is Mental Health Month in the U.S. Focusing national attention on mental
illness is important because it is so common and causes so much
suffering. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about
persons (19%) in the U.S. have some mental illness. According to abortion opponents
that figure should be vastly higher. Indeed, their junk science
suggests that America should be grappling with a staggering epidemic of depression and suicide stemming from abortions. The good news is that this epidemic is illusory: it does not exist.
Abortion is a common experience in the lives of American women. Indeed, one in three women
will have had one or more abortions before menopause. More than 50 million U.S. women have benefited from safe, legal abortion since Roe v. Wade
in 1973. If abortion
were linked with later psychological problems, the nation's
psychiatrists and psychologists should be inundated by now with women
suffering from problems related to earlier abortions. The phantom epidemic never materialized, because abortion does not impair women's emotional health.
Since abortion is so safe
, abortion opponents have had to manufacture bogus
medical and psychological concerns to frighten women. In the 1980's, an anti-abortion activist
without medical credentials coined the term "post-abortion stress syndrome." Fashioned after post-traumatic stress syndrome, it was catchy -- but bogus. The term was quickly refuted
by psychiatrists and rejected by psychiatry coding manuals.
Reviews of the literature
At the request of President Reagan, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop reviewed the published evidence concerning abortion and mental health. Despite his well-known opposition to abortion, Dr. Koop
concluded that the issue of psychological problems stemming from abortion was "miniscule from a public health perspective."
Several professional organizations have reviewed the world's literature to address the concern. The American Psychological Association
conducted thorough reviews of the literature. The most recent report,
covering reports published from 1989 to 2008, concluded that a single abortion carries no higher risk of emotional problems than does delivery of an unwanted child.
the United Kingdom, the federal government commissioned a similar
review by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Organized by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
the 252-page report was released in 2011. It concluded that, "When a
woman has an unwanted pregnancy, rates of mental health problems will be
largely unaffected whether she has an abortion or goes on to give birth."
A similar systematic review by researchers from Johns Hopkins University
noted an inverse relationship between study quality and research
results. Poor-quality research was more likely to report an association
between abortion and later problems than was good-quality
research. Stated alternatively, competent research consistently finds
no relationship between abortion and later problems. Research that violates the standards of conduct
is not credible.
Conclusions of professional organizations
The American Psychological Association
notes that stress is greatest before abortion, and relief is the most common emotional response to abortion. The strongest predictor of a woman's emotional state after abortion is her emotional state before the procedure.
The American Psychiatric Association
strongly supports safe, legal abortion. The APA "opposes all"legislation and regulations curtailing family planning and abortion
services to any segment of the population." Moreover, ""freedom to act
to interrupt pregnancy must be considered a mental health imperative."
Were abortion a threat to women's emotional well-being,
the nation's psychiatrists would not be so supportive. Of note, the
American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association
have no professional conflicts of interest; their members do not provide
When a woman requests an abortion in South Dakota
, she must be advised by her physician that the risks of the procedure include:
"Depression and related psychological distress; Increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide."
these statements are false, the state legislature requires this
disinformation be conveyed by physicians. This violates both the
sanctity of the patient-physician relationship and the doctor's ethical
obligation to the patient. Consider the physicians' choice: lie to
patient to advance the state's political agenda or provide medically
accurate information about risks, benefits, and alternatives. Who should
decide the relevant information to be discussed during the informed
consent process: knowledgeable, licensed physicians or part-time
politicians in Pierre?
Major medical and psychological associations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean concur: abortion does not cause mental health problems. The only dissenting voices today are a few discredited zealots
who are paid large amounts of money
to spread junk science.The alleged epidemic of emotional problems related to abortion is a phantom; it does not exist. On the other hand, the psychological harms of unwanted childbearing
are all too real.
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