This Is Why Statistics on Abortion Complications Are Hopelessly Unreliable

Recently I came across the report of an inspection of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Warminster, Pennsylvania carried out on August 22 by the state’s Department of Health. One finding in particular jumped out at me: on May 5, a woman undergoing an abortion at this Planned Parenthood facility had her uterus perforated—and Planned Parenthood did not report the injury to the Department as a “serious event,” as required by state law.  Instead, Planned Parenthood merely reported it as an “incident.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDOH) defines an “incident” as:

an event, occurrence or situation involving the clinical care of an Abortion Services client that could have injured the client but did not either cause an unanticipated injury or require the delivery of additional health care services to the client.

Contrast that with a “serious event,” which the PDOH defines as:

an event, occurrence or situation involving the clinical care of a client in the abortion facility that results in death or compromises client safety and results in an unanticipated injury requiring the delivery of additional health services to the client.

What’s more, the inspection revealed that the woman whose uterus was perforated refused transfer to a hospital, although she did present to a nearby hospital’s ER after she left Planned Parenthood.

This raises some questions: Did Planned Parenthood staffers urge her to be transferred to a hospital immediately?  Or did they downplay the problem and make her think that it was probably unnecessary? Was the woman afraid that she would have to pay the bill for the injury Planned Parenthood caused her?

In any case, if the woman were to not go to the hospital, Planned Parenthood could try to sweep the matter under the rug—which, it appears, is exactly what they did by failing to report it as a “serious event.”

Statistics on Abortion Complications: Garbage In, Garbage Out

If you’ve been around the abortion debate for any length of time, you’ve surely heard a self-styled pro-choice advocate trot out the “Abortion is safer than childbirth” talking point.


The data on abortion complications depend largely on self-reporting.  Self-reporting invariably means under-reporting, and that invariably means the data on abortion complications are hopelessly unreliable. (In other words: “Garbage in, garbage out.”)

The uterine perforation brought to light at the Planned Parenthood in Warminster therefore provides an interesting case study. If it weren’t for state inspectors diligently doing their job, this “serious event” never would have been reported as such.

And when you consider that there are hundreds of abortion facilities nationwide that haven’t been inspected in years—and some that have never been inspected—you can’t help but wonder how many other complications get swept under the rug.

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