Anti-abortion advocates are touting a new study released by The British Journal of Psychiatry that links abortions to poor emotional and mental health. While other studies have disputed and disproven such a link, the finding remains a common claim used to dissuade women from having abortions.
The Journal of Psychiatry‘s recent study reports that “women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be attributable to abortion. The strongest subgroup estimates of increased risk occurred when abortion was compared with term pregnancy and when the outcomes pertained to substance use and suicidal behaviour.”
The study was an affirmation of an already commonly held belief among anti-abortion advocates.Websites such as LifeNews.com linked to the study. LifeNews.com claimed that “women should be told of abortion-mental health link risks.”
The LifeNews.com post also quoted leaders of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. The group told the site that “the report validates what many post-abortive women already know”:
“This is not just another study. It’s historic,” Silent No More co-founder Georgette Forney told LifeNews. “It combines the results of 22 studies conducted over a 14-year period in six countries involving 877,181 women. And it confirms what Silent No More members have been saying all along – abortion harms women.”
Janet Morana, another co-founder of the group, told LifeNews, “This report is devastating to those who try to deny the hurt and anguish women suffer from abortion.”
“The cruelty of those who lie to pregnant women about abortion’s impact is compounded by the heartlessness of abortion industry propagandists who dismiss post-abortive women’s pain as non-existent. After this enormous scientific study, abortion’s apologists should apologize to the millions of women they’ve tried to marginalize,” she said.
The link between abortions and mental health is something women have been told for years — often when visiting crisis pregnancy centers.
As previously reported by the Florida Independent, Florida’s state-funded crisis pregnancy centers have been known to distribute medically inaccurate information about the supposed mental health risks associated with abortions.
According to one of the brochures handed out at a Florida center, “mental health providers are treating an increasing number of women who are suffering mental and emotional difficulties as a result of induced abortions.”
That brochure stated, “Many studies have shown abortion to be connected to: clinical depression, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Suicide” and cited studies that link abortion to clinical depression, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.
However, according to Dr. Nancy Russo, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, this is misleading:
If you examine the statement, “Many studies have shown abortion to be connected to: clinical depression, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Suicide,” you will find the statement is misleading because it implies that abortion is a direct cause of such problems and that prohibiting abortion would reduce the risk of such problems. Neither is a valid conclusion. The former is not supported by credible scientific research, and the latter involves the “interventionist fallacy”.
A blog featuring women’s health professionals reports that these sorts of claims are commonly “debunked” by other studies.
A recent post on the blog also points out that there are general flaws in the British Journal study:
First of all the study, which is technically a meta-analysis of 22 previous studies done on the topic, fails to include the mental status of the women prior to the abortion; secondly it claims that abortion is responsible for substance abuse and depression as opposed to recognizing the already established link between substance abuse and depression. Call me crazy but if the field of psychology has already shown that substance abuse has major link to depression, is it really out of the question to think that women who have a substance abuse problem might also be depressed (or vice versa) without it being because they also had an abortion?
There is also an established link between substance abuse and risky sex as well as a link between depression and sexual promiscuity. Risky (unprotected) sex and promiscuity are contributing factors to an unwanted pregnancy. If a woman, who is already struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, has an unwanted pregnancy it is even more unwanted and is more likely to end in abortion. The abortion would not be the cause of her mental health issues; it would be a side effect.
Despite the persistent criticism of links between abortion and mental health, crisis pregnancy centers in Florida continue to tout such claims. The Pregnancy Center of Pinellas County, for example, says on its website page explaining “types of abortion procedures” that “many studies show abortion to be connected to: clinical depression, drug and alcohol abuse, post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and suicide.”