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After Abortion

Posted by on in After Abortion
A Mile In Their Shoes

‘I could/would/will never do that’, ‘how could anyone think/do that?’.  These are just a few examples of things that people write, say, think, etc after being made aware of someone else’s ‘mistake’ (premarital sex, abortion, keeping an unplanned baby, giving a baby up for adoption, and so many others).  Frustratingly, I am not immune to it.  I have my moments where I am judging someone, sure I would do a better job, were I in that position. Come to find out, I ended up doing the same thing, and not necessarily for malicious reasons.  Ugh.  It’s not pleasant, but it reminds me to be careful how I look at/speak to/think of others.  I know quite a few people who can relate to that type of attitude.

I can give many examples, but being in the pro-life movement and all I will focus on some related to this subject.

’I would never have an abortion.’  I have heard this MANY times.  Sometimes from women who have never been pregnant.  As one who lost a sibling in this way,  naturally I would love if this was a true statement, but I have met plenty of post abortives, who have said or thought the same in the past, sadly.  But then they found themselves in an abusive relationship being forced into it, or with multiple kids and dwindling finances/small or no house, etc, or perhaps super sick with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe throwing up, which can continue through the whole pregnancy for some).  Dealing with frequent stomach troubles (minus throwing up, thankfully) I can’t imagine how horrible that would be. Some have been on necessary medication and became unexpectedly pregnant, feeling unable to keep the baby because the lack of meds could make them very ill.

Also, rape.  I know women who have been raped and it has been super traumatizing for them. Some do not feel able to keep the baby.  They fear they will think of the rapist every time they see their baby.  Or perhaps they and other mothers feel their babies will be mistreated, as a result of their conception, mixed race, etc.  The world is not always kind to those who are different.  

Another reason, tokophobia. A phobia of pregnancy and/or childbirth. I heard about this relatively recently, and my heart goes out to these women. Anxiety is a hard enough struggle, but this seems much worse in some ways.  I know at least one who felt all the cutting, etc during her c-section, despite the anesthesia.  Others could’ve had days long labors, etc.

Perhaps some of you readers have been through these situations and NOT aborted.  If so, I truly am happy for that!:)  But I ask you all to be more gentle when speaking of the abortion minded/post abortive.  Many times, it’s not such a carefree/flippant decision as some people make it seem.  Many of these women are suffering beforehand, and even more so afterwards.

I also can not stand the shaming of those pregnant before marriage.  Some of these men/women had every intention of waiting, and fell into temptation, some were using birth control.  Some were raped, and some just see nothing wrong with it.  Whatever their reasons, or our personal views on the matter, I think it is best to react peacefully.  The more we condemn them for their choices, the less likely they are to feel comfortable sharing.  Some may abort simply because they feel judged and alone.  While a big goal of mine is to save siblings from abortion, I think a bigger goal is reaching out to these parents in love.  No matter their decisions.

 

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Posted by on in After Abortion
Significant Date

January 22, 1973 had quite an impact on my life, even though I was not yet born. It was the day that abortion was legalized in the United States, which ended up making it easier for mom to abort in '95. But January 22, 2006 had an even bigger impact on my life, for that was the evening that mom bravely shared her testimony with us. There was instant sadness, but no tears. In part because I am really not comfortable with my emotions being visible, but also because I didn't want to add to mom's pain, which was so obvious. Despite that, she was open for questioning, leting us know, among other things, that she had named the baby Joseph Michael, as well as the date of the abortion (2/14/95). As hard as it was to hear, these details actually made things easier to handle in some ways, so I deeply admire the strength she showed. 

Prior to finding out about Joey, I had dealt with numerous losses as a nursing home volunteer, and while they definitely hurt, I was able to move on fairly quickly. I assumed it would be like that with him, especially because I hadn't even known about him and the death was so many years earlier. Plus, some of it was wishful thinking, so I wouldn't have to feel such strong and painful emotions. 

