The 1973 the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion ignited a firestorm of controversy, which continues to flame some 38 years later. Aside from the picketing, blockading, and even violent acts perpetrated by anti-abortion extremists lies the heart of the matter – a woman faced with making a critical decision that could very well affect the rest of her life.
Some people view abortion rather matter of factly, as if it’s really not much of an issue. Others cite studies that show a woman experiencing an abortion has an increased chance of having mental health disorders. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Studies show that abortion doesn’t contribute to mental health problems.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine
states that abortion doesn’t increase the risk of mental health problems. According to Trine Munk-Olsen, lead author of the study, “Most well-made studies in the field of abortion and mental health show that having an abortion is not associated with an increased risk of having a psychiatric episode.”
Other studies support the finding. In the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
a small study revealed that teenagers aren’t at greater risk for depression or damaged self-esteem after an abortion procedure.
However, one expert believes the study was too small to be statistically significant because only 69 teens were involved. She goes on to state that she believes an abortion does increase the chance of mental health problems.
In addition, Dr. Joe DeCook, director of operations for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said, “this Danish study must be balanced by a comparison to the large number of studies that conclude that there is indeed, for many women, a serious and long-lasting untoward result on their mental health wholeness."
DeCook goes on to say, "Fifty percent of abortions are repeat abortions, and the Danish study does not comment on this half of the affected population. Additionally, 11 percent of abortions happen after the first trimester, and these women are likewise not included in this analysis. These are women generally thought to be at higher risk for subsequent mental health problems.”
Sadness and regret as consequences.
The Danish study was conducted over a 12-year period and followed every woman having a first time, first trimester abortion. Each woman was individually followed from nine months before the abortion and then for 12 months after. They looked to see if any women had been admitted to a mental psychiatric facility or had received outpatient care.
They found 15 out of 1,000 women did
have a psychiatric episode after having a first trimester abortion within a year. The most common type of episode was either neurotic or stress-related.
Other studies reported problems such as sadness or regret but these issues aren’t mental disorders.
By the same token, among women who actually had a baby, four in 1,000 had a first time psychiatric episode before delivery and seven after the baby’s birth. This increase could be attributed to postpartum depression.
The results of the study do seem to reflect that women who undergo abortions are at a vulnerable point in their lives. However, there’s no way to determine this for sure. The bottom line is that abortion is a serious matter that may cause emotional trauma – if not mental illness – in years to come.