New study shows (again) that abortion does not cause mental illness

1 Feb

Abortion opponents often cite an alleged connection between abortion and adverse psychiatric outcomes.  Although the studies that they cite have methodological errors and multiple professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, have released statements denying such a link, anti-abortion activists continue to use this argument to further their cause.  We now have yet another study showing us that abortion is safe and does not change a woman’s risk for psychological difficulties.

The most recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 27th, uses a large sample in Denmark.  Because the country keeps a national registry of almost all medical care provided there, a very large group of women could be identified.  Having a large sample to look at is important in this kind of research so that we can be more confident of our results.

The researchers were able to identify 85,000 women who had a first trimester abortion.  Of these women, 1% had either seen a psychiatrist or psychologist during the 9 months before having the abortion.  When looking at the 12 months after the abortion, 1.5% sought psychiatric help.  These numbers make it appear that the rate of psychological problems increased after abortion; however, it’s important to remember that the period of time measured after abortion was longer than the period of time measured before the abortion.  When the researchers adjusted for the amount of time measured, the rate of seeking help for psychological problems showed no significant difference between the groups.  In other words, when we looked at the group of women prior to the abortion, they were no more or less likely to seek psychological help than after the abortion.  Therefore, in this study, abortion was not related to psychiatric visits.

The article also looked at the impact of giving birth.  The researchers identified 280,000 women who gave birth during the study period.  Of these women, 0.3% sought psychiatric help in the 9 months before delivery, and 0.7% sought psychiatric help in the 12 months after delivery.  When adjusting for the time period measured, this difference persisted; this was a true difference.  In the women studied, giving birth was associated with increased likelihood of seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist.

So to sum up: women who had abortions were no more likely to seek psychiatric help after they had an abortion than before they had an abortion.  On the other hand, women who delivered were more likely to seek psychiatric help after birth than before.  In all instances, psychiatric help-seeking was uncommon.

How do we explain these findings?  Women who chose abortion were more likely to seek psychiatric help both before and after the abortion, when compared with women who gave birth.  We can easily imagine that, as a group, women who choose to terminate their pregnancies are more likely to be at a difficult time in their lives than those who choose to continue their pregnancies.  The finding that women seek psychiatric help after delivery is similarly not surprising; most people are familiar with the “baby blues” and post-partum depression.

This study adds to a mounting body of research showing that abortion does not cause psychological harm.  Its strengths include the use of a large sample and looking at women’s experiences both before and after abortion.  We have no information about why women sought psychiatric care; however, this is inevitable with such a large study.

Bottom line: abortion does not cause mental illness.

2 Responses to “New study shows (again) that abortion does not cause mental illness”

  1. placenta sandwich February 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    thank you for this post, you’re always the best at this <3

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention New study shows (again) that abortion does not cause mental illness | Abortion Gang -- Topsy.com - February 1, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dee Richards and Prochoice, The Abortion Gang. The Abortion Gang said: new post: New study shows (again) that abortion does not cause mental illness http://j.mp/hp5Fqy #prochoice [...]

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