Critique of a New “Abortion has Negative Mental Side Effects” Study

A new study has been published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. In the study, its primary author Patricia Coleman concludes that abortion has a significant impact on the mental health of women who have them. It seems like every few years studies like this get released, and then a study gets done to debunk that study. From the looks of this study, it doesn’t look like a follow up will even be needed.

First of all the study, which is technically a meta-analysis of 22 previous studies done on the topic, fails to include the mental status of the women prior to the abortion; secondly it claims that abortion is responsible for substance abuse  and depression as opposed to recognizing the already established link between substance abuse and depression. Call me crazy but if the field of psychology has already shown that substance abuse has major link to depression, is it really out of the question to think that women who have a substance abuse problem might also be depressed (or vice versa) without it being because they also had an abortion?

There is also an established link between substance abuse and risky sex as well as a link between depression and sexual promiscuity. Risky (unprotected) sex and promiscuity are contributing factors to an unwanted pregnancy. If a woman, who is already struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, has an unwanted pregnancy it is even more unwanted and is more likely to end in abortion. The abortion would not be the cause of her mental health issues; it would be a side effect.

 Studies like this cannot completely ignore the mental health of a woman before having an abortion and still expect their results to be considered valid. It is illogical and frankly a bit insulting to the readers of the study to think the results are expected to be taken seriously. This critique is not meant to imply that no women feel sadness or regret after they have an abortion, it is merely to point out that to state that a woman is 155% more likely to commit suicide, simply because she had an abortion is not only misleading, it is grossly inaccurate. This is especially true considering the statistic being used to justify the claim only considers half of the information needed. To look at the effect of anything you have to consider both the before and the after, not just the after.

A bit of a disclaimer, I have not been able to read the study in full but based on the information provided in the abstract and reviews from people who have read the full study, it seems clear there is a major flaw in the research. When the mental health of women prior to an abortion IS taken into consideration in a study like this, it is shown time and again that there is NO causal link between having an abortion and subsequent negative effects on mental health.


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2 thoughts on “Critique of a New “Abortion has Negative Mental Side Effects” Study

  1. […] We have talked before about how women with mental health issues such as drug abuse or depression are… but researchers were unable to make any conclusions from the data available. The authors of the study have stated they think it is likely a mix of prior existing conditions and the unwanted pregnancy itself in others. Either way what this study shows us is that, as pro-choices have known for quite some time now, abortions do not cause mental health issues. […]

  2. […] Critique of a New “Abortion has Negative Mental Side Effects” Study […]

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