New study determines that abortions don’t cause mental health issues.

One of the arguments put forth by anti-abortion advocates is that it causes major mental health problems for the woman who has one, but a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine says that’s not the case at all:

“This is an extremely, extremely well done study,” he said. “There is no evidence that abortion predisposes a woman to psychiatric and mental health problems.”

[…] Blum, a former president of the Guttmacher Institute, would like to say goodbye to the political buzz words.

“There is no post-abortion trauma, post-abortion syndrome, or anything of the like,” he said.

Danish researchers looked at the health records of 85,000 women who had had first-trimester abortions. Those women were more likely to seek mental health treatment while they were pregnant, but didn’t need more help after having the abortion. That’s not surprising, says Nada Stotland, a professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago. She says that women considering abortion are often struggling with problems with a partner or family members.

“People have abortions often under troubled circumstances,” she said. “You have an abortion because there is a problem.”

What makes this study unique is that it looked at women who chose abortions and also looked at women who chose to have the baby. Stotland says this gives us a much better picture of the stresses of abortion and childbirth.

“Above all it really fairly contrasts the outcomes of abortion with the outcomes of pregnancy,” she said.

via Study: Abortions Don’t Cause Mental Health Issues : NPR.

As it turns out giving birth is actually more likely to cause mental health problems with postpartum depression being one of the major ones. It would help quite a bit if more resources were devoted to post-birth mental health care for new mothers.

While this study most likely won’t end the debate anytime soon, it does debunk one of the common arguments against abortion.

20 thoughts on “New study determines that abortions don’t cause mental health issues.

  1. I’m sure the “pro-life” folks would be all for spending resources on improving post-birth mental health care for mothers. But right now they’re too busy protecting the life inside the womb — even if that life is deformed and won’t live a second out of the womb or the mother might die from the pregnancy or become very sick from it.

  2. So, in other words, the pro-life people are wasting time and resources that could be put to better use. Yeah, I can agree with that.

  3. I once had a college biology professor who asked who the number one abortionist in the world was. I knew exactly what the answer was but kept my mouth shut (growing up in the south has taught me to not draw attention to myself when I don’t want it, even if I am right). After various guesses from fellow students- women, low income or poverty women, abortion doctors, etc.- the professor finally told them they were all wrong. It was God, needles to say there were gasps of shock and shouts of denial. The professor, who was a baptist mind you, quickly remind these students that a miscarriage is the body aborting the baby for some reason or another. And for those that believe in God then you believe that it was his will to have the baby “aborted” from the mothers body no matter how much or little she wanted the new “life”. Miscarriages are way more common than medical abortions so therefor God was the number one abortionist.
    As I have never suffered a miscarriage yet nor had to make the hard decision to abort or keep, I can not say for sure. But I would dare say that suffering a miscarriage (your body aborting the fetus) is much more detrimental to one’s mental health than choosing to have a medical abortion. With the latter you had the choice, which one hopes was well thought out and not just spur of the moment. Most miscarriages were wanted children and when a women suffers one or multiple she goes into a state of depression. Much like the depression that some women suffer after having children, hormones are crazy, your life has changed, and you feel like your body in a way has betrayed you.
    I would never push my opinion of abortion on another because I don’t know their life and how the choice to keep a child would affect them. Just because personally I know would not do it at this point in my life does not mean I should push that upon someone else.
    That is what pro lifers fail to see. All the care about is that unborn child not who else suffers in the meantime or what environment that child will be born into. NOT ALL WOMEN WERE MEANT TO BE MOMS. A horrible but true fact. They don’t care what happens to that child after its born they just want to control others. So no amount of scientific proof will make them see beyond their own insanity.
    As far as the debate of when life begins, I am torn about that. Being a biology major and a mother of two I still have arguments within my self, lol

  4. That is what pro lifers fail to see. All the care about is that unborn child not who else suffers in the meantime . . . They don’t care what happens to that child after its born they just want to control others. So no amount of scientific proof will make them see beyond their own insanity.

    That’s right on the money. This study won’t change their minds one bit. Has science ever rescued them from their stubbornness? No. They just come back with the “God works in mysterious ways” jive.

    What annoys me most of all is the arbitrariness of it all. Those shouting outside of abortion clinics can’t think for themselves. They’re brainwashed, plain and simple. They don’t even see the contradiction of being so upset that some junk inside a woman’s body might be put out of its misery while not giving a damn when that thing is born without a brain or any way to breathe on its own or that they don’t care that the mother might become crippled or messed up in some way, too. Like George Carlin said, the right wingers care for you as long as you’re a fetus, but when you’re born, you’re on your own. It’s not their problem anymore.

