Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How Many? Update

DH saw my "How Many?" entry on the blog and decided to cross post it as a Daily Kos diary. He thought someone over there might have more information on how many women end pregnancies for medical reasons per year. (Thanks, DH!)

So far, there have been a couple comments worth passing on:

First, my condolences for your loss. I know it is a deep grief and I'm glad to know that there is a support group for people who have made this difficult decision. My stats are completely anecdotal as a person working in an OBGYN department at an academic hospital. I ran a quick report on the CPT codes our residents use when indicating that they have performed an induced abortion for medical reasons and came up with 66 for the past year. Our hospital has about 2300 deliveries per year, so that's about 3%. Keeping in mind that we are a smaller, rural area, I don't think the 6% figure you used would be far off the mark. I know that we have a full time genetics counselor who meets with families to discuss their options and that she sees about 20 patients per week.

And also:

A 2004 study by the Guttmacher Institute shows that 12% of women report terminating because of maternal health problems and 14% report terminating because of potential problems with the health of the fetus:

These findings are based on self-report and include a wider array of fetal and maternal "indications" than most health restriction laws (proposed and actual) would allow: debilitating morning sickness, preclampsia, use of illicit drugs during early pregnancy (which leads to concern that fetal health has been compromised). But, unfortunately, there aren't many good stats out there about the % of abortions that started as planned or wanted pregnancies ....

So, the 78,000 terminations for medical reasons estimate I came up with doesn't seem incredibly outlandish. Depending on what gets counted, it might even be on the low side.

How big is 78,000? Well, I looked up the latest government data tracking death estimates for cancer. In 2007, breast cancer is expected to take the lives of 40,000 women. Leukemia will likely kill 22,000, while 12,000 will succumb to brain cancer. All those cancer deaths combined are still less than my estimate of the number of pregnancy terminations for medical reasons.

Once again, WHY is nobody talking about this?


Sara said...

I have no clue why people aren't talking about it.

What a great, respectful discussion over there at DailyKos! I'm impressed.

meg said...

You are so right, why don't people talk about it? It's almost like people think it's catching or something. Like if I hear about someone having to terminate their much wanted child, then it *could* happen to me too. That is a lot of babies, a lot of couples, and a lot of families that are impacted by this. It's pretty far reaching, for something we are so silent about.

Marie-Baguette said...

Hello Wabi. I could not find numbers for the US but I found something about France. The situation there might be a little special. Since all prenatal care is free, you could assume that more women get care there than in the US. Also, amnio is recommended to all women who are 35 or older (and it is free). According to this news site,, there are 5.000 "interruptions medicales de grossesse" (which means abortions for medical reasons) a yr, vs. 200.000 plain abortions and 7 million births. This seems low to me.

Wabi said...

Hi M-B,

Thanks for the stats. I wonder, does France only allow "nonmedical" abortion (by that I mean abortion done for nonhealth-related issues in mom or fetus) in the first trimester? I believe that's the rule in many Western European nations, but don't know if France is among them. If it is, then that could explain why the numbers seem on the low side.

Plus, there's the predominantly Catholic thing, too ... given the Pope's stance on abortion for any reason, that will bring the tally down.