"Does abortion reduce the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy?"
Does abortion reduce the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy? A re-appraisal of the evidence
A September 2013, published re-analysis in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that abortion may be associated with increases in risks of some mental health problems, problems that are not reduced by any "therapeutic" effects of having the abortion:
Objective: There have been debates about the linkages between abortion and mental health. Few reviews have considered the extent to which abortion has therapeutic benefits that mitigate the mental health risks of abortion. The aim of this review was to conduct a re-appraisal of the evidence to examine the research hypothesis that abortion reduces rates of mental health problems in women having unwanted or unintended pregnancy.The UK's Daily Mail wrote about the source data for that review, noting that:
Methods: Analysis of recent reviews (Coleman, 2011; National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2011) identified eight publications reporting 14 adjusted odds ratios (AORs) spanning five outcome domains: anxiety; depression; alcohol misuse; illicit drug use/misuse; and suicidal behaviour. For each outcome, pooled AORs were estimated using a random-effects model.
Results: There was consistent evidence to show that abortion was not associated with a reduction in rates of mental health problems (p>0.75). Abortion was associated with small to moderate increases in risks of anxiety (AOR 1.28, 95% CI 0.97−1.70; p<0.08), alcohol misuse (AOR 2.34, 95% CI 1.05−5.21; p<0.05), illicit drug use/misuse (AOR 3.91, 95% CI 1.13−13.55; p<0.05), and suicidal behaviour (AOR 1.69, 95% CI 1.12−2.54; p<0.01).
Conclusions: There is no available evidence to suggest that abortion has therapeutic effects in reducing the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy. There is suggestive evidence that abortion may be associated with small to moderate increases in risks of some mental health problems.
Aust N Z J Psychiatry September 1, 2013 47:819-827
David M Fergusson
L John Horwood
Joseph M Boden
Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, Christchurch, New Zealand
Professor Coleman has been the frequent target of pro-choice campaigners in the U.S. for her insistence that abortion is linked to poor mental health.
But while critics have doubted her methods, they have failed to damage her academic reputation, and publication in the peer-reviewed British journal is a signal that the psychiatric establishment is now taking seriously the possibility that abortion is a cause of anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide.