an After abortion

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Thursday, May 8, 2003

Another peer-reviewed medical study

New Study Links Clinical Depression to Abortion

That link takes you to an article, "Depression associated with abortion and childbirth: a
long-term analysis of the NLSY cohort," in the new edition of Medical Science Monitor, 2003; 9(4): CR105-112.

And here is The Elliott Institute's press release:

Researchers Call for More Studies on Emotional Risks of Abortion

Springfield, Ill. - Women with a history of abortion
are at significantly higher risk of experiencing
clinical depression compared to women who give birth,
according to a nationally representative study of
1,884 women published in the latest issue of Medical
Science Monitor.

Researchers compared data for women from the National
Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) who experienced
their first pregnancy between 1980 and 1992. They
found that, on an average of eight years later, women
whose first pregnancies ended in abortion were 65
percent more likely to be at high risk of clinical
depression after controlling for age, race, marital
status, history of divorce, income, number of years of
formal education, and a pre-pregnancy measure of
psychological state.

"This finding contributes to the growing number of
studies showing that abortion is linked to elevated
rates of psychiatric illness, substance abuse, and
suicidal behavior," said Dr. David Reardon, head of
the Elliot Institute in Springfield, Illinois, and one
of the study's authors.

Previous research on depression rates following
abortion have been of limited value due to small
sample sizes and lack of information gathered prior to
their pregnancies on women's emotional state, Reardon
said. These problems were at least partially resolved
by using the NLSY, an ongoing nationwide
interview-based study conducted by the Center for
Human Resource Research at Ohio State University and
funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Participants
in the study, who were between the ages of 14 and 21
at the time the study began in 1979, are surveyed
annually about issues such as their employment,
education, marital status, and reproductive history.

Reardon conceded, however, that the NLSY data is still
inadequate to measure the true risk of clinical
depression following abortion. "Only 40 percent of
the abortions that we would expect to find among a
sample this size are reported in the NLSY," he said.
"This means many women who actually had an abortion
were misclassified as only having had births, which
would tend to dilute the results."

Another way concealment of past abortions would effect
the findings, Reardon said, is that studies have shown
that the women who are most likely to conceal their
abortions or experience shame are also the ones most
likely to have depression. "The women who conceal
their abortions very probably have higher rates of
depression than those who more readily reveal their
abortion history," he said. "Given the 60 percent
concealment rate in this data set, the fact that we
still found significantly higher depression scores
among those admitting a history of abortion suggests
that the effect must be quite strong."

A major recommendation of the study's authors is that
more research needs to be done. They note that in 1988
Surgeon General C. Everett Koop recommended a major
longitudinal study to thoroughly examine the issue of
abortion complications, but the study was never been

"Women deserve better information," Reardon said. "Dr.
Koop properly identified the way in which data could
be gathered to examine all interactions between
women's physical and mental health, including not only
reactions to abortion, but also to study PMS,
postpartum depression, menopause, and more. The only
reason we don't have better answers to all these
issues today is because Koop's recommendation was
killed in Congress."

Reardon believes the political battle over abortion
has blocked good federally funded research in this
area. "Unfortunately," he says, "some people are more
concerned about protecting the public image of
abortion than they are about protecting women."

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