Women Should be Told of Abortion-Mental Health Link Risks

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 2, 2011   |   11:52AM   |   Washington, DC

An organization for women who regret their abortions and leaders of pro-life groups are hailing a new study confirming that abortion causes a number of mental heath risks for women.

A new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry by leading American researcher Dr. Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University finds women who have an abortion face almost double the risk of mental health problems as women who have their baby. Coleman’s study is based on an analysis of 22 separate studies which, in total, examine the pregnancy experiences of 877,000 women, with 163,831 women having an abortion. The study also indicated abortion accounts for one in ten of every adverse mental health issue women face as a whole.

Leaders of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the world’s largest network of women and men harmed by abortion, say 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.

Fr. Frank Pavone, the pastoral director of Silent No More and the head of Priests for Life, says the mental anguish women face following an abortion is not surprising, as he has seen the spiritual devastation women face as they deal with the aftermath of taking the life of their unborn child.

“What I pray will be one of the major results of this study is that more women will realize that they are not alone,” he said. “The pain they’ve been internalizing, perhaps for years or decades, is not uncommon; in fact, it’s quite normal.  There is help and there is healing.  I urge them to contact www.SilentNoMoreAwareness.org.”

Meanwhile, Jeanne Monahan, Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, agreed that the study makes it so women should be informed of the risks prior to having an abortion.

“Dr. Coleman’s research reveals the indisputable truth that abortion is bad for women’s mental health,” she said. “The fact that Coleman’s study found 81 percent of women who have had an abortion to be at increased risk for significant mental health problems is proof of this. The study also reveals that as many as ten percent of all mental health problems are directly attributable to abortion.”

“With this information, doctors now have a valid and unbiased synthesis of the current research available on the relationship between abortion and women’s mental health. Because it is a meta-analysis the research is much more thorough and reliable than any other single study or review to date,” Monahan added. “Women need to know this information; they have the right to informed consent before choosing abortion. Abortion not only takes the life of a baby but it often causes much emotional harm to the mother.”

The peer-reviewed study indicated abortion was linked with a 34 percent chance of anxiety disorders, and 37 percent higher possibility of depression, a more than double risk of alcohol abuse (110 percent), a three times greater risk of marijuana use (220 percent), and 155 percent greater risk of trying to commit suicide.

When compared to unintended pregnancy delivered women had a 55% increased risk of experiencing any mental health problem.

Dr. Coleman said she conducted the study “to produce an unbiased analysis of the best available evidence addressing abortion as one risk factor among many others that may increase the likelihood of mental health problems. There are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counseled prior to an abortion.”

“This review offers the largest estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world literature. The results revealed moderate to high increased risk of mental health problems after abortion. Consistent with evidence-based medicine, this information should be used by health care professionals,” Coleman said. “Recently published, less systematic reviews of the scientific literature on abortion and mental health, including the American Psychological Association report and one by Johns Hopkins researchers among others, are prone to bias, and as a result actively mislead the public.”

The study is a meta-analysis, which is a quantitative or numerical synthesis of data from many previously published studies. In a meta-analysis all studies are not treated equally. Contributions of individual study effects to the overall results are weighted statistically based on sample size.

Only studies that meet very stringent methodologically-based criteria are entered into the analysis; whereas in other types of reviews authors may not reveal the criteria employed or the criteria may be too restrictive (missing valuable studies) or too general (including weak studies in conclusions), Coleman explained. The bottom line is the results are far more reliable than the results of a single study or a qualitative review, because of the wealth of data incorporated and the objective methods for combining effects.

“The paper is being published in a very prestigious journal, the British Journal of Psychiatry, which is considered one of the top psychiatry journals in the world. This means the paper has been extensively scrutinized by well-respected scientists and the results of studies are trusted by practitioners throughout the world,” Coleman said.