Abortion vs. Childbirth: New Studies Evaluate Their Effects on Women’s Mental Health

Abortion vs. Childbirth

New Studies Evaluate Their Effects on Women’s Mental Health

Women who undergo abortions are at greater risk for mental health problems in subsequent years, according to a new Elliot Institute study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society (APS) held this June in Miami Beach, Florida.

The study looked at California women who received state funded medical care and who either had an abortion or gave birth in 1989. Researchers examined the women’s medical records for up to six years afterwards and found that women who had undergone abortions had significantly higher mental health claims than women who had given birth. Women who had abortions were more than twice as likely to have sought treatment between two and nine times for mental health reasons as women who carried to term.

According to the authors, Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a psychology professor at the University of the South, and Dr. David Reardon, director of the Elliot Institute, “the data presented in this report suggest that when compared to birth, abortion is associated with a significantly greater risk for psychological disturbance among low income women.”

Reardon said that the study avoided many problems that have plagued other post-abortion studies in the past, such as small sample sizes and a limited time frame.

“Most other studies have only followed women for a few months at most,” Reardon said. “However, the few long-term studies that have been done show that many women’s problems don’t start cropping up until at least a year or so after the abortion, often when they reach the expected due date of the child or the anniversary of the abortion itself. By examining a larger period of time, this study was able to get a broader look at the association between abortion and subsequent mental health problems.”

Another new study that was presented at the APS conference by researchers from the University at Albany in New York found that teens who had children were as well or better adjusted than teens who did not have children. Compared to their non-parenting peers, the teen moms in the study had fewer mental disorders, reported less stress, were less likely than their peers to engage in denial as a coping strategy, were less dependent on social support and reported greater satisfaction with the support they did receive.

“These two studies clearly contradict the popular notion that abortion benefits women in general and teens in particular,” said Reardon. “Giving birth to a child is a naturally maturing experience. By contrast, abortion increases the risk of subsequent psychological problems, including a six fold higher risk of substance abuse as reported in one of our previous studies.”


1. P.K. Coleman & D. Reardon (June, 2000). “State-funded abortions vs. deliveries: A comparison of subsequent mental health claims over six years.” Poster presented at the American Psychological Society, 12th Annual Convention, Miami, FL.

2. D.R. Hanna, K.A. Lowe & F.H. Leslie (June, 2000) “Pregnancy, coping strategies and stress: Are teenage mothers really more at-risk?” Poster presented at the American Psychological Society, 12th Annual Convention, Miami, FL.

Originally printed in The Post-Abortion Review, Issue 8(3), July-Sept. 2000. Copyright 2000, Elliot Institute.

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