Congressional Bill Would Foster Research on Post-Abortion Depression

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 26, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congressional Bill Would Foster Research on Post-Abortion Depression

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 26, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Legislators have proposed a bill that would foster research into the area of post-abortion depression, a measure supporters say is overdue.

The Post-Abortion Depression Research and Care Act, HR 4543, is sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), and is co-sponsored by 28 other Representatives. It will allocate $15 million to the National Institutes of Health in the next five years, and provides for $1.5 million in grants for private organizations that diagnose and treat post-abortion depression. The bill is currently in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"We can’t ignore that there are real effects on women who have abortions," Derek Karchner, press secretary for Rep. Pitts, told the Washington Times. "We can’t just turn our backs on that."

Post-abortion depression is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) because of internal organizational politics, but the bill would allow for research in the area — an idea welcomed by non-profit organizations that currently help women suffering from the aftermath of an abortion.

"It’s not unlike what we looked at after Vietnam, when we started seeing post-traumatic stress issues," said Vicki Thorn, executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing.

Dr. Teresa Burke of Rachel’s Vineyard, another organization that provides counseling for women following abortions, agrees with Thorn.

"Women are being hurt by this physically, emotionally and spiritually," she told Family News in Focus. "It’s time that the government take stock . . . and see the effect it’s having."

"Even the language [of the bill] is truly sensitive to understanding a woman’s heart and recognizing that it might be years and years before we’re ready to seek help," added Georgette Forney, director of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

A new study shows how women who suffer from depression following an abortion can turn to self-destructive methods of coping with the pain.

The research, published in this month’s "American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse," found that women who had abortions were more likely to report, an average of four years later, more frequent and recent use of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

Researchers from the Elliot Institute and Bowling Green State University surveyed 749 women who had unintended pregnancies and 1,144 women who had never been pregnant.

Women who had abortions had higher drug and alcohol abuse rates than either women who did not have abortions or women who had never been pregnant. Those women who carried their children to term had the lowest rates of alcohol abuse, the researchers found.

David Reardon, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, suggests that giving birth, even to a child born from a mother who was not ready to become pregnant, may produce a "protective effect" for the baby because of the mother’s increased sense of responsibility.

The study’s authors say the higher substance abuse rates may result from "higher levels of anxiety, depression, and unresolved grief which have been measured in other studies of women with a history of abortion."

According to Reardon, 21 previous medical studies also confirm the link between substance abuse and abortion and show increased rates for both consumption of alcohol and drug use for women who have abortions.

However, the Elliot-Bowling Green study is the first to compare women who had abortions with women who gave birth. That makes this study’s impact greater.