Abortion-Depression Link Research Could Change Pro-Life Movement

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Abortion-Depression Link Research Could Change Pro-Life Movement Email this article
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by Daniel Allott
November 17, 2006

LifeNews.com Note: Daniel Allott is a policy analyst for American Values, a non-profit organization "committed to uniting the American people around the vision of our Founding Fathers."

November 7 was a bad day for the babies, as a number of pro-life ballot initiatives went down to defeat across the country.

Parental notification laws failed in California and Oregon; voters turned back an abortion ban in South Dakota; and voters approved taxpayer-funded cloning in Missouri. On top of all that, some of the most vocal pro-lifers in Congress were defeated.

Despite these setbacks, two recent developments provide a glimmer of hope to pro-lifers.

First, in late October the American Psychological Association (APA) withdrew an official statement denying a link between abortion and psychological harm. This is significant because pro-life and abortion groups have been sparring for years over whether abortion is significantly associated with a higher risk of subsequent depression.

Then, in a related development, 15 of Great Britain’s leading obstetricians and psychiatrists penned an open letter to the London Times proposing that, “Since women having abortions can no longer be said to have a low risk of suffering from psychiatric conditions such as depression, doctors have a duty to advise about long-term adverse psychological consequences of abortion."

The group of preeminent doctors further suggested “that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal College of Psychiatrists revise their guidance, and that future abortion notifications clearly distinguish between physical and mental health grounds for abortion.”

So, what prompted the world’s largest psychological organization and a group of top British physicians to re-evaluate their positions on the psychological effects of abortion?

Both the APA and the group of British physicians cited a New Zealand study that found women who had abortions had twice the level of psychological problems and three times the level of depression as those who gave birth or never became pregnant.

Of course, abortion advocates typically downplay the abortion-depression link, contending that most women who experience post-abortion depression have a history of emotional problems. And it’s true that if a woman has a history of depression, obtains an abortion, and is depressed at some point after the abortion, one cannot say the abortion itself caused the depression.

But researchers in the New Zealand study followed the development of a random sample of women over their entire lives and therefore were able to account for women who were predisposed to depression. By doing so the researchers could “isolate the effect” of the abortion experience and thus conclude that it’s not just “at risk” women who suffer after an abortion but “healthy” women, too.

The idea that abortion might cause emotional distress is not new.

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