1 December 2008
Further Research is needed on Abortion and Mental Health
According to a new study from the University of Otago, Christchurch, published in the December issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, there is a small association between abortion and mental health but the researchers say that their findings point to a
“middle-of-the-road” position on abortion, supporting neither the strong pro-life or pro-choice arguments.
ALRANZ President Dr Margaret Sparrow said that a recent review of world literature on the subject found that there is no
credible evidence that a single abortion is a threat to a women’s mental health but the evidence regarding the relative
mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more uncertain. The review was conducted by the American
Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion and was published in August 2008.
The APA task force called for better designed future research. They observed that many of the studies including a
previous study from the same group in New Zealand (Fergusson et al) all suffered from serious methodological problems.
The New Zealand studies are important but the authors themselves are careful to point out the strengths and weaknesses
of this type of study. The findings are based on a relatively small sample of women having abortions and do not make
allowances for all of the confounding factors. There is insufficient information on the context in which the abortion
occurred, a reliance on self-reported outcomes and under-reporting of abortion experiences.
“Whether or not a woman is more likely to suffer mental health problems as a consequence of having an abortion should
not be the determining factor in making a decision about abortion.” said Dr Sparrow. Attitudes linking abortion and
mental health may create an unhealthy environment for those seeking abortion.
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