07.10.133:17 PM ET

Abortion, Prematurity Link Debunked

Improved medical procedures key to diminished risk.

The link between abortion and premature birth has long been both scientifically and politically controversial. Now, a new study by British researchers has found that while abortion once increased a woman’s risk of preterm birth, it no longer does, probably thanks to improved procedures. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the study looked at more than 730,000 first births in Scotland between 1980 and 2008. In the early 1980s, women who’d had one or more abortions were at higher risk of delivering before 37 weeks gestation—18 percent for each abortion. By 2000, however, the elevated risk had almost entirely vanished. “The researchers suggest the shift is the result of a growing use of oral medication to induce or aid in abortion, and a decline in surgical abortions that may injure a woman’s cervix,” writes reporter Melissa Healy. The finding has particular political significance in the United States, since a number of states are moving to restrict access to medical abortion.