Further Thoughts on a study claiming that abortion is not associated with an increase in mental health problems

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. Peter Saunders

Late last week I wrote about an outcome that was as utterly predictable as it was unjustified. A review commissioned by the [British] Academy of Medical Royal Colleges 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.”

Poppycock.

Dr. Peter Saunders deftly unpacked the flimsy suitcase of evidence and found two important truths, one of which was a correction of an exaggeration , the other completely ignored by accounts of “Induced Abortion and Mental Health: A systematic review of the mental health outcomes of induced abortion, including their prevalence and associated factors.”

First, as Saunders wrote, the relatively weak evidence presented did not support the overall conclusion that “abortion poses no greater risk to mental health than childbirth for those with unwanted pregnancies.” The report itself admits that “’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 Academy of Medical Royal Colleges 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.”

Second, Saunders then argued (cleverly and truthfully) that since abortion does not improve mental health outcomes for women with unplanned pregnancies, 98% of the abortions performed in Britain are technically illegal because “98% of the 200,000 abortions carried out each year in Britain are being carried out specifically on grounds of protecting women’s mental health.” Note how he confirms this.

Over the weekend Saunders wrote that last Friday he took part in a radio debate with Professor Tim Kendall, one of the authors of the report. We learn

“Professor Kendall confirmed on the programme, in answer to a question from presenter John Humphrys, that childbirth does not constitute a greater risk to mental health than abortion, and that therefore  abortion does not improve mental health outcomes for women with unplanned pregnancies.

“I then pointed out that 98% of the 200,000 abortions carried out each year in Britain are being carried out specifically on grounds of protecting women’s mental health. This brought a gasp from Humphrys and an initial denial from Professor Kendall. He then, after being pressed by Humphrys, claimed falsely that the figure was only 95%.

“I insisted that the figure was 98% and then argued 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 Part Five today (“How a British Study Undermines the Justification for virtually all abortions”), I write about how one pro-abortion columnist in Britain tried to use this study to bolster his conclusion that “The truth is that abortion isn’t as traumatic as people make out.” As you might guess, I have a few bones to pick with that conclusion.

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