In news that will probably suck for social conservatives, it’s looking as if abortion is safer than pregnancy. Much safer:

(Reuters Health) – Getting a legal abortion is much safer than giving birth, suggests a new U.S. study published Monday.

Researchers found that women were about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth to a live baby than to die from complications of an abortion.

Experts say the findings, though not unexpected, contradict some state laws that suggest abortions are high-risk procedures.

The study is of course certain to be attacked by the RTL people. But what both sides are missing is that a key element has changed. The narrative which rightly so disturbs people — cutting a living baby out of its mother’s womb — is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

…since the abortion drug mifepristone was approved for use in the United States in 2000, the number of medically-induced abortions has been on the rise.

Mifepristone is also a contraceptive:

Mifepristone as a regular contraceptive at 2 mg daily prevents ovulation (1 mg daily does not). A single preovulatory 10 mg dose of mifepristone delays ovulation by 3 to 4 days and is as effective an emergency contraceptive as a single 1.5 mg dose of the progestin levonorgestrel.[26]

In women, mifepristone at doses greater or equal to 1 mg/kg antagonizes the endometrial and myometrial effects of progesterone. In humans, an antiglucocorticoid effect of mifepristone is manifested at doses greater or equal to 4.5 mg/kg by a compensatory increase in ACTH and cortisol. In animals, a weak antiandrogenic effect is seen with prolonged administration of very high doses of 10 to 100 mg/kg.[15][39]

In medical abortion regimens, mifepristone blockade of progesterone receptors directly causes endometrial decidual degeneration, cervical softening and dilatation, release of endogenous prostaglandins and an increase in the sensitivity of the myometrium to the contractile effects of prostaglandins. Mifepristone induced decidual breakdown indirectly leads to trophoblast detachment, resulting in decreased syncytiotrophoblast production of hCG, which in turn causes decreased production of progesterone by the corpus luteum (pregnancy is dependent on progesterone production by the corpus luteum through the first 9 weeks of gestation–until placental progesterone production has increased enough to take the place of corpus luteum progesterone production). When followed sequentially by a prostaglandin, mifepristone 200 mg is (100 mg may be, but 50 mg is not) as effective as 600 mg in producing a medical abortion.[36][37]

So, if we talk in purely statistical terms, women who take this drug early on and lose their babies are at far less at risk than they would be if they kept them. It’s just one of those hard truths, and it boils down to common sense. By causing miscarriage, these hormonal drugs essentially remove the risks of pregnancy, leaving whatever risks the drugs carry, which are not as great as the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term.

The abortion issue aside, risk analysis is one of my pet peeves, as it reduces humans to statistics, and when communitarianism is factored in, often leads to busybody demands for behavioral changes. While no one in his or her right mind would argue that women should take mifepristone to prevent the health risks of pregnancy (because it is self apparent that the right to have a child is a fundamental individual right even though it wasn’t listed in the Bill of Rights), a growing number of people are clamoring that people should stop using gas clothing dryers, because the dryer vents emit toxins.

And the toxins are unregulated!

The same University of Washington researcher who used chemical sleuthing to deduce what’s in fragranced consumer products now has turned her attention to the scented air wafting from household laundry vents.

Findings, published online this week in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, show that air vented from machines using the top-selling scented liquid laundry detergent and scented dryer sheet contains hazardous chemicals, including two that are classified as carcinogens.

“This is an interesting source of pollution because emissions from dryer vents are essentially unregulated and unmonitored,” said lead author Anne Steinemann, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs. “If they’re coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they’re regulated, but if they’re coming out of a dryer vent, they’re not.”

The chemicals they found include acetaldehyde, which to my utter horror I learned occurs widely in nature:

Acetaldehyde (systematically ethanal) is an organic chemical compound with the formula CH3CHO, sometimes abbreviated by chemists as MeCHO (Me = methyl). It is one of the most important aldehydes, occurring widely in nature and being produced on a large scale industrially. Acetaldehyde occurs naturally in coffee, bread, and ripe fruit, and is produced by plants as part of their normal metabolism. It is also produced by oxidation of ethanol and is popularly believed to be a cause of hangovers from alcohol consumption through drinking spirits.[3] Pathways of exposure include air, water, land or groundwater as well as drink and smoke.[4]

Damn! I knew that alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde, which then breaks down further into acetic acid, but I had no idea that it was in my morning coffee! Not only that, there are innumerable carcinogens in the food I eat!

“Naturally occurring pesticides that are rodent carcinogens are ubiquitous in fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Cooking foods produces about 2000 milligrams per person per day of burnt material that contains many rodent carcinogens and many mutagens… In a single cup of coffee, the natural chemicals that are known rodent carcinogens are about equal in weight to a year’s worth of synthetic pesticide residues that are rodent carcinogens, even though only 3% of the natural chemicals in roasted coffee have been adequately tested for carcinogenicity.”

Sheesh. That sounds more dangerous than mifepristone, or even pregnancy. I knew that we were being systematically poisoned, but I didn’t know things were that bad.

What about the right to be safe?

Is there such a right? If so, is it an individual right, or a community right? How do we weigh the individual’s right to make whatever choices he or she wants against the so-called greater good of society? If the “pollution” my dryer emits can in theory be regulated, and if I can be compelled to cut out my dog’s ovaries on the theory that she might commit “overpopulation,” why would a woman has any more right to have a child than to abort a child? What is the difference between the government telling her she may not terminate her pregnancy and the same government telling her she may not initiate her pregnancy? Or telling her that because she is pregnant, she may not engage in any activities or consume any substances that might harm her child? I mean, if she may not consume mifepristone, then what right has she to consume tobacco?

Risk analysis is confusing.  I’m trying to come up with a formula that squares safety and rights, and it keeps looking like tar and water, because rights have risks.

And if rights have risks, shouldn’t rights be banned?

(Wow, I can’t believe I wrote a post which didn’t mention the war on you-know-what!)