Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More on Abortion and Mental Health

Michael Cook at BioEdge is making the mistake I blogged about briefly last week!

Here's the issue: This review study from the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH) finds that while unwanted pregnancies have a negative effect on women's mental health, the mental health of women with unwanted pregnancies was no different whether they had an abortion or gave birth.

Now, 98% of all UK abortions are performed to preserve the physical or mental health of the mother; of those, 99.96% involve mental health. Should we infer, with BioEdge and with the Christian Medical Fellowship, that those abortions are inappropriate, because the NCCMH study proves that abortion doesn't preserve mental health after all?

We should not. NCCMH looked at rates of mental health problems among women who had had unintended pregnancies, some of whom had chosen to terminate them with abortion, and some of whom had given birth. It found similar rates of mental health in those two populations. But the women in those populations were in them by choice. The study does show that women who choose abortion have no better or worse mental health than those who do not. But it certainly doesn't show that their mental health would have been the same if the option to abort had been denied them, and they had been forced to give birth. The study, in other words, leaves open the question whether abortions are good for the mental health of the women who choose them.


  1. Thanks for sharing such valuable information.Keep posting such great info for us thanks

  2. Hi there,
    Well, as you may appreciate, I am reluctant to admit that I was wrong in my assertion. But, not being a statistician, I must concede that stranger things have happened.

    However, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which commissioned the report, states: "The best current evidence suggests that it makes no difference to a woman’s mental health whether she chooses to have an abortion or to continue with the pregnancy."

    The plain implication of this for a GP advising a woman in his offices, is that he must tell her: "I am sorry, but based on the statistics, I cannot sign a paper which states that if you do not have this abortion, your mental health will be impaired."

    Of course, he may be convinced that this particular woman's health will be impaired. But why do 98% of all women get the signature they require? It seems to me that the doctors should read this study and act accordingly.

    Cheers & Happy Christmas
    Michael Cook

  3. Hi Michael, If the report really could prove what the Academy says it proves, then you might be right. But I don't think it's possible for a retrospective review of the sort done here to prove that "it makes no difference to a woman's mental health whether she chooses to have an abortion or to continue with the pregnancy." All it can really say is that two groups of women, one of which chose abortion and the other birth, ended up with similar mental health outcomes. And that's different. Happy Christmas to you as well! -Steve

  4. Stephen Latham is absolutely correct. To say otherwise would require us to conclude that forcing the non-aborters to abort would have done them no harm, which would, of course, be absurd.