ABC News Makes False Claims on Abortion Risks, Pregnancy Centers

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

ABC News Makes False Claims on Abortion Risks, Pregnancy Centers Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 17
, 2006

New York, NY ( — Following the lead of abortion advocacy groups, ABC News reporter Dan Harris wrote a news article Friday attacking the work of the thousands of pregnancy centers nationwide that provide abortion alternatives and help for pregnant women. The article also contained a false claim that induced abortion has no link to various confirmed risks.

In the headline of its story, ABC News claims that crisis pregnancy centers are "offering information long discredited by the medical community."

The claim comes after comments from abortion advocates who allege pregnancy centers "harass and mislead women by telling them … that abortions can lead to breast cancer, sterility and depression."

Harris then writes, "These claims have all been widely discredited by the medical community" though he provides no evidence in the story to back up his assertion.

The news report, however, runs counter to significant recent medical research.

A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in January found that mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, were more likely to occur among women who had an abortion than women who had never been pregnant or didn’t have an abortion.

The research found that 42 percent of the women who had abortions had experienced major depression within the last four years. That’s almost double the rate of women who never became pregnant. The risk of anxiety disorders also doubled.

According to the New Zealand study, women who have abortions were twice as likely to drink alcohol at dangerous levels and three times as likely to be addicted to illegal drugs.

David Fergusson, who led the study and backs legal abortion, said the results show access to legal abortions is not necessarily good for women. He also said the study confirms abortions cause women mental health issue — rather than alleviating them as abortion advocates claim.

His conclusion backs the results of a study by researchers at Bowling Green State University in 2004 who examined data on nearly 11,000 women between the ages of 15 and 34 who had experienced an unintended pregnancy.

Their survey found that women who have abortions of unexpected pregnancies were 30 percent more likely to experience subsequent problems with anxiety than those who don’t have one. contacted Harris about his article and the false claim on the abortion risks and Harris defended the allegation.

The "medical community" that Harris says believes abortion doesn’t lead to depression, breast cancer or sterility consists only of an internal group of doctors that advise ABC News.

"We have a medical unit here consisting of doctors who pulled all of the relevant research," Harris told, and he made his claims based on their contention those abortion risks don’t exist.

When asked about the recent research showing abortion causing numerous mental health problems for women, Harris cited a 1989 and 2000 research study to black up the claims from the ABC News medical advisors.

He also cited an old statement from the American Psychological Association discounting the abortion-depression link, even though the organization recently withdrew their statement denying it.

Harris did say he would welcome information from on more recent research and would correct his news story if warranted, but again defended his claim that abortion produces no medical or mental health risks.

"I don’t think we made an error, our medial unit is pretty solid and respected in the medical community," Harris contended.

But members of the "medical community" don’t agree with the findings of ABC News’ anonymous group of medical advisors.

Last month a leading group of psychologists and mental health professionals in England say that abortion causes women tremendous psychological and mental health problems. They are calling on the nation’s doctor’s group to revise its guidelines about what women considering an abortion are told.

The list of professionals included Andrew Sims, past president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Patricia Casey, a professor of Psychiatry at University College in Dublin, and
leading psychologists. nat2697.html

On the abortion-beast cancer link, Harris told the medical unit based its view on a new study conducted by researchers as Oxford University in England that claims induced abortions do not raise a woman’s breast cancer risk.

However, Professor Joel Brind, a researcher from Baruch College in New York and the president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, says the new Oxford study is "seriously flawed in the direction of covering up the link."

The study included both abortions and breast cancer diagnoses on women from various European nations up to the year 2000 — but many women were over the age of 40 when abortion was legalized in the countries.

Therefore, many younger women with recent abortions were compared to older breast cancer patients who were too old to have been exposed to legal abortions during most of their fertile years, Brind explained.

"This sort of bad science is becoming disappointingly familiar," Brind added. "It is similar to the flaws in the Danish study" which Brind says had the same flawed analysis as the new Oxford one.

Dr. Gillian K. Reeves, who published the study, also failed to compare the effect of having an abortion with the effect of having a full term pregnancy.

A 1996 report published by the British Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health looked at 23 previous studies and found abortion increases the breast cancer risk by 30 percent.

Meanwhile, research shows that abortion can lead to infertility by increasing the risk of miscarriages.

A 1986 report in the medical journal Epidemiology reveals women with a history of abortion have a greater risk of fetal loss than women who had no previous abortions. Women with two prior pregnancies carried to term and no abortions had the lowest risk, while women with two prior abortions had the highest risk.

Also, a 1991 British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology article revealed that women with a history of abortion had a 1.5-1.7 times higher risk of ectopic pregnancy than women who had previously carried a pregnancy to term.

ACTION: Contact ABC News and urge it to feature abortion news reports that are fairly and accurately written: ABC News, 77 W. 66 St., New York, NY 10023 (p) 212-456-7777. Or send an email to [email protected] about Dan Harris’ news story.