question of trying to reduce the staggering emotional, social and fiscal toll the abortion-prematurity link takes on the citizens of North Carolina.

  • martinmccaffrey May 9, 2013

    This is a world renowned OB saying we have KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME that repeated abortions increased the risk for preterm birth!! Really? Has anyone told abortion providers who deny there is any risk for future reproductive health from abortion?

    This is a science issue. The science linking abortion and prematurity is settled. I spend my life caring for preterm infants, many born early as a result of mothers having a prior abortion. A significant number of these births are preventable…based on the evidence. My hope is to put myself out of business, unlike some of the other witnesses who testified yesterday. If we care about public health, if we are serious about reducing prematurity, we need to add education regarding the heightened risk for a future preterm birth after abortion.

  • wanderer May 8, 2013

    So according to studies per Dr. McCaffrey, studies where he doesn't list who researched and offered them, there is a risk. But Dr. Grimes have actual organizations listed who says there isn't a risk. Unknown study sources or known organizations? Doesn't take much to see who I would believe and it isn't Dr. McCaffrey.

  • sisu May 8, 2013

    There are so many levels on which this is bizarre. I wish the legislature concentrated a tiny fraction of the energy they have thrown at the uterus and religion on creating a decent economic environment.

    Here's the deal... until men are equally responsible for the result of intercourse, they should stay out of the lawmaking side of this equation.

    The burden of unintended pregnancy falls on women. Women bear public scrutiny which the man does not.

    A news show had an excerpt of a young woman who had been kidnapped and raped for years. She said that in school before the kidnapping she had been taught that having sex before marriage was like a piece of gum being chewed and that no one would want a piece of chewed gum.

    She said she had been asked why she hadn't made earlier attempts to escape. She said she thought she had no worth. After all, she had been taught that she was a worthless piece of chewed gum. She didn't think she deserved any better. Is this what we want for our kids?

  • goldenosprey May 8, 2013

    The GOP does not let things like facts or science stand in the way of their agenda.