Still Another Pro-abortion Attack Fails to make Case against Dr. Coleman

By Dave Andrusko

Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D.

You would think someone who occupies a position as prestigious as the editor of the New York Times editorial page could constrain his gloating long enough to at least think before he goes bonkers. But if Andrew Rosenthal (who is to subtlety what anti-matter is to matter anyway) comes upon something he believes buttresses his already deeply embedded pro-abortion convictions, you know he’s going to haul out the heavy artillery.

The headline is not overstating the ridiculousness of what Rosenthal said on his blog yesterday: “Remember That Study Saying Abortion Makes You Crazy?” The object of his wrath was a 2009 study co-authored by Dr. Priscilla Coleman. Why? Because it challenged the truth central to pro-abortion orthodoxy: if abortion is not good for women (which they believe it often is), surely there is no emotional aftermath.

You have to understand that Dr. Coleman and her colleagues did not say having an induced abortion “makes you crazy,” or (Rosenthal’s own words) “drive[s] women bonkers.” They are scholars, not pro-abortion hacks.

What they did find (by analyzing data from the National Comorbidity Survey) was a large number of significant associations detected between abortion and various mood, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.

But what gave Rosenthal and kindred souls an opening was that Coleman et al. did make a statistical error, as we discussed here in two posts (www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/03/dr-priscilla-coleman-responds-to-recent-media-attacks/ and www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/03/an-excellent-example-of-the-media-bias-that-permeates-the-study-of-abortion-and-mental-health). Without getting too technical, it had to do with selecting the wrong sampling weight to conduct the original analyses.

Emboldened, pro-abortionists have outdone themselves in ridiculing the results. Rosenthal raced from zero to sixty in a blink of an eye: “Now we know that the 2009 study by Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, was entirely erroneous.”

Really? Let’s see.

When their mistake was pointed out to them, Coleman et. al acknowledged it, made the appropriate changes, and thanked the researcher who brought it to the attention of the editor of the Journal of Psychiatric Research. What gets lost is, as Dr. Coleman wrote, “the overall pattern of the results has not changed very much.”

Why is this ignored? Well, perhaps for the same reason virtually no attention was paid to a meta-analysis published last fall in one of the most prestigious psychiatry journals in the world [British Journal of Psychiatry]. This quantitative review incorporating data from 877,181 women offered the largest estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion in the world literature.

Understand, in a meta-analysis the researcher compiles numerous previously published studies on a particular research question and re-analyzes the results. So we are not talking about errors, real (however small) and imaginary in ONE study, but the results of 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009 involving 877,181 women (of whom 163,831 had abortions). It found

— “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.”

Indeed in a personal communication from Dr. Coleman she noted that the error with selecting the wrong sampling weight has vividly demonstrated the media bias. While over 40 mainstream U.S. news outlets covered it, only one (CBS) covered the meta-analysis.

None have covered the recent large scale study from China which found that women who’ve aborted are much more likely to experience depression and anxiety in the 1st trimester of a subsequent pregnancy than women who have not aborted. (We wrote about it at www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/03/more-evidence-of-increased-psychological-risks-associated-with-abortion-from-chinese-study.)

Two other quick points. First, besides an ideological affinity between the Abortion Industry and outlets such as the New York Times, critics of Coleman et al. were emboldened by a study compiled by two pro-abortionists, including one from the leading pro-abortion think-tank, the Guttmacher Institute, which supposedly debunked the 2009 study. Their conclusions were treated like gospel.

Second, pro-abortionists have wielded their rhetorical hammers for a very specific reason. Studies—and there are dozens beyond those compiled by Coleman—showing the emotional aftershocks of abortion on at least 20% of women who have had induced abortions are important to passage of informed consent laws.

If all the careful scholarship showing that abortion can harm women can be tossed overboard, Rosenthal hopes/anticipates that the courts would overturn those laws.

While Rosenthal can hope, we known that the Journal of Psychiatric Research did NOT retract Coleman et al.’s paper, so the results still stand and can continue to be used in litigation–along with the meta-analysis and the many, many other studies that show this consistent pattern.

So, while it may provide a rush to the Andrew Rosenthals, the pro-abortion criticism of not just Dr. Coleman’s work but the research of dozens of other scholars as well doesn’t change the truth: abortion can and does hurt women.

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