Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Abortion and mental health

This WaTi op-ed argues that there ought to be questions about any statement made by the American Psychological Association about the mental health consequences of abortion (or of carrying the child to term). Among other things, he offers these two tidbits:

Rewinding to 1969, the APA became an early player in the public debate with the following resolution:


WHEREAS, termination of unwanted pregnancies is clearly a mental health and child welfare issue, and a legitimate concern of APA; be it resolved, that termination of pregnancy be considered a civil right of the pregnant woman, to be handled as other medical and surgical procedures in consultation with her physician...

***

just over a year ago, a New Zealand based pro-choice researcher, David Fergusson, released a study that re-ignited the debate over the mental-health effects of abortion.


In a well-designed longitudinal study, Dr. Fergusson found abortion was associated with depression and other negative mental-health outcomes. Dr. Fergusson’s team criticized the APA’s position statement on abortion consequences, which stated, "Well-designed studies of psychological responses following abortion have consistently shown that risk of psychological harm is low. Some women experience psychological dysfunction following abortion, but post-abortion rates of distress and dysfunction are lower than pre-abortion rates."


Dr. Fergusson believed the APA position ignored results of studies such as his which found contradictory results.


For a 2006 article, I interviewed Dr. Nancy Russo, long-time APA luminary and defender of abortion rights, about Dr. Fergusson’s criticism of the APA position. Dr. Russo first asserted the evidence on mental-health outcomes was of clinical interest but had no bearing on abortion as a civil right. In other words, no matter what the consequences, abortion should be legal.

You might also consider these pieces by the same author.

Discussions - 4 Comments

"Some women experience psychological dysfunction following abortion, but post-abortion rates of distress and dysfunction are lower than pre-abortion rates."

Even if this is true, does anyone find this even more troubling than psychological harm from abortion? Seems to bespeak apalling amorality or moral ignorance. Guiltless abortion is certainly bad news. We're in even bigger trouble when abortion isn't at least troubling.

Which also points to a distinction the APA isn't likely ever goign to make. The women who experience psychological harm from abortion likely have better-formed consciences. Psycholgoical harm after an abortion is a sign of prior mental and moral health. So, making the case against abortion based on psychological health depends on first making the case about whether abortion is right or wrong, and whether a certain amount of psychological pain ought to follow from doing bad things.

If "psychological dysfunctions" are defined as serious depression and psychosis, then we are overlooking issues of guilt, grief and shame as being too petty to be noticed. Those latter are merely psychological pain and if they do not keep a woman from functioning, they are not to be taken seriously. Young women I know (and I know, this is just anecdote) who succumb to the practical ease of abortion are almost always morally destroyed in the process. If that moral destruction is expressed in behaviors that the APA finds acceptable and normal, then, Hey! Presto! there are no lingering problems.

"Why is there such poor research on the impact of abortion on women?

According to Professor Fergusson, the political issues surrounding abortion crowd out scientific objectivity. In his view, “The abortion debate and its implications drive out the science.”
- Does Abortion Impact the Mental Health of Women?, Warren Throckmorton, PhD, January 10, 2006

Note, the driving out of science is not from the debate itself, but from those that want to see abortion to continue.

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