Abortions cause a host of mental health problems for women, but a new study claims suicide is not one of those risks. However, prior research demonstrates pretty convincingly that the suicide rate for women having abortions is higher than for women giving birth.
Research has now revealed women who have abortions actually appear more likely to try to kill themselves a year before the abortion than afterwards.
University of Maryland experts studied a total of 523,380 women in Denmark to track possible links between abortion and suicide attempts. The study looked at data spanning more than 17 years for women aged between 18 and 36, focusing on first-time abortions and failed suicide attempts.
It found that, although women who had abortions were more likely to try to end their lives than those who didn’t, the abortion itself wasn’t to blame.
The research was published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
However, one top abortion researcher indicates that the study supposedly debunking the abortion-suicide connections has flaws — even after performing only a preliminary review of its findings.
Although he has not engaged in a detailed review of the new study, Dr. Joel Brind of Baruch College in New York told LifeNews that a handful of problems immediately jump out at him. He wondered why the researchers only examined non-fatal suicide attempts rather than also including women who had abortions and successfully committed suicide. That would seem to skew the numbers away from an abortion-suicide link.
He said the Lancet study does not include the seminal research study on the subject — the classic study by Gissler in the mid 1990s using medical records from Finland, which reported a threefold increase in (successful) suicides compared to nonpregnant women and six-fold compared to women with a live birth. The Lancet study does not include its findings.
Dr. Brind also noted that the researchers behind the new Lancet study did find a 2.5-fold increased risk of unsuccessful suicide attempt both before and after abortion — which means a five-fold increased risk compared to women with no abortion.
“So even if you conclude that the association is not causal in terms of the abortion being responsible for the attempt, does it not indicate that those seeking abortions are at risk for suicide already, and should be referred for mental health counseling INSTEAD of getting an abortion?” Brind asked.
The seminal study Brind refers to was a large-scale study of women’s health records, published in 1997, that found that the suicide rate among women who had undergone abortions in the prior year was three times higher compared to women in the general population and six times higher compared to women who gave birth.
Its conclusion states:
The increased risk of suicide after an induced abortion indicates either common risk factors for both or harmful effects of induced abortion on mental health… Increased risk for suicide after an abortion indicates either common risk factors for both or harmful effects of induced abortion on mental health.
The statistics revealed that rather than increasing a woman’s chances of suicide, carrying a baby to term actually decreases them. Also noteworthy was the fact that the study was based not only on interviews but also on medical records. This reliance on records in addition to testimony helped the study avoid “recall bias.”
A related study, in the European Journal of Health, found similar results. This study tracked 463,473 women who became pregnant between the years of 1980 and 2004 and recorded their mortality rates after either giving birth or having abortions. They found that women who had abortions were more likely to die within 10 years after their abortions than women who carried to term. Suicide was a common cause of death for these women.
Australian researchers, years later, also noted the abortion-suicide link. The 2013 Queensland Maternal and Perinatal Quality Council report noted:
Suicide is the leading cause of death in women within 42 days after their pregnancy and between 43 days and 365 days after their pregnancy. There appears to be a significant worldwide risk of maternal suicide following termination of pregnancy and, in fact, a higher risk than that following term delivery.
The potential for depression and other mental health issues at this time needs to be better appreciated. Active follow-up of these women needs to happen. Practitioners referring women for termination of pregnancy or undertaking termination of pregnancy should ensure adequate follow-up for such women, especially if the procedure is undertaken for mental health concerns.
Besides the Finland study, large record-based studies from the United States and Denmark have found that overall death rates were higher among women following abortion compared to those among women who had given birth.
The U.S. study examined Medi-Cal records for more than 173,000 low-income California women who had experienced abortion or childbirth. Linking these records to death certificates, the researchers found that women who had state-funded abortions were 2.6 times more likely to die from suicide compared to women who delivered their babies. Giving birth, on the other hand, was shown to reduce women’s suicide risk compared to the general population.
Meanwhile, a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that 10 percent of mental health problems among women, including 35 percent of suicidal behaviors, may be attributable to abortion. These findings were based on the combined results of all studies published between 1995 and 2009 that met strict inclusion criteria. The resulting analysis included 877,181 women from six countries.
Yet another study in The British Medical Journal discovered that the rate of suicide in women after birth was 5.9 out of 100,000. Among women who had abortions, the rate was 34.7. The suicide rate for women who had not been pregnant was 11.3. Again, carrying a pregnancy to term was seen to reduce the suicide rate.
Also, Professor David Fergusson, a new Zealand researcher who has described himself in interviews as a pro-choice atheist, also led the research team in a 2008 study that concluded that women who continued an unwanted or mistimed pregnancy did not experience a significant increase in mental health problems. Further, having an abortion did not reduce their mental health risks.
“In general, there is no evidence in the literature on abortion and mental health that suggests that abortion reduces the mental health risks of unwanted or mistimed pregnancy,” the authors wrote. “Although some studies have concluded that abortion has neutral effects on mental health, no study has reported that exposure to abortion reduces mental health risks.”
Women who are suffering from the psychological anguish of a past abortion can contact Rachel’s Vineyard for free and confidential help. Rachel’s Vineyard can help women find resources and retreats that will lead them to healing and psychological stability.
Decreased suicide rate after induced abortion, after the Current Care Guidelines in Finland 1987 – 2012. Gissler M, Karalis E, Ulander VM. Scand J Public Health. 2014 Nov 24.
Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: register linkage study. Gissler M, et. al. Br. Medical Journal. 313: 1431. 1996 Dec 7.
M. Gissler, “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000,” European J. Public Health 15(5):459 63,2005.