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APA Reports on Abortion and Mental Health

August 17, 2008

On August 12th, the American Psychological Association issued a press release regarding the APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion’s review of the evidence on abortion and the possibility of negative mental health outcomes. The release states:

“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,” said Brenda Major, PhD, chair of the task force. “The evidence regarding the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more uncertain.”

The task force found that some studies indicate that some women do experience sadness, grief and feelings of loss following an abortion, and some may experience “clinically significant disorders, including depression and anxiety.” However, the task force found “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

The complete report can be freely downloaded as a PDF from the APA website. The Task Force noted a lack of well-designed research on the subject, explaining that “One of the task force’s chief recommendations is for better-designed, rigorously conducted future research on the topic to ‘help disentangle confounding factors and establish relative risks of abortion compared to its alternatives.'”

I’m working on a longer piece on this topic, so will not dissect it in detail for this post, but hope to share the link with you in the months to come.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2008 6:49 pm

    I can testify from personal experience that having had 2 abortions affected me much less, mentally and emotionally, than carrying a pregnancy to term and giving that child up for adoption. Been there done that, for some reason, birth control doesn’t seem to work for me. My first pregnancy was an accident (no birth control) and that child was given up for adoption (not willingly, forced by my mother). I got pregnant with my son when I was on the BC pill (I kept him). I got pregnant 2 more times, both times I had an IUD (copper coil). The last 2 ended in abortions, my choice (after that, I got my tubes tied so I wouldn’t have to worry about pregnancy ever again). All of this happened between 1972 and 1978, so I don’t know if any of the birth control methods have improved since then or not (I had my tubes tied in 1978). I do know that if I had been forced to carry those last 2 pregnancies to term, and either give up the babies, or keep them, my sanity would have been seriously at stake, not to mention the safety and well-being of all 3 children (one child I could cope with, 3, probably not). And after having given up one child, it definitely wasn’t something I wanted to do ever again (even after 36 years, I still wonder, and hurt, and totally dislike my mother for forcing me to do something I didn’t want to do).

  2. Bernadette Roy permalink
    August 18, 2008 10:23 am

    Where are they getting their studies? I don’t believe it. I am one of the women they are talking about. I can honestly say that I have suffered from the moment I decided to have the abortion. I buried the act for so long and tried to continue my life, but it wouldn’t stay buried. I sought help from therapist and counselors who gave medication and never wanted to touch the subject of my abortion. It finally came to a head 6 years ago and I had to talk about it and look at it in the light.
    I have since realized that my decision although legal at the time, was something that broke my entire being apart. My mind rationalized that it was legal so it sent my body to the abortion clinic. I didn’t count on what my heart and soul would do. Not even years later but immediately. I buried the facts and didn’t talk to anyone till years later and then I was told it was a medical procedure and go on. Yet my heart still hurt and kept me searching for some comfort. My soul was another story and it knew all along what I did was wrong.
    I am now trying with the help of others, (post abortive men and women and true therapists) cope with what I did and live my life to it’s true nature. I have talked to hundreds of women and men and we all feel the loss and pain of our choices. I have one question: If having an abortion is just a ordinary medical procedure, why are so many people so emotional about it. I haven’t ever hear of anyone getting so passionate about any other medical procedure. So I have come to this conclusion, that abortion hurts all people involved, and the APA needs to talk to women like myself. Which I would happily do.
    b

  3. August 18, 2008 11:03 am

    It’s dreadful that you have suffered so over this decision. But, you know, not everyone had the same reactions to things. It doesn’t make your regrets less profound to point out that most women who have had abortions don’t share them. And they are out there, in huge numbers. I’d guess that you’re not aware of meeting the people who are not suffering emotional distress over having had abortions because they’re not out there looking for help or announcing their (in their cases nonexistent) suffering. But you probably do meet them all the time — you just don’t realize it. Bank tellers, teachers, university professors, postal workers, accountants, sales clerks, cashiers, neighbors, physicians, nurses, computer techs, attorneys, you name it — you deal with people who have had abortions and who aren’t experiencing the same pain you have. The challenge is to provide more options to prevent pregnancy, and to make unwanted pregnancies less difficult, so that women who will sorrow as you do from having abortions don’t need to make that call.

