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Important Research on the Mental-Health Effects of Abortion



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The British Journal of Psychiatry has released a meta-analysis of research on the mental-health effects of abortion. This meta-analysis was authored by Priscilla K. Coleman of Bowling Green University and offers the largest available body of evidence on the psychological impact of abortion. Overall, it presents a very strong body of peer-reviewed research showing that abortion increases the likelihood of depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug use, and suicide.

This meta-analysis could not have come at a better time. In recent years, both the American Psychological Association and John Hopkins University have released less-systematic reviews of the academic literature on the psychological effect of abortion. Those reviews, which received plenty of coverage from the mainstream media, argued that abortion only has a marginal impact on the mental health of women.

However, Coleman’s meta-analysis employed considerably more rigorous inclusion criteria than these other reviews. Every included study had a sample size of more than 100 participants, used comparison groups, and controlled for demographic factors and prior history of mental-health problems. Overall, it is based on 22 published studies and brings together data on 877,181 participants, 163,381 of whom had experienced an abortion. Furthermore, its appearance in a top psychiatry journal indicates that it was carefully critiqued and evaluated by respected public-health scholars.

It will be interesting to see how much attention this meta-analysis will receive from the mainstream media. Within the past few years, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have run stories about research that indicated that abortion had little effect on the mental health of women.  Furthermore, the mainstream media diligently avoids covering any studies on the harmful effects of abortion. Hopefully, the prestige of the journal, the volume of studies included, and the consistency of the findings will encourage the mainstream media to give a second look to this important issue.

— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan – Dearborn and is a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.



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