The results of a new meta-analysis by the U.K.’s National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health on the mental health risks purported to be associated with abortion were released recently. The study looked at 44 different studies spanning over 20 years to determine if abortion does in fact increase risks of having mental health issues. They found, once again, that having an abortion does not increase a person’s risk of having/developing mental health issues.
The results showed that while between 11% and 12% of the general female population have mental health issues, women with unintended pregnancies have a rate of about 33%. The raised risk of mental health issues does not increase in women who chose to have abortions versus those who chose to carry their pregnancies to term. The researchers concluded that it is unwanted pregnancy that correlates to raised instances of mental health issues.
We have talked before about how women with mental health issues such as drug abuse or depression are more likely to engage in riskier sexual behavior so that may be the case, 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.
Perhaps more importantly it also shows us how important comprehensive sex education is. If unwanted pregnancies can be correlated to a raised rate of depressions and anxiety issues etc, they we need to ensure that all people understand how reproduction works and that they have access to the contraception of their choice.
Groups opposed to abortion have already chimed in on the “inaccuracies” of the study claiming that it downplays feelings of guilt or shame or grief some women may feel after having an abortion. According to the Guardian an online news journal based in the UK, Anthony Ozimic of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children even “dismissed the study’s findings as predictable, accused its authors of ignoring key studies and said evidence showed that abortion involved an increased risk of depression and post-traumatic stress.”
Yes, it is true that some women do feel regret, shame, or grief after an abortion. These reactions are especially likely when the patient has no one in their support network to confide in without judgment. And yes, these women are allowed to have these feelings, but regret and shame are not actual mental health issues like substance abuse or depression. That does not mean they are not entitled to their feelings or to seek support for them. A great resource for anyone who wants to talk about their own abortion or even the abortion of a loved one can reach out to Exhale, a pro-voice support line. They take calls regardless of how you feel about your abortion.