No Surprise: Abortion Does NOT Cause Mental-Health Problems

A list of good things that come from Denmark: Vikings, butter cookies and Legos. As of today, add one more thing: a study that says that abortion definitively does not lead to mental-health problems.

As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, Danish scientists studied 365,550 teenagers and women in the country who had an abortion or first-time delivery between 1995 and 2007. By tracking their mental-health counseling both before and after abortion or delivery, researchers were able to assess the psychological impact of each choice. They found that only about 15 per 1,000 women needed psychiatric counseling within a year after an abortion–similar to the rate seeking help nine months before having an abortion.

What does cause psychological distress, though, is childbirth: While only 4 in 1,000 women who would later give birth sought counseling in the year prior to delivery, after giving birth to a child that rate rose to about 7 per 1,000.

None of the women included in the study had a history of psychiatric problems that required hospitalization.

Questioning whether abortion causes mental-health problems has been part of the anti-abortion playbook for decades, but science has consistently been on the pro-choice side. That’s something even the  anti-abortion U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop couldn’t deny when, in 1989, President Ronald Reagan asked him for a report on the (ill) effects of the procedure. After 15 months of intense study, Koop presented a letter to the president explaining that “the scientific studies do not provide conclusive data.” This kind of fair and balanced analysis surprised pro-choice advocates, who pressed Koop further during congressional hearings. The Surgeon General insisted that the psychological effects of abortion were “minuscule” from a public-health perspective.

The American Psychological Association came up with a similar analysis later in 2006:

Women who are terminating pregnancies that are wanted or who lack support from their partner or parents for the abortion may feel a greater sense of loss, anxiety and distress. For most women, however, the time of greatest distress is likely to be before an abortion; after an abortion, women frequently report feeling ‘relief and happiness.’

Studies that proved otherwise were consistently found to be flawed methodologically.

The newest study has not been questioned by the scientific community. Robert Blum, an expert on reproductive health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health, told NPR,

This is an extremely, extremely well done study. … There is no evidence that abortion predisposes a woman to psychiatric and mental-health problems.

We can only hope that the newest study will put an end to this myth once and for all. A celebratory Danish wouldn’t be out of order.

Photo from Wikicommons user M0z4rt under Creative Commons.

Comments

  1. I have known this since I was a pregnant 16 year old in 1970. Abortion was legal in California, and I had an abortion at 20 weeks. It was the best day of my life, as it made the rest of my wonderful life possible, including an education, a career that makes a difference in the world, and two beloved sons who are proud feminists themselves. I am so thankful for legal abortion, and have never had a moment of regret.

  2. As I like to say, “Safe, legal abortion saved my life.” And I have gone on to mother a wonderful teenage boy and make a difference in the lives of many people as a mental health nurse. It’s a non-issue — very sinister that the current Republican slate continues to support the rape culture by trying to restrict the right to OUR lives. My job has been made possible largely by the abuse suffered by many unwanted children, who just pass it along.

  3. Lover Girl says:

    I would hardly call vikings a “good thing” and they were not a thing they were a people. Why are the feminists of ancient societies not remembered? I love ancient history.

  4. I agree, that having an abortion does not put a woman at risk for mental health problems. I have read somewhere that the research by Danish scientists further debunks the notion that terminating a pregnancy can trigger mental illness and shows postpartum depression to be much more of a factor.

  5. I am living proof that abortion can trigger severe mental health problems.

    Since having an abortion I have severe flashbacks of the abortion, severe body memories, I have had phantom pregnancies, severe depression, suicide attempts, I have fallen into drug addiction, It has bee 3 and half years and I still have sometimes nightly nightmares about it.

    I am sorry but it is crazy to suggest that a procedure that can be for many women very painful and physically traumatic combined with the change in hormones a pregnancy loss can cause.

    I regret my abortion every single day and I am mentally ill as a result of the trauma I experienced.

    For what it is worth I am pro-choice. I believe in legal safe abortion and the right too choose. I was pro-choice before my abortion and I am pro-choice now. But to suggest that abortion can not trigger post traumatic stress is outright offensive to those experiencing it.

    Not every women who gives birth gets PTSD or PND, some do and it is recognised that this can use this. Not every women who has heavy periods gets PMD, some do and this is recognised, not everyone who has an abortion will develop PTSD, many are happy with their decision, some do however and I and other girls who have experienced this have every right to have their experiences and conditions validated and recognised.

  6. Sory that should have read

    “I am sorry but it is crazy to suggest that a procedure that can be for many women very painful and physically traumatic combined with the change in hormones a pregnancy loss can cause can not cause Post traumatic stress disorder in some women”

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