A recent study of women in the United States has found that women who had abortions were more likely to be at increased risk of mental health disorders.
The study, published by Dr. D Paul Sullins of Catholic University of America, used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, and followed more than 8,000 women for a period of 13 years:
After adjusting for demographic differences and other factors, the study found that abortion during these years elevated a woman’s risk of mental health disorder by 45 percent.
“One-eleventh of the prevalence of mental disorders examined over the period were attributable to abortion,” the study’s abstract said.
The study sought to examine any links between pregnancy outcomes like birth, abortion or miscarriage and mental health outcomes for U.S. women during the transition to adulthood. It drew on a national study of 8,005 women that surveyed them three times at average ages of 15, 22 and 28.
Involuntary pregnancy loss was associated with a 24 percent elevated risk of mental disorder, while childbirth was “weakly associated” with reduced risk of mental disorder.
Previous studies have also found an increase in mental health risks following abortion. A 2011 meta-analysis of 22 studies, published by Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, found that women who had abortions were 81 percent more likely to experience subsequent mental health problems. The greatest increases were seen in relation to suicidal behaviors and substance abuse.
The meta-analysis examined and combined results of 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009 and included data on 877,181 women from six countries. All 22 studies revealed higher rates of mental health problems associated with abortion for at least one symptom, and many for more than one symptom.
Using a standardized statistical technique for combining the results of multiple studies, the meta-analysis revealed that women with a history of abortion faced higher rates of anxiety (34 percent higher) and depression (37 percent higher), heavier alcohol use (110 percent higher) and marijuana use (230 percent higher), and higher rates of suicidal behavior (155 percent higher).
The study also found that women who delivered an unplanned pregnancy were significantly less likely to have mental health problems than similar women who aborted unplanned pregnancies. Women with a history of abortion were 55 percent more likely to have mental health problems than women who did not abort an unplanned pregnancy.
Further, a meta-analysis combining the results of eight studies of women who experienced unwanted pregnancies, published in 2013, concluded that “there is no available evidence to suggest that abortion has therapeutic effects in reducing the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy.”
The lead author of that review, Professor David Fergusson, who has described himself in interviews as a pro-choice atheist, also led the research team in a 2008 study that concluded that women who continued an unwanted or mistimed pregnancy did not experience a significant increase in mental health problems. Further, having an abortion did not reduce their mental health risks.
“In general, there is no evidence in the literature on abortion and mental health that suggests that abortion reduces the mental health risks of unwanted or mistimed pregnancy,” the authors wrote. “Although some studies have concluded that abortion has neutral effects on mental health, no study has reported that exposure to abortion reduces mental health risks.”
The Elliot Institute has called for congressional hearings to investigate the risks of mental heath problems after abortion.
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Online Bibliography of Studies on the Detrimental Effects of Abortion