A decade later, I see how wrong I was. But you know, as rough as it's been, and still is at times, I don't regret going through that pain. It has opened my eyes in multiple ways for which I am so grateful and there have been some amazing blessings! :)

I will not get into all of them in this post, but one of the ones I am most excited about is that I am now an advocate! Through this blog, my facebook pages and group, etc I get to be a voice for siblings. The kind that I very much longed to find when I was first ready to find help. I was shocked by how little was available for and about us at that time, even among those who offered post abortive counseling. Silent No More (SNM), Rhode Island and Lumina were the only ones I could find, speaking up for and reaching out to others like me, but both were across the country, unfortunately. With mom's permission, a pen name of sorts (Susi O Fanabba, short for 'surviving sibling of an aborted baby'), and the encouragement of those at Silent No More, I wrote my first testimony. That in and of itself was healing, as a lot that I had been repressing came out. I sent it to SNM and to Theresa Bonopartis at Lumina, who was coordinating a retreat day for siblings, a few weeks from that time. I knew I was not going to be able to make it, but hoped that it could be read to the other siblings at least. To my shock, she wrote back with an invite to attend, and offered to help me figure out a way to get there. WOW! I was instantly nervous! Not just about traveling, but about the day itself. Could I handle being in such an emotionally charged environment? Would I be able to keep my own emotions in check or would I have a public breakdown, etc?

Despite these worries, I said yes and am so glad I did. While it was very physically and emotionally draining (no tears though), it brought amazing healing! To start with, Theresa kept it small, only 7 of us total. 5 siblings, a chaplain and her. We all had a very generous amount of time to share our stories, in a comfortable, home-like setting, with hardly any interruption or fear of judgement, mockery, hurting our parents, etc. When my turn came I imagined I would give just a brief account, especially because I was shy and worried about a breakdown, but nope!! Even more came out than what was in the testimony!! For the first time, I was with others who could relate to my loss and found it so freeing :D 5 people, from different backgrounds, finding common ground and healing together! 

That day was over too quickly! But the healing and joy that came have not left! Nor have the friendships. We are all very busy with our own lives but still find time to reconnect with each other, for which I am grateful. What's rather sad to me though, is that so few post abortive sibs can relate to the healing I've experienced and I want to do my part to help them. The main ways I have done this are through sharing my own story, in the hopes that it brings awareness to our pain and issues and inspires those who can to start programs and such for us. Also, by starting and maintaining this blog, which has a growing number of testimonies, most of them anonymous, and through my private group on facebook, just for siblings. It's been such an honor to hear from some, including post abortive, that my efforts are helping bring healing and awareness! 

There have been some awesome changes in the last 10 years, that I am looking forward to seeing what the next 10 bring :)

 

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Posted by on in After Abortion
Sibling Saturday

Pregnancy And Infancy Loss Awarness (PAILA) Month is just a few weeks away! And while that’s still technically a lot of time, I am kinda freaking out! I just feel so strongly about this cause that I want to get the word out to as many as possible, as quickly as I can, so there are more events than ever planned this year, in as many places as possible.

One thing that happens consistently, is the International Wave Of Light which takes place at 7pm (in all timezones worldwide) on the 15th of October. It may seem simple, but it’s actually very powerful. In addition, many plan walks/runs, balloon releases, memorials and such occur on, or around that day.

This is all wonderful, bringing comfort and healing to many. But I would love to see more aimed specifically at siblings. It is a ‘special’ kind of pain that we endure. Even though there are several causes of early sibling loss (abortion, miscarriage, illness, injuries, SIDS, etc) we face some common issues. Among them, reluctance to voice our feelings and pain, for fear of adding to our parents’ pain. I know that one far too well in my own life, which is why it took about 6 years to start looking for other sibs or speaking to others.

We also oftentimes end up adopting the secret. We are let in on the fact that there was a loss but are not supposed to mention it outside the family, and sometimes even within. Sadly, I think in most cases this only delays healing, for ourselves and for others. I mention the others because sometimes just knowing someone can relate to our pain leads to comfort and healing. Suddenly, we don’t feel as alone anymore!

The last issue I will mention for now, is that plenty of times the siblings are asked how the parents are doing (not a bad thing.. but it’s painful when the siblings are not also checked up on) and/or are told to be strong for the parents. While I know it’s not done with malicious intent, the latter frustrates me! After my dad died, I decided on my own, to ‘be strong’ for my mom and really it’s taken quite the toll. You can read a little bit in my reflection on emotional repression. I hate thinking of just how many can relate, whether through their own choices or being forced into it.

