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Monday, September 5, 2011

Does abortion cause mental break-downs in women?

There is much discussion regarding a new study which claims to show a link between abortion and the mental health of women.

The meta-analysis in the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry examined 22 studies from 1995-2009 involving 877,000 women, including 163,000 who had experienced an abortion.

The paper’s author, Priscilla K. Coleman of Bowling Green State University, said there actually are “hundreds of studies” showing a link between abortion and serious mental health risks, and that three recent studies that reached a very different conclusion had major flaws. One of those studies by an American Psychological Association task force received significant media attention and concluded there were no risks.

However, there are many who are showing that the study was flawed. Below is the link to one such review.

Critiquing the “Critique”: Efforts to Distort the Post-Abortion Mental Health Literature Become More Obvious with each Successive Attempt

Robinson, Stotland, Russo, Lang, and Occhiogrosso recently published a paper in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry entitled “Is there an “Abortion Trauma Syndrome”? Critiquing the Evidence” This is the latest in a series of attempts to review the world literature on abortion and mental health in an effort to “substantiate” the claim that abortion does not carry risks for psychological harm. Prior efforts included the American Psychological Association’s Task Force Report and a review piece published by Johns Hopkins University researchers in the journal Contraception. In the most recent review, the authors’ primary conclusions that “the most well-controlled studies continue to demonstrate that there is no convincing evidence that induced abortion of an unwanted pregnancy is per se a significant risk factor for psychiatric illness” is entirely unfounded for serious scientifically-based reasons. A few of the problems are highlighted below.

1) The most glaring problem with the article is the arbitrary number of papers selected to review and the manner in which the authors chose particular published reports to analyze. The authors mention having identified 216 peer-reviewed papers on the topic of abortion and mental health and then note selection of a sample of studies that “exemplify common errors in research methodology” as well as “major articles that attempt to correct the flaws.” Their choice of studies in each category was based on the conclusion derived as opposed to the integrity of the design. Numerous methodologically sound studies that have yielded results counter to the authors’ politically driven conclusion are entirely ignored with no rationale offered. In a valid scientific review, criteria for selection (e.g., sample size, representativeness, type of comparison group, how well controlled it is, etc.) are specified at the outset and then the results of each study meeting the criteria are examined to identify general trends. This review lacks a systematic methodology for selection of studies to evaluate rendering the conclusions entirely invalid.
A sampling of important studies with good methodology which were omitted from the review are detailed below. Readers are encourage to visit the Alliance for Post-Abortion Research and Training's website,, for straightforward, systematic, unbiased synopses of the literature including details pertaining to the studies listed below.

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