In Human Events Online today, Congress must act on post-abortion depression, by policy analyst Daniel Allott:
It’s been nearly 20 years since Surgeon General C. Everett Koop concluded that research on the psychological effects of abortion was entirely inadequate for drawing any general conclusions about either the efficacy or dangers of abortion. Today, while Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates maintain that the emotional effects of abortion are “largely positive,” the experiences of an increasing number of women refute the refrain that having an abortion is as simple as having your tonsils removed.
There have been at least a dozen studies in peer-reviewed journals that point to a significant link between abortion and depression. Most recently, a study of the entire population of Finland published in December’s "European Journal of Public Health" found that the suicide rate among women who had abortions was six times higher than that of women who had given birth in the previous year.
Further, in a brand new longitudinal study of New Zealand youth appearing in this month’s "Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology," researchers found that having an abortion as a young woman increased the risk of a variety of mental health problems, including depression and suicidal tendencies, by 35 percent compared to those young women who continued with their pregnancies.
Though there is a consensus within the research community that some women experience clinical levels of depression post-abortion, there certainly is no agreement on whether abortion, in fact, causes depression. Indeed, there have been major studies showing no statistically significant link. An October article in the "British Medical Journal" found no important difference in the depressions scores of women who aborted their first pregnancies and those who carried their first pregnancies to term.
These differing conclusions highlight the need for a nonpartisan longitudinal study on the psychological effects of abortion. In 2004, Representative Joe Pitts introduced the Post-Abortion Depression Research and Care Act, which provides the National Institutes of Health $15 million to study the emotional impact of abortion on women. It would have also created a program to fund the development of treatment programs for women who suffer emotionally after an abortion. While the bill enjoyed bi-partisan support in Congress, it died at the end of the last legislative session.
Though it is still unclear whether or not the courts will rule that a parental notification law constitutes an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose, what has become crystal clear is the need for Congress to pass the Post-Abortion Depression Research and Care Act so that we may begin to determine whether the real undue burden isn’t being placed on the increasing number of women who experience depression after abortion.