Despite the struggles with repression, which I’ve dealt with most of my life, I have still managed to find significant healing! But not through a recovery program or therapy that others have suggested I needed. Rather, through communicating with those who can relate. Also by participating in the arts. I never imagined that drawing, coloring, writing, music, rock art, etc could lead to such healing, especially since I did not feel skilled in these areas.

I want to do all in my power to make it so that others are able to experience that type of  healing as well. The great thing is that it can work for people of all ages, religions, political views, etc and end up uniting people, who were previously divided.

Recently, I came up with an idea that combines pregnancy/infancy loss awareness, sibling pain AND art therapy! I've called it 'Sibling Saturday', and it will be held on the 4th Saturday in October. An event where grieving siblings from all backgrounds would have a chance to get to know each other while working on memorial art of different types (writing, drawing/coloring, crocheting/knitting, etc). Those who so desired could share their stories in a safe, judgement free environment. My goal is to see that Sibling Saturday takes place anually, in as many locations as possible, worldwide. Including with a way for the homebound siblings to participate. If you are on facebook and would like to join in the planning, host an event, get more info/updates, etc, feel free to join this group. If not on facebook, but still interested, let us know in the comments and we will see what we can arrange.

Whether you are able to participate or not, I hope this post has made you more aware of the suffering siblings, and given you some ideas on how to reach out to them. If you, yourself are a sibling, I hope this has brought some comfort to you and you’ll be able to take part in events just for us, sibs! May any needed healing come to you and your families. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

 

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Open Letter To Cecile Richards: Care for Women Hurting After Planned Parenthood Videos

Warning: This post contains links to videos on abortion that are graphic and disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.

 

Dear Planned Parenthood CEO, Cecile Richards,

In your statement on a recent controversial video of Planned Parenthood staff, you said:

"Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide.. As always, if there is any aspect of our work that can be strengthened, we want to know about it, and take swift action to address it." 

I write in response, to request Planned Parenthood address an urgent need for care of post abortive women (and others) who have been deeply affected by their experience at Planned Parenthood and by staff comments in this video and further releases. 

Women who have had an abortion at one of your facilities but were not well informed, have spoken.  They have expressed great pain and heartache after learning of the reality of their baby's development early in pregnancy and of abortion procedures, which were not explained to them beforehand. 

After the release of the first Planned Parenthood video, Misha, who had an abortion at Planned Parenthood seventeen years ago, revealed she couldn't sleep for three days:

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Misha-Screen-Shot-2_20150724-144018_1.png 

Misha's story is that at about 10 weeks pregnant, Planned Parenthood staff told her that her pregnancy was just a 'blob'.  She was pro-choice and believed them.  Unlike now, there wasn't information on foetal development she could search on the internet.  After the abortion, she went to a library to look up pictures of foetuses and was distressed by what she saw.  She regretted her decision and felt like that she had been denied her right to make a choice because she had been lied to and was not provided the information she deserved. 

The Planned Parenthood viral videos have caused Misha to relive those painful memories, made even more hurtful by staff comments about harvesting body parts of foetuses at 10 weeks, when she was told her pregnancy was just a 'blob'.  She cried for days and days and couldn't sleep.  However, although Misha expressed her pain to Planned Parenthood, not a single representative of your company offered her support links or help. 

Ms Richards, despite the graphic nature of these videos and inevitable mental health issue for some post abortion women, you have offered no counselling for them.  Misha's experience at Planned Parenthood is similar to many other testimonies of women shared on Silent No More: 

"I was 15 years old when my mother and I returned to Planned Parenthood after the contraception they provided months before failed.  I was told I was 11 weeks pregnant and that my pregnancy was a 'clump of cells'.. I was not given any counselling of any kind whatsoever.  Today, I deeply regret my abortion." - Shadia 

"My name is Barbara and I am 43 years old.  When I was 21, I had an abortion with the help of Planned Parenthood of West Bend, Wisconsin.  Planned Parenthood told me at that time that my baby was nothing but tissue at that point in my pregnancy.  I was about 10 weeks along.  It was nothing but lies..  There was no counselling afterwards, and no one to talk to.. Please stop this happening to other women.. " 

