Dangerous Side Effects Amid a Heated Debate
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By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, DEC. 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Abortion and life issues in general were one of the hot topics in the recent elections in the United States. If the latest news is any indication the topic will continue to be at the forefront of attention.
According to a study published in the December issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, women who have an abortion have a higher risk of developing mental health problems.
On Nov. 30, Medical News Today published a summary of the study, carried out by researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand. The study was based on research with a group of over 500 women born in the city of Christchurch, located in the south island of the country.
The women were interviewed six times between the ages of 15 and 30. In addition to questions about any pregnancies and abortions they were also given a mental health assessment each time.
Out of the group there was a total of 686 pregnancies, to 284 women, before they reached 30 years of age. Out of this total there were 153 abortions, involving 117 women.
The researchers found that the women who had abortions suffered rates of mental health problems that were about 30% higher than other women.
Nevertheless, the study concluded that the effects of abortion were only responsible for a moderate effect on the mental health of women. According to the researchers the study did not support a conclusion that abortion has a “devastating” effect on women’s mental health, but it did clearly reject the pro-abortion position that abortion is without any adverse effects.
“Abortion is likely to be a stressful and traumatic life event which places those exposed to it at a modestly increased risk of a range of common mental health problems,” the authors concluded.
The issue of abortion and mental health is one that has been at the center of debate for some time. Earlier this year the American Psychological Association (APA) declared that it found no credible evidence that abortion causes mental health problems, reported the London-based Telegraph newspaper Aug. 18.
Brenda Major, chairman of the APA's task force on the issue, did acknowledge, however that the evidence of mental health risks associated with women who have multiple abortions is more uncertain.
According to the Telegraph the task force did find that some studies found women who have abortions experience feelings of sadness, grief and loss, and some may even suffer depression. At the same time they said there was no evidence that this was caused by the abortion in itself.
The conclusions of the American Psychological Association did not go unchallenged. The conclusions of the task force did not follow from the literature reviewed, declared the Family Research Council (FRC), in a press release dated Aug. 14.
"Other experts have noted that the selection criteria for including studies in the review was enormously biased, and that the report did not quantify the numbers of women likely to be affected by abortion,” commented FRC president, Tony Perkins.
“Consensus exists among many social and medical science scholars that a minimum of 10% - 30% of women who abort suffer from serious, prolonged, negative psychological consequences,” he said.
Psychologist Vincent Rue also disagreed with the American Psychological Association, according to a Sept. 9 report published by LifeNews.com.
Rue said that the APA position is at odds with a statement by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Britain released earlier this year. The British group warned that the issue "remains to be fully resolved," that additional study was needed and that women should have access to counseling about possible consequences.
Rue also made reference to an Aug. 23 article in the British medical journal the Lancet, which cautioned that, despite the APA pronouncements of abortion being psychologically safe for women, there are risks involved.
The Lancet, Rue explained, said that while there is no causal link between abortion and mental ill-health, the fact is that some women do experience psychological problems after an abortion and this problem should not be trivialized.
The declaration by the Royal College of Psychiatrists referred to by Rue was even more explicit about the risks of abortion. According to an article published March 16 by the London-based Times newspaper, women may be at risk of mental health breakdowns if they have abortions.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommended updating abortion information leaflets to include details of the risks of depression. “Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information,” it said.
It’s not only women who can suffer following an abortion. At the beginning of the year a conference of pro-life activists in San Francisco heard about the effects of abortion on men, reported the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 7.
The most striking session, the article said, featured the testimony of men whose partners aborted. Jason Baier told the crowd he suffered years of depression and addiction. "I couldn't get the thought out of my head about what I had lost."
"The lived truth of peoples' experience is very hard to dismiss," said Vicki Thorn, who runs post-abortion counseling programs for the Catholic Church. "It's time we ... affirm the pain that fathers feel," she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Side effect myths
Depression isn’t the only controversial issue regarding the side effects of abortion. Anti-life pressure groups often argue in favor of allowing abortion in order to prevent women from the risk of dying as a result of illegal abortions.
This is a false myth according to Father Thomas J. Euteneuer. In an article he published June 6 by LifeNews.com, he recounted the experience of Nicaragua, where abortion was made illegal in 2006.
At the time pro-abortion activists argued this would mean more women dying due to back-street abortions, but in fact data from Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health show a decline in maternal mortality.
In 2007 there were just 21 maternal deaths, compared to 50 maternal deaths the year before.
Father Euteneuer explained that along with prohibiting abortion authorities increased prenatal services for pregnant women, along with greater medical attention during childbirth.
Benedict XVI addressed the topic of abortion when on May 12 he spoke to members of Italy’s pro-life movement. The three decades of legalized abortion in Italy has led to a decrease in respect for the human person, he declared.
The Pontiff acknowledged that there are many complex causes that can lead to the painful decision of proceeding with an abortion. At the same time, he continued, the Church continues to proclaim that every human life is sacred.
Allowing abortion has not solved the problems women face, the Pope argued, instead it has only added another wound to an already suffering society.
Benedict XVI called for increased support of mothers and families, along with continued efforts to defend human life.
“For Christians, in this fundamental context of society, an urgent and indispensable field for the apostolate and for Gospel witness is always open: to protect life with courage and love in all its stages,” he stated.
Every person is known, loved, and wanted by God, the Pope noted.
“Whoever profanes man, profanes the property of God,” he added. A sobering thought indeed, given the millions of abortions that have taken place in recent years.