  4. Bernadette Roy permalink
    August 19, 2008 7:40 am

    I have talked to many people or should I say they have talked to me about it. Some even feel the way you do, example a lady that had a son with mental disabilities and found she was pregnant again. She never told her husband, or anyone, she just went and had an abortion. She was crying as she told me, in strong words that she knew she did the right thing. So why was she crying after so many years? Look I just wanted to say that making that decision, the one I made, changed me forever, It wasn’t a quick fix, like they told me and I wish that I had thought about it more, that there was more information on what might happen to people. When you make a life changing decision, all the information should be present, but I was 36 years old and not a young girl.
    Right now in my life, I am pretty steady, I have worked hard to pull myself together and put my sweet pain in a place that I can deal with it. I see what could have been in the eyes of my other children’s kids. In my grandchildren I sometimes see the lost of life of the one that I aborted, the grandchildren I denied. So that is why I still say that eventually everyone has to deal with their decision and how they deal with it, is as different as we are. They told me it was nothing, they told me I would be okay. They didn’t tell me that I would spend the rest of my life dealing with it. I have come to accept this decision of mine but I really want other women to know that it does change your very being. Your mind, body, heart and soul, come apart and then you spend a lifetime trying to put all the pieces back together, once you realize that something is wrong. I spent 15 years hiding and burying it, now the last 5 years dealing and accepting it. I know that people react or deal with situation differently. I don’t believe the majority don’t regret it, I believe the majority do regret it. I have read the statistics as you have but we both have come to different conclusions, there you go differernt again. You listed occupations, well, here is another list, this is religious affiliations in connection to abortions: 43% Protestants, 27% Catholics, 22% Others, 8% None. Now picture any church on any given Sunday and we are all sitting listening to the pastor give a reading from the Bible and we sit there, hiding, hoping, no one knows, but we know. Some of us deal with it, by denial, some with other means, but we deal with it, what other medical procedure, as some call it, do you deny, hide, or feel guilty about.
    I sound very depressing, please forgive me. You see I don’t want to forget it now, because I am tired of trying to hide it. I have forgiven myself and go on now. I am just overwhelmed sometimes with the pain of others who, wake up and are trying to deal with their decision of abortion. I don’t think liberal birth control contraception is the answer either, it just adds to another list of problems. Thanks for letting me have my say.

  5. August 19, 2008 7:48 am

    Bernadette, thank you for sharing your experiences. As studies of the topic suggest, some women do feel mental health effects after an abortion, and some don’t, but there are a number of factors that contribute and confound. I wonder if, in your case, you might have had a much easier time managing if you didn’t feel, for example, that you had to “hide” it for 15 years – if there were fewer attempts to shame women for choosing abortion, could you have talked about your experience openly much earlier and actually fared better?

  6. August 19, 2008 7:51 am

    Well, I just wish you’d realize that most women who have abortions deal with their decision, as you put it, at the time that they make it. And that, for the rest of their lives, they are comfortable with that decision. That doesn’t mean that you, and others who have so much pain, shouldn’t be able to help each other, in whatever way you need. But when you insist that everyone who has an abortion is going to go through what you, sadly, are experiencing, that just flat out contradicts the facts. And since the facts need to be the basis of public policy, I think the distinction between your personal experience and the very different experiences of most others is important to understand and maintain.

  7. August 19, 2008 12:16 pm

    Further, I picture women as worthy of forgiveness, so I’m not sure what your image of sitting in churches “knowing” something is actually supposed to suggest. Women who have regrets knowing that sins are forgiven?

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