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[NOTE: This is not a study itself but a review of several studies and conclusions reached.] 

Two researchers say reducing abortions in the United States would significantly cut the rate of premature births.

They say the rate has increased as abortion has been legalized and point to Poland as an example of how banning or significantly reducing abortions would help pregnant women.

Dr. Richard E. Behrman, representing the Institute of Medicine, has identified prior first-trimester induced abortion as an “immutable medical risk factor associated with pre-term birth.”

In his book Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention, Behrman found that the premature birth rate in the U.S. was 12.5% in 2004 — 40 percent higher than the rate of 8.9% in 1980.

Citing that data, researchers Brent Rooney, of Canada, and William Robert Johnston, of Texas, published in a letter in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, saying that prohibiting abortion would reverse the trend and also drive down medical costs.

To back up their claim, they point to United Nations data showing Poland dramatically reduced its rates of premature birth, maternal mortality and infant mortality within a few years after its abortion rate declined by 98% between 1989 and 1993 (as a result of the passage of an abortion ban).

"If induced abortion significantly elevates pre-term birth risk, one would expect Poland’s pre-term birth rate to slump 5–10 years after the induced-abortion rate plunge," they wrote.

They say data from UNICEF found that, between 1995 and 1997 (after abortion declined by 98% from 1989 – 1993), Poland’s pre-term birth rate dropped by 41.8% and maternal mortality decreased 41.4%, and infant mortality was down by 25.0%.

"We know of no other such rapid decrease in pre-term birth rate," the researchers say. Improved diet and better medical care are alternate explanations for the plunge in premature birth figures.

But, Rooney and Johnston cite a 1987 study of Polish women, published in the Polish journal Wiad Lek, which found that women who had induced abortions had 88% higher relative odds of pre-term birth compared to women who had never had an abortion.

They also point to an October 2007 study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine [], that compiled 58 prior studies finding significantly higher pre-term birth and low-birth weight risks for women with prior surgical abortions.

Another study involving the RU 486 abortion drug found the same results.

"Although it is possible that the decline in Polish legal abortions is partly offset by illegal abortions, the evidence of controlled studies provides very strong evidence that induced abortion elevates the risk of pre-term birth," the researchers conclude.

"We predict that cutting the high rate of induced abortion in the U.S. would not only decrease future breast cancer incidence but also reduce pre-term births," they wrote.

[11Dec07, Ertelt,, DC,,]