"There was absolutely no counselling about the possible emotional aftermath of having an abortion.  I became suicidal and had no one to turn to.  And to find out that what I was aborting was not a "blob" of tissue, but an identifiably human form, complete with heartbeat, finger and toes.  Planned Parenthood was woefully wrong to lie and not offer any post-abortion counselling." - Susan, New Jersey 

Ms Richards, please ensure Planned Parenthood's compassionate care is not limited to women before an abortion but afterwards too. Planned Parenthood should offer all women counselling after an abortion, should they need it. The Planned Parenthood website is confusing on the availability of post abortion counselling at various Planned Parenthood locations. 

Particuarly let those women hurt by comments of Planned Parenthood staff know where they can get counselling. Please apologise to these women, Ms Richards. Not just for the 'tone' of staff comments but for the failure of Planned Parenthood for decades to inform women of human development and explain abortion procedures that they had a right to know.

 

Sincerely,

 

Tiana Sakr

CEO, Women and Babies Support (WOMBS) International Ltd

 


If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please call 911 (USA) or 000 (Australia), otherwise the National Suicide Prevention Line (USA) at 1(800) 273-8255 or Lifeline (Australia) at 13 11 14. 

If you are experiencing emotional problems such as inability to sleep, constant crying, anger, anxiety or inability to concentrate, please seek help with a local counsellor or therapist. For assistance, call now:

24 Hr International Helpline:

      866 482 5433 (USA)

(exit code) 1 866 482 5433 (Intl)

Or, if you are in Australia:

1800 090 777 (Aus)

Otherwise, our online directory at http://abortiongroup.com/index.php/get-help/findservices or Care Net at http://www.care-net.org/find-a-pregnancy-center may assist you in locating a counsellor near you.  

Pregnancy centers usually offer free counselling both before and after crisis pregnancy and abortion.

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Posted by on in After Abortion
Finding common ground on abortion

Leah Torres MD and I tweet each other often about abortion.  Leah asked what my thoughts were on a blog she wrote called 'Universal Truths'.  Although Leah and I sit on either side of the abortion debate, I am confident in saying that each of us are genuinely happy when we can find common ground on issues relating to abortion and can simply agree.

So when I read her blog I was pleased to say that I did agree with all the main points of her blog, which Leah refers to as 'universal truths':

1. Everyone wants fewer abortions.

2. Abortions will always be needed.

3. When abortion is legal and accessible, it is safe.

However, I wanted to respond in detail to Leah's discussion on each and share some different views on each point and also make some suggestions.

Everyone wants fewer abortions.. how true.  Leah aptly describes how scary and difficult it is for a woman to face an unexpected pregnancy.  "She never wanted to consider having an abortion .. yet not everything.. works out the way we plan..Thus, what I mean by "everyone wants fewer abortions", is that beginning with the woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy, everyone wants fewer abortions."

Leah stongly urges comprehensive sexual health education and access to highly effective contraception in order to lower the rate of abortion.   I agree education and access to a variety of effective contraception methods that people feel comfortable using, for health or religious reasons too, are important to avoid pregnancies.  However, as Leah says, 'no birth control method is perfect'. There will always be unexpected pregnancies even with good sex education and use of contraception.  We must look at other ways also to lower the rate of abortion.  What first sprung to my mind, there could be much better support in our communities for women that specifically address the problems many face in an unexpected pregnancy, rather than just offering one solution: abortion.

Leah mentions a woman must consider her health, her family situation, her financial situation.  These are important points.  Good maternal health services are critical to ensure all women can enjoy healthy pregnancies and deliveries.  But unfortunately, even in developed countries such as the United States1, maternal health is not consistently to the high standard it should be nor is prenatal care available to all women (either because available care is poor or it is too costly).  Women should not have to pay for ultrasounds or to give birth in a hospital.  This directly impacts the health of women in pregnancy and any risks she might experience in continuing a pregnancy.  Improving maternal health services (particularly in hospitals) and ensuring all women can receive a high standard of prenatal care through universal health care would have a direct and positive impact on lowering pregnancy risks for many women.

