Charge of Bias in Previous Reviews Supported By
New Study Published by Royal College of Psychiatrists
Springfield, IL (September 2, 2011) – Up to 10 percent of mental health problems among women may be affected by a history of abortion, according to a new review published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in their British Journal of Psychiatry.
Publication of this new review, which included 877,181 women from six countries, has reawakened accusations that the American Psychological Association Task Force on Abortion and Mental Health deliberately understated abortion’s mental health risks for ideological reasons.
On the surface, the findings of the new review appear to contradict the conclusions published by the task force in in 2008, which stated that a “single abortion” of an “unwanted” pregnancy for an “adult” woman did not “in and of itself” pose significant mental health risks.
According to an expert in the field, Elliot Institute director Dr. David Reardon, that carefully nuanced conclusion was designed to obscure rather than clarify the risks of abortion.
“When you study the details of the APA report, you will notice that they provide only scant information on the statistics reported in each study,” he said. ” And they certainly never lay the findings side by side as was done in this new meta-analysis. Still, if you pay close attention you will find reluctant admissions that certain subgroups of women are at higher risk.”
For example, the APA review admits that multiple abortions may be problematic. But it then fails to mention that fully half of all abortions are second, third or fourth abortions.
Similarly, Reardon notes that APA recognizes that abortions of wanted pregnancies, and cases where women feel pressured to abort by other people, are also clearly problematic. But these cases may account for 30 to 65 percent of all abortions. Abortions for minors are also known to be associated with elevated suicide rates.
He said the APA’s conclusion is misleading precisely because it is nuanced to describe the minority of abortion cases, those for adult women, having a single abortion, for whom there is no pressure to abort.
“Reading between the lines, it is actually an admission that the majority of abortions may be problematic, but it was never reported that way,” he said.
He added that “regarding the APA’s additional nuance that there is insufficient evidence to prove that abortion ‘in and of itself’ is the sole cause of mental illness, proving that any experience is the sole cause of mental illness is nearly impossible. So framing the issue as requiring proof that abortion is the sole cause of mental illness sets an impossibly high standard.
“However, no informed person can deny that abortion can be a contributing factor which can trigger, aggravate, complicate, and/or delay recovery from mental illness. To deny this fact would require you to deny the that women are intelligent, self-aware persons who know why they are grieving.”
Reardon believes this new review is much more objective and useful for informing physicians, nurses, mental health care workers, and the public about what the research really reveals.
“The APA could have and should have used an objective approach like this one,” he said. “Instead, they deliberately obscured the clear trend in research findings by employing highly subjective reasons to dismiss, ignore, or obscure findings which did not mesh with their preconceived conclusions.
“This new review proves that when you use a standardized method of laying out the results of all the studies side by side, the trend is unmistakable.”
Reardon noted that the reliability of the APA Task Force report is further called into question by the fact that the task force chair, Dr. Brenda Major, has refused to allow her own data on abortion and mental health to be reanalyzed by other researchers.
“This behavior is especially egregious since it violates the APA’s own ethics rules requiring data sharing,” he said.
Reardon has posted a video that (1) discusses the main findings of the study, (2) provides a brief tutorial on interpreting the graphs confidence intervals shown in the study, and (3) describes how the APA Task Force on Abortion and Mental Health fashioned a very nuanced statement to summarize it’s findings in a way that obscured the truth and ensured misreporting of the evidence by the major media (begins at the 10 minute mark.)
# # #
Source: Coleman PK. Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995–2009. The British Journal of Psychiatry (2011) 199, 180–186.