What he said:
I'm printing about half of a press release issued this morning from The Elliot Institute.
"EVIDENCE DOESN'T MATTER"--APA SPOKESPERSON SAYS OF
Springfield, IL (Feb. 15, 2005) -- According to a spokesperson for the American Psychological Association, the APA's pro-choice position, first adopted in 1969, is based on a civil rights view, not on scientific proof of any mental health benefits arising from abortion.
The admission that ideology, not science, governs the APA's support for abortion came in response to a request by a Washington Times columnist for the organization's reaction to a new study linking abortion to mental illness. The study tracked 25 years of worth of data on women born in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The researchers had expected that their data, drawn from one of the largest and most comprehensive longitudinal studies in the world, would definitively refute a recent
series of studies linking abortion to higher rates of mental health problems. The Christchurch team, led by a self-professed "pro-choice atheist," Prof. David M. Fergusson, expected to find that any mental health problems occurring after abortion would be fully explainable by prior mental health problems, which some believe are more common among women who have abortions. Instead, the New Zealand research team found the opposite. Even after the researchers controlled for this and numerous other alternative explanations, abortion was clearly linked to elevated rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.
The findings so surprised Fergusson's research team that they began reviewing the studies cited by the APA in its claims that abortion is beneficial, or at least non-harmful, to women's mental health. The researchers concluded (1) that the APA's publications defending abortion are based on a small number of studies that had
major methodological shortcomings (a view that echoes former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's complaint in 1987 that the research on abortion was too inadequate to draw any definitive conclusions), and (2) that the APA appeared to be consistently ignoring a body of studies published in the last seven years that have shown negative effects from abortion.
The Christchurch team's criticism of the APA's selective and strong assurances of the mental health benefits of abortion prompted Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist and newspaper columnist, to call the APA for comment on Fergusson's criticisms. He was referred to an APA expert and spokesperson on abortion and women's issues, Dr. Nancy Felipe Russo. Russo was among the leaders within the APA who, in 1969, led the organization to adopt an official position in favor of abortion as a civil right. She has subsequently been active in research and advocacy efforts opposing parental notification and mandatory informed consent statutes related to abortion.
APA is not neutral on abortion science
When asked to comment on the New Zealand study and the pro-choice authors' criticisms of the APA, Russo told Throckmorton that the APA's position on abortion was established on the view that abortion is a civil right. As quoted in Throckmorton's Washington Times column, Russo explained that the Christchurch study would have no effect on the APA's position because "to pro-choice advocates, mental health effects are not relevant to the legal context of arguments to restrict access to abortion."
In the first draft of Throckmorton's column, which he sent for comment to another expert on abortion research, Dr. David Reardon of the Springfield, IL-based Elliot Institute, Russo was quoted more bluntly, saying, "it doesn't matter what the evidence says." Throckmorton and Russo subsequently agreed to the clarification of her statement as it appeared in the Washington Times.
According to Reardon, an author of several of the studies on abortion that have been ignored by the APA, Russo's statements "confirm the complaint of critics that the
APA's briefs to the Supreme Court and state legislatures are really about promoting a view about civil rights, not science. Toward this end, the APA has set up task forces and divisions that include only psychologists who share the same bias in favor of abortion."
Reardon believes the APA's task forces on abortion have actually served to stifle rather than encourage research. "When researchers like Fergusson or myself publish data showing abortion is linked to mental health problems, members of the APA's abortion policy police rush forward to tell the public to ignore our findings because they are completely out of line with their own 'consensus' statements which are positioned as the APA's official interpretation of the meaningful research on abortion," he said.