A woman in unexpected pregnancy also considers her family situation: this would include her relationships with her husband/partner, any children and probably her parents too.  The situation she finds herself in and relationships with those closest to her may have great influence on whether a woman feels she can continue a pregnancy or not.  But what happens if she is unsure she really wants an abortion but is unsupported by her parents or partner?  Without support she feels she will not cope.  What if she knew she could get the support she needs elsewhere?  Would she feel then she could continue the pregnancy?  Quality, accessible services like personalised care in an unexpected pregnancy, relationship counselling, pregnancy and parenting support services (including home visits) can give women who would otherwise feel they have no other choice but abortion due to lack of support, a real choice to continue in the pregnancy.

Also Leah mentions the financial situation for a women.  In many places, this is the number 1 reason women have an abortion.  Is there another solution?  Yes, financial help can be a solution and, not just temporary financial help in pregnancy but well into the future.  For many women, giving birth comes with the financial responsibility of raising a child.  What financial support is offered mothers in your area?  If a single mum has to take time off paid work because of pregnancy and to care for a child, could she get by?  Can she afford to provide for the child?  What about a student or dependent - is there any help for them in an unexpected pregnancy?  What about the mother with two young children already who is the main breadwinner in the family?  Is there financial support available if she can't work for months and months?  Unexpected pregnancies lead to the possibility of an unexpected financial crisis for many people.  It is for times like this that I think a broad social welfare net and financial support of women and families in need in our communities is completely justified.

Also importantly there should be financial support for women who choose adoption over abortion. They should not have to struggle to pay for regular visits to the doctor or to receive prenatal/materal care and may need financial support for time off work due to the pregnancy.  Adoption is a very difficult decision and women should be well supported with free specialised support, particularly counselling, both before and well after an adoption.

There are of course many complex and personal reasons why a woman may consider an abortion.  Here we've just discussed a few but I think we should look at the main rasons why women seek abortion and consider 'are there other solutions to these reasons and are women being offered these solutions as well as abortion?'  If not, why not?

Abortions will always be needed.. I agree with that too, for certain kinds of abortions.

First, to be clear, by 'abortion' we are referring to an 'induced abortion' and not a miscarriage (medically called a 'spontaneous abortion').  "Abortion" is the deliberate ending of a pregnancy before an embryo or fetus is viable (capable of surviving outside the womb).  This is the standard medical definition of an abortion.2  However, abortions occur after viability also, well into the 2nd or 3rd trimesters and although these may be called a 'late termination of pregnancy' or a 'delivery' or a 'birth' by the medical community, they are nevertheless still what is generally understood to be an 'abortion' if the intention of the procedure is to produce a nonviable fetus.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collecting data on abortion in the USA, defines legal induced abortion as:

"a procedure, performed by a licenced physician or someone acting under the supervision of a licensed physician, that was intended to terminate a suspected or known intrauterine pregnancy and to produce a nonviable fetus at any gestational age."3 (emphasis added)

There are differences in the aim of some abortions.  A procedure may be performed to deliberately end a pregnancy but the aim of the abortion is not to cause the death of the embryo or fetus but to treat the mother.  Charles Camosy, philosopher and a professor of social ethics, refers to abortions as either direct or indirect depending on whether the procedure aims at the death of the embryo or fetus.4  I find this a helpful distinction between different kinds of abortions.

A direct abortion aims at the death of the embryo or fetus.  Procedures that are always direct abortions (by their very nature) are vacuum aspiration and dilation & extraction (D&E) abortions.

An indirect abortion does not aim (as an end or by its method) at the death of the fetus (although this may be likely or inevitable).  Procedures that may be used to perform an indirect abortion are an induction of labour, removing the uterus (hysterectomy) or the abortion pill, RU486.  (RU486 arguably causes the embryo to detach from the woman without directly attacking the embryo itself). It is important to note that these procedures are not indirect abortions, however, if the aim of the procedure is the death of the embryo or fetus.

