New Zealand Study Finds Abortion Increases Risk of Mental Health Problems

A study conducted by Professor David Fergusson and a research team at New Zealand’s University of Otago has found that having an abortion will likely increase a woman’s chance of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

The study appeared in the most recent issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry and examined data from a sampling of 500 women who were interviewed six times between the ages of 15 and 30, each time being asked whether they had been pregnant and, if so, what the outcome of that pregnancy had been.

The study revealed that unwanted pregnancy leading to abortion is likely to be a risk factor for mental-health problems that include depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, alcohol dependence, and illicit drug dependence, while unwanted pregnancy that ends in the birth of the baby does not carry the same risk factor.

Dr. Fergusson observed, "those having an abortion and reporting negative reactions had rates of mental health disorders that were approximately 1.4 to 1.8 times higher than those not having an abortion."

Of those women who had undergone an abortion, more than 85 percent reported a least one negative emotional reaction, including sorrow, sadness, guilt, regret, grief and disappointment.

A similar number reported at least one positive reaction, including relief, happiness and satisfaction. The findings suggest that many women experienced a mixture of both positive and negative emotions about having an abortion.

Earlier reports from the same study, released in 2006, found that more than 40 percent of those who had an abortion suffered major depression within four years prior to the study, nearly double the rate of those who had never been pregnant. The 2006 report also found that the risk of developing an anxiety disorder also doubled in women who had abortions.

The report concluded: "Collectively, this evidence raises important questions about the practice of justifying termination of pregnancy on the grounds that this procedure will reduce risks of mental health problems in women having unwanted pregnancy.

"Currently there is no evidence to support the assumptions underlying this practice, and the findings of the present study suggest that abortion may, in fact, increase mental health risks among those women who find seeking and obtaining an abortion a distressing experience."

The report further stated that the study showed no evidence to "support strong pro-choice positions that claim unwanted pregnancy terminated by abortion is without mental health risks."

Brendan Malone, from Family Life International New Zealand, said the report was just one of several new studies which highlighted the fact that women are not receiving all of the facts when they seek out an abortion.

Citing a Canadian study published in September in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which showed women who had an abortion in the first or second trimester had a 36 percent increased risk of later having a premature baby, and women who had undergone more than one abortion had a 93 percent risk of later having a premature baby, Malone said, "Counselling provided to women seeking out abortions is so woefully inadequate that it is practically non-existent."

"In the vast majority of cases, abortion ‘counseling’ in New Zealand (and elsewhere) merely consists of ticking a series of boxes, and women are very rarely, if ever, informed of the scientifically established risks that they will be exposing themselves to, and the support that is available to them to pursue alternatives to abortion."

Malone said one of the consistent themes his group’s post-abortion counselling team hears is that women were never informed of all the risks and alternatives available to them before opting for an abortion.

"Tragically, these same women also state that they probably would have chosen not to abort their babies had they received proper counseling about the risk factors, and the other options that were open to them."

Malone said pro-abortion lobbyists "like to throw the word ‘choice’ around."

"But how can we honestly claim that women choosing abortion are making a free and informed decision when they haven’t been properly advised about the risks of having an abortion, and the alternatives available to them."

The full text of Professor David Fergusson’s research paper "Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health" is available here .

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