The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released an important new study looking at the growing and harmful medical phenomenon of “pre-term birth.” The WHO Global Action Report on Preterm Birth estimates that more than 1 in 10 babies born in 2010 were born prematurely, that is, “before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.” Prematurity is identified as “the world’s single biggest cause of newborn death, and the second leading cause of all child deaths.” According to the WHO report, preterm birth rates have increased in nearly all countries.
The reasons for this increase are not entirely clear. Underlying causes, however, may relate to the increased use of infertility treatments, higher frequency of caesarean births, higher rates of diabetes, and high blood pressure or infections among mothers. But one important factor is consciously omitted in the list – abortion. The References section of the WHO report mentions two studies that demonstrate an increased risk of preterm birth associated with abortion. Yet the body of the 126-page long report is completely silent on abortion.
Instead, attention is given to factors such as birth spacing and adolescent pregnancies which are associated with much lower increased risks of preterm birth. To address these, the report calls for more family planning and sexual education. Ignoring the link between abortion and preterm birth renders any analysis of preterm birth incomplete and perhaps ideologically so. Furthermore, it creates a gap in policy recommendations aiming to reduce the rate of preterm births.