Flawed New Study Claims Abortion does not affect women’s mental health

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. Peter Saunders deftly rebuts flawed study

Coming to an utterly predictable outcome, a review commissioned by the [British] Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has concluded that “abortion is not associated with an increase in mental health problems.” Billed as the largest study worldwide of the relationship between abortion and mental wellbeing, the research review conducted by the U.K.’s National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, says, “The best current evidence suggests that it makes no difference to a woman’s mental health whether she chooses to have an abortion or to continue with the pregnancy.”

However the results stand in stark contrast to a number of peer-reviewed studies that show just the opposite.

As reported here [www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2011/09/study-in-prestigious-journal-shows-abortion-harms-women%E2%80%99s-mental-health/], the largest, most definitive analysis of the mental health risks associated with abortion was published September 1 in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry. Conducted by Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, the analysis examines 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009 involving 877,181 women, of whom 163,831 had abortions.

The findings:

— “Women who have had an abortion have an 81 percent higher risk of subsequent mental health problems compared to women who have not had an abortion.

— “Women who aborted have a 138 percent higher risk of mental health problems compared to women who have given birth.

— “Women who aborted have a 55 percent higher risk of mental health problems compared to women with an ‘unplanned’ pregnancy who gave birth.

— “Women with a history of abortion have higher rates of anxiety, depression, alcohol use/misuse, marijuana use, and suicidal behavior, compared to those who have not had an abortion.

Dr. Coleman addressed her methodology and rebutted pro-abortion criticisms in an interview published in “Abortion and Mental Health: Science vs. Politics” (www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2011/12/abortion-and-mental-health-science-vs-politics/).

So how did the latest research, which assessed 44 studies from 1990-2011, come to the “reassuring news” that abortion does not cause mental health problems?

Anthony Ozimic, communications manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health’s “assertions are predictable.” In a statement distributed to reporters, Ozimic listed a lengthy series of key studies ignored by the review  that included “empirical findings of the psychological harms of abortion.”

The key to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ review was to attribute any subsequent mental health problems after an abortion to mental health difficulties a woman had prior to the abortion. “Prior mental health may influence mental health after abortion, but does not begin to account for all of the effect,” Ozimic explained.

“Women experience a range of negative emotions after abortion including sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt, grief, doubt and regret.” For some women. “Abortion is associated with severe negative psychological complications.”

A second thoughtful rebuttal comes from Dr. Peter Saunders, a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship. Before addressing the supposed absence of any mental health effect, he keenly observed that  one of  the review’s conclusions contradict the reason almost all abortions in England are performed.

“This new Review by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) shows that abortion does not improve mental health outcomes for women with unplanned pregnancies, despite 98% of the 200,000 abortions being carried out in this country each year on mental health grounds.”

Saunders goes on to argue,

“This means that doctors who authorise abortions in order to protect a woman’s mental health are doing it on the basis of a false belief not supported by the medical evidence. In other words the vast majority of abortions in this country are technically illegal.”

How about the “strength of evidence for the claim that abortion poses no greater risk to mental health than childbirth”? Saunders says it is “weak, as the report itself admits: ‘The evidence for this section of the review was generally rated as poor or very poor…These factors limit the interpretation of the results.’”

What’s really interesting is that only one of these studies was judged by the AMRC to be “very good.” And according to Saunders, the author of that study—David Fergusson—“has a new paper in press which he claims shows a link between abortion and mental health problems in unwanted pregnancies which is not there for unwanted pregnancies carried to term.”

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