    But they go on thinking they’re right, interfering with the rights of others to be happy and healthy in their own way. Really, is some lady having an abortion, that you’re never going to meet really change your life that much? And if you’re so adamant about life and protecting innocence, why don’t you also cry and wring your hands when those same children have to live in abusive homes, with not enough to eat, or no health care to take care of themselves? I don’t think I’ve EVER heard any complaints about that (unless it’s that the needy get TOO MUCH as it is and are just sponging off us taxpayers).

  5. I am not so sure about this, I worked in a very large hospital( St. Lukes Texas Childrens ) while attending college. While there I met a Priest, I am not Christian. But we became friends. He was a really nice man that just seem to fit well as a counselor and support mechanism for patients and family. He was like that Priest on MASH. Easy going, and not pushy. Anyway we were talking one day and I ask him about the confessional thing. He told me that the number 1 issue with women was abortion. They are never able to completely forgive themselves later on in life. They always wonder what could have been. While I am sure the statistics do apply to a certain group of women, the statistics are perhaps inaccurate when it is broken down in matters of religious ideology. And another point would be, How much of a problem ? Is it just mentally nagging, or causing a person to go off the deep end.

  6. Paul, if the priest was Catholic, he gets his marching orders from Rome. What Rome says, goes. If they say abortion is bad, then it’s bad. If they say homosexuality is bad, then it’s bad. You can’t have your own ideas and I’m talking from experience. So if this guy is saying women confessed that they regretted their abortions, you have to take into account a few things.

    For one thing, the women in his little skewed poll who are going to confession are Catholic. If they actually take that medieval practice of confession seriously, they are more likely to believe more of the stuff the Church insists they believe. They are told abortion is evil; they believe it is evil. No questions asked. Therefore, of course they are going to be depressed and upset. But there are no secularists going to his confessional, so his poll won’t count them. Nor other women who are religious but more progressive-minded. His results are about as accurate as if you’re a political pollster and your interviewees are 100% one political party and 0% another.

  7. Also, since he, as a priest, has a clear bias about abortion, I think he will be more ready to mention those who are pained by their decision, conveniently forgetting many (possibly even a majority of the cases) who don’t mention it or even say they are a little upset but not that much, while exaggerating the details of those who say they were upset.

    I don’t imagine that abortion is an easy thing to undergo. But there is a difference between something that destroys you and requires therapy and medication and something that makes you a little upset. Not being able to forgive yourself and wondering about what could have been don’t seem like mental health issues as much as they seem spiritual considerations. Also, it’s a little amusing that they weren’t thinking about these concerns back when they had their abortions. But back then they had other priorities, and their religious hangups weren’t important enough to stand in the way of more pressing issues.

  8. Also, since he, as a priest, has a clear bias about abortion, I think he will be more ready to mention those who are pained by their decision, conveniently forgetting many (possibly even a majority of the cases) who don’t mention it or even say they are a little upset but not that much, while exaggerating the details of those who say they were upset.

    I don’t imagine that abortion is an easy thing to undergo. But there is a difference between something that destroys you and requires therapy and medication and something that makes you a little upset. Not being able to forgive yourself and wondering about what could have been don’t seem like mental health issues as much as they seem spiritual considerations. Also, it’s a little amusing that they weren’t thinking about these concerns back when they had their abortions. But back then they had other priorities, and their religious hangups weren’t important enough to stand in the way of more pressing issues.

  9. @ Paul,
    Wondering what could have been is just only part of being a higher intelligent animal. Guilt is as well. We all have moments that we wish we could go back and redo, have wanderings of how if could have been, or feel as though the grass is greener on the other side. No matter how happy or comfortable a person is with their life decisions they still have moments of wondering regret.
    I am sure those that have chosen to have an abortion have had moments of regret, wondering what that child would be like just as women that have chosen to have children (like me) wonder if we even made the right decision to bring such children into the world and give up “our” life as we knew it, :). Tis only human nature after all.
    I have to agree with Tony in saying that your friends info would be partially skewed due to the factor that these women were still religious women and some religions (such a Catholicism and its various breakaways) rely on the natural guilt that humans feel to reinforce their beliefs. I have meet equal amounts of women who regret and didn’t of their decisions to abort. Just as I have meet equal amounts of women who regretted or didn’t their decision to adopt or even keep their kids when they had them at a young age. Once you have had the kids, biology usually takes over and attaches the mother (fathers too) to the child so that you could never imagine life without them but it does not stop them for wondering if they made the right choice to keep the baby (or give it away).
    There have been a few times when I have meet women who regretted their decision to have an abortion at a young age, because she was not ready at that time, simply because they had difficulties getting pregnant when they wanted to or were planning to. These women don’t regret their life thus far without the child but if they had but known how hard it would be when they “wanted” to become a mother they would have changed their mind just for that. Women like this feel they have given up their chance and simply regret that. Is that the same thing as guilt for “killing” the fetus or just wishful thinking about what could have been? I’m not sure.