The abortions I agree will always be needed are indirect abortions for reasons such as ectopic pregnancy or pre-eclampsia or other medical conditions (such as cancer of the uterus), as a last resort.  Medical situations when a pregnancy poses a very serious threat to a woman's life and health and there is no alternative method of treatment other than an abortion are rare.

Leah submits that abortions will always be needed by women who receive news later in pregnancy that her child has a life limiting diagnoses and will either die before birth or shortly after delivery.  Also that abortion will always be needed for women whose health is placed seriously at risk due to a pregnancy in the second and third trimesters (perhaps jeopardising future pregnancies).  I disagree an abortion will always be needed for pregnancies where the child has a life limiting diagnoses, however an indirect abortion may be needed later in pregnancy if a woman's health is at risk.  What is definitely needed and is often lacking today is personal and specialised care to help parents confronted with the news their child has a life limiting diagnoses and through a very difficult time.

When abortion care is legal and accessible, it is safe.. well I mostly agree with this statement but partly disagree too.  Not all legal abortions are safe for women.  More than 400 women are known to have died from legal abortions, since abortion was legalised in the United States in 1973.5  The risk of death from a legal abortion significantly increases each week from very early in a pregnancy. Available data on abortion-related deaths from 1988-1997 in the U.S. showed that, after 8 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of mortality increases by 38% each week.6  So what is a "safe" abortion?  Since a pregnant woman can only continue in pregnancy or have an abortion, I think it is reasonable to say that by "safe", we are talking about how safe it is in comparison to giving birth.  In the period 1988-1997, per trimester, the risk of mortality in abortion was 14.7/100,000 at 13-15 weeks pregnancy, 29.5/100,000 at 16-20 weeks pregnancy and 76.6/100,000 after 21 weeks pregnancy.6  During 1988-1997, the risk of death in childbirth was approximately 8-10/100,000.1  So in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, the risk of death from legal abortion exceeded that of childbirth.

Hence I would have to qualify that I agree abortions early in the first trimester of pregnancy when legal and accessible, are safe.  Also any necessary medical procedure performed by a qualified medical practitioner in a hospital or approved facility will of course be much safer than one performed by an unqualified person or without a regulated standard of care.

How do we reduced the need for abortions?  I would like to add to Leah's answer to provide comprehensive sex education and highly effective methods of contraception with a few more suggestions: provide free, high standard maternal care, including hospital delivery; welfare support for pregnant women and children after birth; counselling, social and psychological support services available both during and after an unexpected pregnancy; social change for non-discrimination of pregnant women at school, college, in the workplace and in public facilities.

I thank Leah for inviting discussion on this important topic and I hope others will join in constructive discussion and efforts towards the change everyone wants.. fewer abortions.

 

 

1 Kilpatrick SJ. "Next Steps to Reduce Maternal Morbidity and Mortality in the USA."  Medscape, Women's Health. 2015; 11(2): 193-199 http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/842588. Introduction:

"Maternal mortality in the USA, after a dramatic fall from 900s/100,000 live births in the early 1900s, largely due to the advent of antibiotics, plateaued at 8-10/100,000 from 1980 until the late 1990s at which point maternal mortality rose.  Worldwide between 1990 and 2013 maternal mortality increased in nearly every country, except the USA, where it increased by 1.7%."

2 Annas GJ, Elias S. "Legal and Ethical Issues in Obstetric Practice." 2007. 51:

"[T]he standard medical definition of abortion [is] termination of a pregnancy when the fetus is not viable." 

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Abortion Surveillance - United States, 2007", Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 60, no. 1 (February 25, 2011), p.2. Available at  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6001.pdf

4 Camosy, C. "Beyond the Abortion Wars. A Way Forward for a New Generation" 2015. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 64-65, 81.

5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Abortion Surveillance - United States, 2007", Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 60, no. 1 (February 25, 2011), p.36. Available at  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6001.pdf

6 Barlett LA, Berg CJ, Shulman HB, Zane SB, Green CA, Whitehead S, Atrash HK. "Risk factors for legal induced abortion-related mortality in the United States." 2004; Obstet Gynewcol 103: 729-37. Available at http://www.researchgate.net/publication/8648767_Risk_Factors_for_Legal_Induced_AbortionRelated_Mortality_in_the_United_States

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