Do abortions cause infertility?
About abortion-caused infertility:
Pro-life and pro-choice advocates have opposing beliefs about whether abortions can lead to
infertility. Most pro-life groups believe that it does; most pro-choice groups believe
that it does not.
Some estimates of the rates of infertility by pro-life groups:
||Ohio Right to Life quotes Dr. Bohumil Stipal, Czechoslovakia's Deputy Minister of Health, who stated: "Roughly 25% of
the women who interrupt their first pregnancy have remained permanently childless."
1 The 25% figure would presumably include:
||women who had an abortion and simply have not tried to become pregnant since.
||women who had decided to not have any children for the foreseeable future, found themselves pregnant, had an abortion and
have remained childless by choice ever since.
||women who were fertile, had an abortion and are now infertile because of complications arising from the abortion.
There is, of course, no way to estimate how many instances of "childlessness"
are due to each of the three causes. Thus, we cannot even guess how many women are
infertile as a result of an abortion. We conclude that Dr. Stipal's statement is
meaningless with regard to abortions and infertility.
||Ohio Right to Life quotes an unidentified article in the British Journal of
OB/GYN for 1976-AUG which stated that the risk of secondary infertility among women
with at least one induced abortion is 3-4 times greater than that among non-aborted women.
1 That figure might have been accurate in the mid 1970's, but
is probably no longer valid today. At a time when legal abortions were difficult or impossible to obtain, the
only alternative was the back-alley butchers. Extremely high rates of infection
resulted, which often
caused permanent infertility.|
Some estimates of the rates of infertility by pro-choice groups:
||"Ask Beth," a service of Planned Parenthood®
stated: "Abortions are very safe procedures and very rarely are the cause
of infertility." 3
A medical estimate of the rates of infertility:
||NetDoctor is a British medical web site which has a team of
doctors offering medical information to the general public. Dr. Hilary Jones
"...abortion will not affect her future
fertility. There remains a false perception that a therapeutic abortion,
as it is called, can be harmful to health, but this is in fact is not
the case. In times gone by before therapeutic abortions were legal,
operations were performed outside the law by backstreet abortionists
using unsterilised equipment and dangerous techniques."
"Complications were common after such procedures ranging from pelvic
infection to infertility and even death on many occasions. However this
is no longer the case. Remember too that the anti-abortionists sometimes
used to deliberately frighten women by saying that they might never be
able to have a baby again in order to discourage them from having an
abortion. These people may have been genuine in their ethical
convictions, but they were less than truthful or properly researched
about the medical facts."
"Now the operation is carried out under general anaesthesia in sterile
hospital environments by sympathetic staff in controlled and regulated
fashion. The procedure does not damage the cervix or the rest of the
womb, and provided no post-operative infection takes place, as it very
seldom does, there is no reason why your girlfriend's fertility should
be affected." 4
||BabyCenter offers a similar Q&A service. Robert Jansen, a clinical
professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Sydney in Australia,
was asjed: "Does a past abortion (or more than one) affect my chances of getting
pregnant?" He replied:
"Probably not. However, in rare
cases, multiple dilations and curettages (the cleaning out of the uterus,
also known as a D&C) can cause some scarring at the top of the cervix
or inside the uterus. A procedure called hysteroscopy (when a small camera
is placed through your cervix into your uterine cavity) can be used to check
for this problem and can usually repair the scar tissue at the same time."
"But even if that's not the case for you, you should know that any procedure
that dilates the cervix (a necessary step during most abortions) can weaken
it. So if you've had more than one abortion and you get pregnant again
later on, you may find that you have what's known as an
incompetent cervix a cervix that starts dilating prematurely. This can
sometimes be treated with a stitch to keep the cervix closed, called a
||A scientific review article in the
International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies concluded that
legal induced abortions have almost no chance of infertility when done in
the first or second trimester. 6
If there were a significant infertility problem, we would assume that some
medical sources would
mention it. Only pro-life organizations and their web sites appear to cite it as a
significant concern. We
assume that the possibility of infertility frequently arising from an abortion, like the
breast cancer and post abortion syndrome
scares, is not a major public health concern. Of course, it can be a very
serious problem to a woman who finds herself infertile.
From the available data, it appears that abortion itself rarely causes
infertility. It is the infection that might develop after the abortion that most
often prevents further pregnancies. There are probably many millions of women alive today in North America who became
infertile as a result of an abortion. Most of them are the victims of back-alley
abortionists in the days before Roe v. Wade made early abortions legal. It would appear
that the chances of becoming infertile as a result of a hospital or clinic abortion is
Teens who live in states where parental consent is needed for an abortion have three
- Tell their parents about the pregnancy and obtain permission from them to have an
- Go to court and ask a judge to authorize an abortion
- Keep the pregnancy secret and seek out an illegal abortion
Unfortunately, many young women are taking the third option, and are placing their
future fertility (and sometimes their life) at risk.
Possible methods by which abortions can cause infertility:
A Registered Nurse, Camilla Cracchiolo describes the main abortion
complications that could cause infertility:
||90% of abortions are done in the first trimester. However, a late abortion frequently
requires a material called laminaria to dilate the cervix. This makes the passage large
enough to allow a suction tube to be inserted. The laminaria could weaken the cervix and
conceivably cause infertility.
||If the physician scrapes too hard, the lower lining of the uterus can be removed. This
is extremely rare.
||An untreated infection can scar the uterus and cause later fertility problems. The
infection rate for first trimester abortions is less than 1%. Most women monitor their
body temperature after an abortion to detect if an infection has occurred. Early detection
should prevent any problems.
||A woman who already have gonorrhea or chlamydia are very likely to suffer pelvic
inflammatory disease which causes infertility. They are particularly susceptible to
damage from PID
after an abortion. This can be avoided by obtaining a STD test before the abortion.
||The suction tube can perforate both the uterus and a large blood vessel or intestine. If
the latter happens, then surgery may be required. The surgery can cause infertility.
Perforation of the uterus is also quite rare. 2
It would seem that if the physician is competent, and the woman monitors her body
temperature after the procedure, that the chances of an abortion causing later infertility
is quite remote.
This, and similar medical information on our web site, is intended as a
general educational aid to the public. If the topics covered are of direct
concern to you, we recommend that you consult a qualified healthcare
professional who can review your unique situation before reaching a decision.
Ohio Right to Life, "Abortion: Complications," at: http://www.ohiolife.org/
Camilla Cracchiolo, "Abortion and Infertility" at:
"Ask Beth: Abortion and fertility," Planned Parenthood of
Southeastern Pennsylvania, 2003-SEP-25, at:
Hilary Jones, "Fertility after abortion," NetDoctor, 2000-AUG-12, at:
"Does a past abortion affect my chances of getting pregnant?"
BabyCenter, undated, at:
Lurie, et al. "Induced midtrimester abortions and future fertility
where are you today?" International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal
Studies. (1995) 40(6):311-5
Copyright 1998 to 2006 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-JAN-31
Author: B.A. Robinson