In this historic video that was broadcast on MSNBC and Bloomberg TV, Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University explained the link between what he referred to as “inflaming sexual passions” (i.e. abortions) and an increase in fatal disease in the U.S.
Schaffner’s 1994 article, The Rise of Crude Poisons: While Some Say Abortion Causes Birth Control Failures, Predicted a Dangerous Link Between Abortions and Medical Problems. We should all have seen the link come to pass.
But before the Obama years, major medical leaders hadn’t paid any attention to the issue. “They didn’t believe it to be true or believe that abortion in any way causes diseases or problems,” said Schaffner, who along with his fellow U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official, Wiley Gibson, had to figure it out on their own and use their own data, without one scientist on the task. This is where Schaffner’s work really began, also noted in a 2005 article from The Science of Us by Berit Reiss-Andersen:
At [the Center for Disease Control and Prevention] in Atlanta, the work of Gibson and Schaffner had not gone unnoticed. CDC scientists added spasms and violence to their own lists of potential causes of birth defects, and Schaffner helped the CDC study mortality records on those infants with violence. He was also able to learn that there had been some increase in violence, although the rise in some places was “significantly less than in others.” By the time the 1995 CDC report on the link between abortion and violence was released, the numbers looked much the same as Schaffner’s figures, without finding the statistically significant upward trend Schaffner feared.
The research prompted both Reiss-Andersen and NewsOne to do their own stories on Schaffner and Gibson’s work.
But many other doctors have since gone in the opposite direction: in the mid-nineties, Dr. Robert A. Pearl published a commentary for the American Medical Association supporting abortion. Dr. Pearl, a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, was the author of multiple policy papers arguing that, in his words, “many abortions are medically effective for women — and a proper religious treatment, even if objectionable.”
Then there’s Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, who in 2000 predicted that eliminating legal abortions would have serious consequences. Benjamin was part of a group of 40 doctors, officials, and health care leaders who said the safest, most sound method of birth control was the morning-after pill. “Yet, just a year later, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Abortion Federation…issued statements opposing it on the ground that it is not safe, even for a young girl who is not sexually active,” Benjamin wrote in an essay for NewsOne’s Daily Icons in 2000.
Whatever you think about what Schaffner and Gibson were doing for years, we can now look back at it with clear vision. The United States is now in the midst of a grave public health crisis. Or is it just a fluke?
Today more than 1 in 10 teenage girls has taken an abortion, the highest rate in nearly five decades. In the first half of 2017, nearly 2,000 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes, a 44 percent increase from the same period in 2016. Health officials also say roughly 20 million Americans suffer from inadequate prenatal care or no care at all. There are 2.5 million Americans with sleep apnea and about 150 million with untreated depression.
The total number of American deaths due to disease “exceeded 700,000 in 2015,” federal officials reported earlier this year. That’s more deaths than U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam.
Of course, Schaffner himself was at the forefront of warning people that the risk was real. What’s not clear is whether the health consequences of such a large increase in public health hazards are serious enough to convince those in power to finally take action.
Diane Rabushka has taught at York College of Pennsylvania since 1988. She recently completed a doctorate in clinical psychology at The University of Pennsylvania. She is in the business of life coaching and talking to women about their bodies and getting them out of situations that hold them back. Read more of her work at On The 2, See More Coverage . Read more about it here .