A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has concluded what pro-abortion groups have tried to discount for decades: abortion substantially increases a woman’s risk of mental health problems. More specifically, post-abortive women experience an 81% increased risk of having subsequent mental health issues. Hundreds of published studies have demonstrated the distinct correlation between induced abortion and the devastating psychological issues it has on women.
Several recent literary reviews on this correlation (including one from the American Psychological Association) have concluded that abortion does not significantly impact a woman’s mental health. However, these studies are unreliable for a few notable reasons:
First, there have been just a few studies that comprised of pregnancies that were unintentional but carried to term as a control group. Sometimes pregnancies that are originally intended are aborted, and sometimes unintended pregnancies become wanted as the pregnancy continues, so the wantedness of the pregnancy can alter over time. The intendedness of a pregnancy is determined only by “intended” or “unintended,” when many women may actually feel their intendedness of the pregnancy lies somewhere in between. Half of pregnancies in America are labeled “unintended.” Adolescents and women over forty years of age report that their pregnancies are unintended over 75% of the time. This means most women in control groups of the research studies that compare abortion with full-term pregnancies actually gave birth to “unintended” babies, even if this is not explicitly evaluated.
Second, abundant pieces of data in peer-reviewed literature were not included in those studies. According to the study from the BJP, “in the 2008 review by Charles et al, several of the studies that were overlooked actually met the inclusion criteria,” and “studies examining substance misuse were not included in two of the three reviews, with no rationale for excluding them.” Interestingly, many studies have concluded that there is a strong correlation between induced abortion and subsequent substance abuse, which is a known prominent mental health issue.
Third, the methods by which studies were chosen in the literary reviews were insufficient. The samples of studies introduced to the reviews were either overly broad, “resulting in incorporation of results from numerous weaker studies,” or the studies were too specific, resulting in unjustified elimination of sound studies.” The review from the American Psychological Association, the largest literary review, illustrates both of these problems: the criterion that was chosen for the study with a comparison group was only a report based on provisional research on induced abortion “with at least one mental health measure in peer-reviewed journals in English on US and non-US samples.” However, non-US samples were completely evaded for another type of study (which lacked a comparison group) without any sufficient reasoning, so dozens of relevant international studies were disregarded.
Fourth, the number of effects was not determined by any of these three research teams although there was no reason neglect doing so. A 2003 review published by Thorp et al “resulted in the conclusion that abortion is associated with an increased risk of depression that may lead to self-harm.” This study neglected to examine a large quantity of mental health effects as well.
The BJP study notes that since the abortion issue is so greatly politicized and debated, it is imperative to utilize scientifically sound standards in evaluation and draw conclusions on the issue in an unbiased manner. The objective of this published analysis is to “conduct meta-analyses of associations between induced abortion and adverse mental health outcomes” while ensuring use of decipherable control groups that are used in other varied studies, including unintended pregnancies brought to term. For the most accurate analysis possible, studies that utilized Medline and PsychINFO databases were employed in the report if they met the standard of having at least one hundred subjects, used a comparison group, and referenced at least one potential mental health effect (including alcohol and substance abuse).
The study abided by certain rules for extracting and analyzing the mental effects of induced abortion based on Lipsey’s outline of recommendations in order to assure an unprejudiced collection of results from unique studies that portrayed distinctive variables in the reports.
When the statistical analyses of the study were incorporated into the inclusion criteria and standards listed for the extraction and analysis of the studies, the results of this particular study indicated that “that regardless of the type of comparison group used, abortion is associated with an enhanced risk of experiencing mental health problems, with the magnitude of this risk ranging from 55% to 138%.” The analysis and information collected for this report consisted of data from 22 studies, and with that, it was assessed that “quite consistently [abortion] is associated with moderate to highly increased risks of psychological problems subsequent to the procedure,” and that the gravity of the mental effects were varied depending on the comparison groups—no abortion, pregnancy delivered, unintended pregnancy delivered—and the mental problem that was studied, such as depression, drug and alcohol use, and suicidal behavior. In conclusion, the overall result showed that post-abortive women “experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be directly attributable to abortion.” The BJP review reports that suicidal tendencies of post-abortive women are nearly double those of women who carried their pregnancies to term.
The review indicates an intention for future research and notes that post-abortive women might “find it particularly difficult to reach out to others if they experience shame or guilt associated with the abortion,” and states that the true risks of abortion “should be shared with women as they are counselled prior to an abortion decision.” Although healthcare professionals hold the responsibility to educate their patients with scientifically and medically accurate information, this often doesn’t happen. Therefore, it is the initial responsibility of the research community to “set aside personal ideological commitments, objectively examine all high-quality published data, and conduct analyses of the literature that are based on state-of-the-art data analysis procedures, yielding readily interpretable synopses” as this review has attempted.
Health benefits following an abortion procedure “have not been empirically established.” When inquired as to their emotional state after an abortion (defined by ‘happy,’ ‘pleased,’ or ‘satisfied,’) the average response was a 2.24 on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “not at all” to 5 being “a great deal.” When questioned again about their emotions regarding their abortion two years later, the rating dropped to 2.06. However, since solid evidence that documents the benefits of abortion on mental health are currently unavailable, “clinicians should convey the current state of uncertainty related to benefits of abortion in addition to sharing the most accurate information pertaining to statistically validated risks.”
This review is intended to be a systematic evaluation of data in regards to induced abortion and the mental health of women. The review admits that only a fifteen-year period of publications was studied, but insists that the criteria is of the “largest and strongest studies published in recent years” and calls for the continuation of quantitative literary reviews of studies, but also notes the fact that “methodologically sophisticated studies on the topic of abortion and mental health are being published at a significantly higher rate than ever before” and that researchers worldwide are more able to delve into the issue that once repulsed them for its political connotations. To conclude, the review indicates that “abortion is a statistically validated risk factor for the development of various psychological disorders.”