Objective: The recent surge of new legislation regulating induced abortion in the United States is ostensibly motivated by the desire to protect women's health. To provide context for interpreting the risk of abortion, we compared abortion-related mortality to mortality associated with other outpatient surgical procedures and selected nonmedical activities.
Methods: We calculated the abortion-related mortality rate during 2000-2009 using national data. We searched PubMed and other sources for contemporaneous data on mortality associated with other outpatient procedures commonly performed on healthy young women, marathon running, bicycling and driving.
Results: The abortion-related mortality rate in 2000-2009 in the United States was 0.7 per 100,000 abortions. Studies in approximately the same years found mortality rates of 0.8-1.7 deaths per 100,000 plastic surgery procedures, 0-1.7deaths per 100,000 dental procedures, 0.6-1.2 deaths per 100,000 marathons run and at least 4 deaths among 100,000 cyclists in a large annual bicycling event. The traffic fatality rate per 758 vehicle miles traveled by passenger cars in the United States in 2007-2011 was about equal to the abortion-related mortality rate.
Conclusions: The safety of induced abortion as practiced in the United States for the past decade met or exceeded expectations for outpatient surgical procedures and compared favorably to that of two common nonmedical voluntary activities. The new legislation restricting abortion is unnecessary; indeed, by reducing the geographic distribution of abortion providers and requiring women to travel farther for the procedure, these laws are potentially detrimental to women's health.
Keywords: Abortion; Bicycling; Driving; Marathon; Mortality; Outpatient surgery.
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