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New “no duh” study shows abortion complications are really, really rare

UCSF researchers have released the most comprehensive study to date on complications after abortion. Their results echo the results of all previous studies on the subject: Abortion is a very safe procedure, with major complications occurring only a quarter of a percent of the time

Major complications stemming from abortion are extremely rare, occurring in less than a quarter of a percent of cases, according to one of the nation’s most comprehensive studies to date into the safety of the medical procedure.

After analyzing data from nearly 55,000 women who received abortion care under California’s Medicaid program, researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that hardly any of them had serious complications within six weeks of their procedure. Just 126 cases necessitated follow-up care for surgery, a blood transfusion, or other conditions that require hospital admission.

Whenever I feel compelled to cover a study like this — a study that confirms already very firmly established facts like, say, that birth control costs money, prevents unintended pregnancies, and doesn’t turn women into slutty sluts — I grumble about it.

The only reason there are public health researchers spending time and money conducting studies like this is because the anti-choice movement lies. Because their entire legislative strategy revolves around spreading misinformation about abortion (and birth control) in order to justify utterly unnecessary regulations whose real purpose is to restrict access to abortion. In the very understated words of one of the researchers: “Abortion is very safe as currently performed, which calls into question the need for additional regulations that purportedly aim to improve safety.”

So I’m glad the UCSF researchers have produced more evidence like this. But the people who perform abortions, as well as the many of us who have had one, have always been perfectly aware of how safe it is, and happy to testify to that fact. The problem is that we have lawmakers who don’t care about the facts — who would rather listen to anti-abortion crusaders who believe that IUDs cause abortion and that “post-abortion syndrome” is a real thing rather than the scientists and medical professionals who know what they’re talking about — and they’re the ones making the decisions. We don’t need more facts — we just need legislators who ignore the lies.


St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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