More Questionable Research on Abortion’s Mental-Health Effects

by Michael J. New

This Monday, the Daily Telegraph of London reported on a draft review conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists which found that abortion does not harm women’s mental health. The review acknowledges that other research has had different findings, but its own conclusion was that “mental health outcomes are likely to be the same, whether women with unwanted pregnancies opt for an abortion or birth.”

However, the review does appear to say that in the months immediately following an abortion, women face a higher risk of psychological problems. Also, this is only a draft report — the final report will be released this summer — and it is possible that outside scrutiny may cause the Royal College of Psychiatrists to be more guarded in their final conclusions. Whenever professional organizations release a report, they often give those with dissenting views an opportunity to respond, highlighting shortcomings with the review or presenting research showing different conclusions.

What is frustrating for pro-lifers is that mainstream media outlets are always very quick to publicize research that calls into question whether obtaining an abortion increases a woman’s risk of psychological problems. In addition to the Daily Telegraph story, the Washington Post ran two separate articles this winter about research purporting to show that abortion does not pose a risk to the mental health of women.

During the past 12 months, studies finding evidence that abortion does pose a mental-health risk (e.g., of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse) have appeared in a number of peer-reviewed journals including The Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, Journal of Pregnancy, and The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. There is also a substantial body of peer-reviewed literature about the negative impact that abortion has on the health of women. Unfortunately, this research is all but ignored by the mainstream media.

Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.

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