  10. Paul:

    From the second-hand accounts I’ve gotten, over the years, it’s mostly a painful, periodic nag. Think of it as a bad hip with poignant recollections of a car accident.

    For some people, there is no doubt that the experience can be traumatic. Equating that with a special-case mental illness is going a little far, I think.

    I would posit, however, that as much as a religion might inflame the situation (stereotypically, say, Catholicism), it could also be used to bring comfort – depending rather sizeably on the mentality and ontology of the individual.

  11. Oops. Tony equals JesusMadeMeDoIt. I just officially registered earlier and it seems when I close out the web page and return, I get signed out and go to my old reply setup.

  12. @ Paul and others:

    I would be very surprised if Catholic women weren’t extremely upset when recounting their abortion experiences to a priest. Simply by virtue of being catholic, even if they were raised in a more liberal church, they have been indoctrinated from the start to believe that the highest good they can ever achieve in life is as a baby grow-bag. They have been taught that abortion is worse than revenge killing, theft, rape, or anything else. By the rules of the church, if they have an abortion they are supposed to see themselves as completely vile, ruthless murderers, even if their own life was at stake. Not all priests will pile the guilt on an emotionally fragile person, but the teachings and rules are there regardless, believed and repeated by millions of fellow catholics and other christians from the pope on down.

    If the woman believes enough of this horseshit to bother confessing to a shyster shaman, OF COURSE she’s having issues with it. And the social conditioning, spiritual theatre, and “breakdown therapy” stlye brainwashing don’t stop there. Not only is she “guilty” of murder and rebellion against god’s will, not only has she destroyed the greatest gift god will ever give her- she can’t even get salvation directly from jesus. No, she has to hate herself enough to crawl back to the very source of her anxieties, confess to a man who has nothing to do with the situation, accept that she is worthless and vile, and beg for forgiveness.

    If you are so fucked in the head, so brainwashed, so convinced of your own evil that going through with all that sounds like a good idea then you already have serious emotional problems, and of course an abortion will be a major issue, possibly lifelong. All of this is regular, “normal” catholic life and teaching. Even in the best of times, in the most liberal church, with the kindest of priests, these are part of the basic rules of the game.

    On the other hand, I know a few women who have had abortions, including my own long-time S.O., and two who have had miscarriages- at least, that’s how many I know about among my friends and family. They’re all just fine, since they weren’t trained victims in the first place.

  13. True…The persons involved in a confessional are probably deeply rooted in the Church…I was just stating what the man was saying. And he applied it to older women as I recall. Women that are in their 50’s plus. That would indicate the aborted tissue would now be an adult. I am pro-choice. But as a guy I am sure I lack the complete foundation and chemistry to fully understand from a female point of view. That Hospital however ( I was a Surgical Tech ) has performed thousands of abortions. It did not seem to bother him, it sure did not bother me. And just a side note. I never heard him ever try and talk someone out of it. He may take orders from Rome. But Hospital policy, even it being a St. Hospital has the final say about our ramblings to patients.

    This man….And he is just a man, was probably 50 years old. The Hospital is a mega Hospital. St. Lukes Hospital – Texas Childrens Hospital – Texas Heart Institute are all in one facility. And in addition has a huge Truma Center. Were talking an incredibly huge place. It would not be unusual to have 20 people die in a 24 hour period.

    You may find this interesting as well…We were talking one evening. We use to go up on the roof. Thirty floor high-rise building over looking Houston. We both Smoke..I use to Smoke…And he tells me that many ( He included ) felt he made a mistake being a Priest. And he confessed that there were many more like him. They get into the field from parental pressure. They get old and and have no skills. All their retirement and health is tied up. They feel isolated. We came to trust each other, because to me I saw him as just a person. ( Staff Member ) We use to tell dirty jokes that would make a sailor blush…He was a rather straight up guy. He just let his parents screw his life up being pushy. “Our son is a Priest” Yeah Right !!! If he were alive today he would be in his mid 90’s but more likely he is dead. He loved to smoke and drink vodka. He was way overweight. He was probably put at that hospital because he would not be suitable as a Parish Priest. He was there to give last rights and help people. And he did help people. Hospitals like this are hard to wrap your head around. I have even seen him help clean a surgical suite when we were low on staff.

