As recently as last year the Guttmacher Policy Review published an article with the title ‘Abortion Does Not Increase Women’s Risk of Mental Health Problems’. Of course this assertion is hardly surprising, since the Guttmacher Institute is the research wing of Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion provider in the United States. But it is typical of many mainline organizations, which toe the same line. The reality is that the political and health establishments in North America have done their best to deny or suppress all information about the negative impact of abortion on women. The American Psychological Association, for example, takes the official position that terminating an unwanted pregnancy ‘does not pose a psychological hazard for most women’, and may actually be good for them. The report which arrives at this conclusion takes no notice whatever of the abundant evidence that for many women abortion is a devastating, catastrophic experience that haunts them for the rest of their lives.
What is this abundant evidence? It is outlined in detail in a book that I have recently co-authored with psychologist Elizabeth Ring Cassidy and surgeon Angela Lanfranchi, titled Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women. It can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org, or Amazon.com.
In this brief article I will just summarize the main points. The best overview can be found in a paper published by Priscilla Coleman in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2011. In it she analyzes 22 papers on the subject of abortion and mental health. Any papers that did not meet stringent scientific and statistical criteria were eliminated from her study. She found that women who had an abortion experienced an 81 per cent greater risk of mental health problems compared to women who did not. These increased risks included anxiety disorders, depression, alcohol use or abuse, marijuana use or abuse, and suicide behaviors. She also discovered that nearly ten per cent of all mental problems experienced by women are attributable to abortion alone, independent of any other factor.
Once in print, Coleman’s study attracted a barrage of angry criticism. Some of her critics went so far as to demand that the journal retroactively withdraw her article – a most extraordinary attempt to shut down debate. Other medical scientists however came to her defence, and the editors of the BMJ stood firm, declaring that her paper had passed a rigorous peer-review process, and that her findings deserved to be heard, no matter how controversial they were.
In fact Coleman’s findings harmonize with several studies showing that pregnancy carried to term fosters a woman’s mental health.
Those who insist that abortion is necessary to protect a woman from the negative consequences of an unintended pregnancy have little factual grounding to support them. In her reply to her critics Coleman wrote of ‘the truly shameful and systemic bias that permeates the psychology of abortion. Professional organisations in the USA and elsewhere have arrogantly sought to distort the scientific literature and paternalistically deny women the information they deserve to make fully informed healthcare choices and receive necessary mental health counselling when and if an abortion decision proves detrimental.’ Several other researchers gave strong support to Coleman’s indictment of the American Psychological Association.
Those who attacked Coleman had nothing to say about the four major studies from Britain, Scandinavia and the U.S. that document a much higher suicide rate among women who have undergone abortion. All of them involved many thousands of women, and were record-linkage based, meaning that they were drawn from official, but anonymous health records. The American one found a suicide rate 160 per cent higher among women who terminated their pregnancies than among women who gave birth. The Danish study, of over a million women, determined that those who experienced induced abortion and miscarriages suffered more than three times the risk of death of women who had only experienced birth. The study from Finland found that within one year of the end of pregnancy, those who gave birth had a suicide rate six times lower than those who had an abortion. In Britain it was determined that women who had induced abortions were 225 per cent more likely to commit suicide than those who brought their pregnancy to term.
Is it not astounding that none of these major studies linking abortion and suicide, all of them published in highly respected medical journals such as Archives of Women’s Mental Health, Medical Science Monitor, and the British Medical Journal, are referred to by those who would have us believe that abortion has no, or minimal, impact on women’s mental health?
The same is true of depression. A major American study, for example, found that among women with a lifetime psychiatric diagnosis of depression and a history of abortion, almost half had their first onset of depression after their first abortion. The same study found that a similar proportion had their first onset of generalized anxiety disorder after their first abortion.
As for substance abuse various studies have shown that women with a history of induced abortion have a much higher – sometimes as much as six times higher – rate of drug abuse than women without such a history. The incidence of alcohol abuse among women who have had abortions is less dramatic – only (!) twice as high as women who have not had abortions.
When it comes to anxiety one large study of Canadian women determined that almost half of those with both a lifetime psychiatric diagnosis and an abortion history had their first onset of generalized anxiety disorder after their first abortion. Overall, from her survey of the literature Coleman found a one-third greater risk of anxiety for women who have had an abortion.
Then there is the direct testimony of women themselves, which we document in our book. The women who volunteered to talk about their abortion experience overwhelmingly regretted it, and almost unanimously recommended against abortion. When the South Dakota Legislature was considering what to do about abortion it received and accepted sworn affidavits from 178 women testifying to the negative consequences of their abortions. Behind these affidavits were narrative statements of 3000 women concerning the harm that abortion had done to them.
And yet, the political and mental-health establishments in North American continue to deny any mental health hazard connected with abortion. Not only that, they strive to shut down any presentation of evidence that challenges their monolithic position. Why are they so reluctant to engage in any discussion of this evidence?