A recent American Psychological Association (APA) study which claimed that abortion causes no mental health problems for women has been challenged because of its inconsistency with other studies and the apparent refusal of the study’s lead researcher to release supporting data. Meanwhile, more than 100 scientists and medical and mental health professionals have affirmed that, in their experience, significant numbers of women suffer serious physical, mental or psychological trauma as a result of abortion.
Last week the APA issued a report based on the conclusions of a panel that examined whether abortion can cause mental health problems. According to Steven Ertlet, writing at LifeNews.com, the panel’s report concluded that women who have abortions may experience some grief and a sense of loss, but claimed there is no evidence showing abortion can cause significant mental health issues.
In the official APA statement Brenda Major, chairwoman of the panel, said “The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective, first-trimester abortion or deliver that pregnancy.”
The report claimed that many studies examining a link between abortion and subsequent mental health issues are flawed.
A Norwegian study conducted by Dr. Willy Pedersen was recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. The study focused upon 5,768 women between 15 and 27 years of age, asking questions concerning abortion and childbirth as well as family.
The study’s abstract said, “Young adult women who undergo induced abortion may be at increased risk for subsequent depression,” while its results said women who reported having had an abortion in their twenties were “more likely to score above the cut-off point for depression.”
A New Zealand study likewise suggested that a young woman who has an abortion raises her risk of developing mental health problems, doubling her risk of anxiety disorders. According to the study, about 42 percent of women who had abortions have experienced major depression within the last four years, double the rate among women who never became pregnant.
The study also said that women who have had abortions were twice as likely to abuse alcohol at dangerous levels and three times as likely to be addicted to illegal drugs, according to LifeNews.com.
David Fergusson, an abortion advocate who led the New Zealand study, said the results show that access to legal abortions is not necessarily good for women. He also claimed the study confirms abortions can cause mental health issues.
On March 14, 2008 the British Royal Academy of Psychiatrists issued its own position statement on abortion, saying heathcare professionals assessing or referring women who are requesting an abortion should assess them “for mental disorders and for risk factors that may be associated with its subsequent development.”
The statement continued, saying “Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information regarding the possible risks and benefits to physical and mental health.”
Steven Ertlet claimed that the APA panel was “stacked” with abortion advocates, as did the American Life League.
In a Wednesday statement the American Life League asserted that at least half of the task force panelists studying the question are active abortion supporters, stating that the APA panel member Dr. Linda Beckman is an editor for the Pro-Choice Forum web site.
The APA study’s lead author, Dr. Brenda Major, faces allegations that she has violated the APA ethics rules by not sharing her data on abortion and mental health effects for other researchers to analyze.
LifeSiteNews.com reports that Major avoided fulfilling a request from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking in 2004 that she deliver copies of data she collected under a federal grant. Major avoided doing so, writing “It would be very difficult to pull this information together.”
David Reardon, biomedical ethicist and director of the Eliot Institute, said one of his colleagues in 2000 had requested a breakdown of details summarized in a table in a 2000 report by Major based on that data set.
“One of her grad students replied on her behalf with the additional summary statistics we had requested within 48 hours,” he said, according to LifeSiteNews.com. “So it clearly wasn't at all difficult for her team to access the data. Plus, with modern electronic data bases and multiple backup procedures in place at universities like hers, it is nearly impossible to lose such data."
Reardon claimed that Major had not responded to any further requests concerning the data since 2000 and voiced his belief that she is withholding the data to prevent the spread of findings supporting a link between abortion and subsequent health problems.
He said some additional information from research used in Major’s 2000 study showed women interviewed by Major did in fact attribute negative reactions to their abortions, but such information was not published.
“I know of a number of experts in the field who have requested the data, even within the last six months. But she simply doesn't respond to their calls, emails, or letters,” Reardon said, noting that APA ethics rule 8.14 requires research psychologists to share their data for verification of their findings.
“How can we trust the objectivity of a report prepared by a task force composed exclusively of pro-choice psychologists, especially when the chair and lead author has a history of withholding data and findings which may undermine her ideological preferences?" Reardon asked rhetorically.
Turning again to the APA report, Reardon said that though it conveys a message that abortion has no mental health risks, it actually admits that there is evidence that abortion causes negative effects for women who have had multiple abortions, women who abort because of coercion or pressure from others, minors who have abortions, and women with preexisting mental health problems which can be triggered or aggravated by an abortion.
He said women who have had multiple abortions accounts for about half of all abortions, while women pressured into having an abortion could account for between 20 to 60 percent of the women who have had abortions.
The San Antonio-based Justice Foundation has announced that 100 scientists, medical and mental health professionals have issued a joint statement saying they agree that it is common for women who have had an abortion to suffer “feelings of anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, grief, or guilt.”
“It is undeniable that significant numbers of women are injured by abortion and should not be ignored by the medical profession and that significant numbers of women suffer serious physical, mental or psychological trauma as a result of abortion,” the joint statement continued.
Signatories to the joint statement attested that the existence of a causal connection between abortion and negative health problems is supported by the “self-attribution of women themselves,” mental health professionals’ successful diagnosis and treatment of post-abortion reactions, and peer reviewed, statistically validated studies which control for “confounding factors.”
Clayton Trotter, General Counsel of The Justice Foundation said: "Given that the Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit, the British Royal Academy of Psychiatrists, 100 American Scientists, Medical and Mental Health Professionals and 3000 post-abortive women, and men agree that abortion can potentially severely hurt women we want that truth to be recognized by the American Psychological Association."