This month, many secular psychologists are having an Emily Litella moment.
Prevailing professional “wisdom” on the link between abortion and subsequent psychological problems is that there is none. The official position of the American Psychological Association is, “Nothing to see here, folks, let’s all just move along shall we?”
Well, things are not quite as clear cut as the APA might like you to believe. First, in 2008, a 30 year longitudinal study of 500 women found that post-abortive women had about a 30% higher likelihood of subsequent mental problems than non-abortive women (the “attributable risk” estimate of 1.5-5.5% is a less reliable statistic that attempts to calculate how much abortion, itself, without considering any other factor, contributes to mental health problems. It is a deceptively small percentage because so many factors influence mental health that almost all such analyses yield very small numbers.)
Now, the July issue of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences describes a review of all abortion and mental health literature between 1995 and 2011. Their findings? Out of 36 studies reviewed, 13 found post-abortive women at higher risk of depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. The review also found that while short-term anxiety and depression were more common among women who miscarried than women who had abortions, longer term anxiety and depression were much more common among post-abortive women than women who miscarried. That makes sense considering that factors surrounding each set of circumstances (i.e., in miscarriage, women are encouraged to grieve. With abortion, women are told they have nothing to grieve. It takes time for the denial to wear off and the emotional disturbance to be recognized.)
The researchers conclude by saying that more research needs to be done. That’s true. It would just be nice if the professional organizations would stop issuing politically motivated statements until all the data is in.
By the way, that incredible silence you hear? That’s the media rushing to cover this story.