  14. Conservative Christians will use any apologetic at their disposal. These are people who were defending the pope when he said that condoms make the AIDS endemic worse, which no one in their right mind would believe if religion was not injected into the discussion. This abortion-mental health talking point is particularly disingenuous. Their argument is supposed to be that abortion is murder, but they know that this argument is subjective and rather illogical, so they have to supplement it with other arguments. And if they have to make stuff up, fine by them; if it scares people, go with it. The ironic thing is that I would assume that if women do have guilt about abortion, it is likely largely due to what the churches tell them.

    But this study will not effect anything; like I.D.iots, they do not give up refuted arguments. Just keep repeating it; people will eventually forget boring things like studies and tests, but they will not likely forget inflated, threatening rhetoric. “Have an abortion and you’ll catch a disease in the dirty abortion mill, and you’ll develop mental health issues for the rest of your life, and then God will burn you for all eternity.” More memorable than some study that came out in early 2011 which said that the middle claim was made up. Facts get lost in the midst of hyperbole and fear mongering; just ask Glenn Beck how that works.

  15. paul: It sounds like he was an interesting guy. For the record, I’ve known some clergy and some regular churchgoers who were truly interesting, deep, and thoughtful people. I can’t honestly say that applies to the majority of seriously religious people that I’ve met, and on the whole I’ve noticed that the free-thinkers I know tend to be more thoughtful overall, but no generalization should pigeonhole everybody.

    I didn’t mean to demonize his role in such matters, for all I know he may have been the most honest and compassionate priest in the world.

    My only real point was that a lot of people, both inside and outside the church, don’t seem to realize how thoroughly the religious deck is stacked against women, and how hard it can be to break free. Their freedom, their bodies, their rights, are all assumed to be secondary to their “godly purpose”. It starts at birth and lasts until death, and even the most well-meaning folks can pass it on and keep it going. I think that many unindoctrinated women, and practically all men, fail to percieve how pervasive and relentless the anti-woman, anti-self, anti-sex religious indoctrination can be for women, especially if they either don’t have other options, or have been trained lifelong to think that they don’t have other options. When set against the realities of life and human nature, deep emotional and mental conflicts are inevitable.

  16. My only real point was that a lot of people, both inside and outside the church, don’t seem to realize how thoroughly the religious deck is stacked against women, and how hard it can be to break free. Their freedom, their bodies, their rights, are all assumed to be secondary to their “godly purpose”

    I’ve been struggling with a pithy way to put this, for about two years, now.

    It’s like the parent that beats you, then guilt trips you about it. The “you deserved it” and “look what you made me do” – or, as with Hell, “Hey, this is not nearly as bad as it could be. You see how good I am, to you?”, It could never be a bad tree; it’s always a bad seed. If you call it out for that, there’s a whole community to reinforce that what you really need is more of the punishment you just objected to.

    I mean, has anybody ever measured the exit velocity of a disgruntled Catholic?

  17. Patness:

    “I mean, has anybody ever measured the exit velocity of a disgruntled Catholic?”

    That is priceless, and going right in the quotes file. (And I’m sure it would require special computations to account for relativistic speed effects)

  18. I mean, has anybody ever measured the exit velocity of a disgruntled Catholic?

    Also going in my quote book. And since exit velocity is relative, as DOF pointed out, I would expect that to approach the speed of light as a constant, viewed from a fixed point on Earth.

    😉

    Peace.

  19. I’m just gonna say that in my personal experience, it’s a lot more mentally painful to deliver a full term baby and parent it than it was to have an abortion. Which is something I really only ever call to my mind when I enter the fray in debates about the subject. And never call to mind with any guilt or wishful thinking. I promise.

  20. I 3rd the awesome vote for Patness. Personally, most of my Catholic friends have been fairly liberal in their personal outlooks, and not serious churchgoers, so I have yet to witness it first hand…I have, however, witnessed the incredible energy involved in the flight of a few jehovah’s witnesses and fundie baptist teenagers once they realized the joke was on them.

    Sadly, all too many of them go too far for their own comfort soon after their teen rebellion, and end up burnt out with nothing to show for their efforts, slowly sinking back into the fold with no energy left to fight off the bullshit and keep their mental independence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.