Friday, December 9, 2011

Abortion Doesn't Affect Mental Health

A new study from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges' National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH) finds that, while unwanted pregnancies place women at risk for mental health problems including depression, the rates of mental health problems among women with unwanted pregnancies remain the same whether they have abortions or give birth. The finding certainly undercuts anti-abortion arguments about the prevalence of "abortion regret" and the supposed negative mental-health consequences of abortion. An important question is whether it also de-legitimates the idea of "abortion for the sake of the mental health of the woman." (A Christian Medical Fellowship spokesperson is quoted making that argument near the bottom of this article.) But that's a misreading of the findings. The women in the studies that NCCMH reviewed weren't, after all, randomly sorted into "abortion" and "birth" groups. Each chose her own best all-things-considered option given the fact of the unwanted pregnancy, her own moral views, her doctor's advice, pressure she was receiving from partners or relatives, and so on. The fact that the "abortion" and "birth" groups had similar mental-health outcomes therefore certainly doesn't imply that the outcome would have remained similar if all the women who chose to have abortions had instead been denied them.

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