by Amy Sobie
March 21, 2008
LifeNews.com Note: Amy Sobie is the editor of The Post-Abortion Review, a quarterly publication of the Elliot Institute. The organization is a widely respected leader in research and analysis of medical, mental health and other complications resulting from abortions.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Great Britain has issued a statement saying that some women may suffer mental health problems after abortion and calling on health care providers to provide better screening and informed consent.
The statement was issued in response to a request from the House of Commons for the Royal College to update its 1994 report on mental health and abortion. The new, one-page statement said that the College had undertaken a review of existing research and that a "full systematic review around abortion and mental health is required."
The statement goes on to say that while the question of how abortion impacts women has not yet been fully resolved, "mental disorders can occur for some women during pregnancy and after birth."
It also calls on health care providers to screen women for pre-existing mental health disorders and other known risk factors that could cause problems after abortion, although it does not call for doctors not to do abortions in those cases or to screen for coercion.
The statement also addresses the issue of informed consent by saying that the College "recognizes that good practice in relation to abortion will include informed consent."
"Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information regarding the possible risks and benefits to physical and mental health," the College stated.
At least one study in the U.S. has found that many women are not given adequate counseling or information before undergoing an abortion.
A survey found that more than 83 percent of women having abortions said they did not receive adequate counseling before abortion, while 79 percent said they were not counseled on alternatives and 67 percent said they did receive any counseling. (1)
This is especially a concern in light of other data from the survey showing that more than 50 percent of the women were uncertain about undergoing an abortion and 64 percent said they felt pressured by others to abort.
Further, a survey of women seeking health care services found that 95 percent said they wanted to be informed about all the risks of elective medical procedures such as abortion, and 69 percent said they wanted to be informed about all alternatives to a procedure.
The new statement from the Royal College of Psychiatrists comes as Parliament is considering a measure to prohibit abortions for "social reasons" after 20 weeks gestation, instead of the 24 weeks currently allowed.
Abortions in Great Britain are supposed to be performed after 24 weeks only if there is a danger to the mother’s physical or mental health.
Unfortunately, the leading professional mental health organizations in the U.S. have continued to deny or ignore evidence that abortion increases the risk of mental health problems among women, despite the publication of peer-reviewed studies linking abortion to increased rates of suicide, clinical depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and other difficulties.
1. VM Rue et. al., Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women, Medical Science Monitor 10:SR5-16, 2004.