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Tide is turning on abortion-depression argument

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A Glimmer of Hope for Pro-Lifers

Tide is turning on abortion-depression argument

November 7 was a bad day for the babies, as a number of pro-life ballot initiatives went down to defeat across the country. Parental notification laws failed in California and Oregon; voters turned back an abortion ban in South Dakota; and voters approved taxpayer-funded cloning in Missouri. On top of all that, some of the most vocal pro-lifers in Congress were defeated.
 
Despite these setbacks, two recent developments provide a glimmer of hope to pro-lifers. First, in late October the American Psychological Association (APA) withdrew an official statement denying a link between abortion and psychological harm. This is significant because pro-life and abortion groups have been sparring for years over whether abortion is significantly associated with a higher risk of subsequent depression.   
 
Then, in a related development, 15 of Great Britain’s leading obstetricians and psychiatrists penned an open letter to the London Times proposing that, “Since women having abortions can no longer be said to have a low risk of suffering from psychiatric conditions such as depression, doctors have a duty to advise about long-term adverse psychological consequences of abortion." The group of preeminent doctors further suggested “that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal College of Psychiatrists revise their guidance, and that future abortion notifications clearly distinguish between physical and mental health grounds for abortion.”
 
So, what prompted the world’s largest psychological organization and a group of top British physicians to re-evaluate their positions on the psychological effects of abortion? Both the APA and the group of British physicians cited a New Zealand study that found women who had abortions had twice the level of psychological problems and three times the level of depression as those who gave birth or never became pregnant.
 
Of course, abortion advocates typically downplay the abortion-depression link, contending that most women who experience post-abortion depression have a history of emotional problems. And it’s true that if a woman has a history of depression, obtains an abortion, and is depressed at some point after the abortion, one cannot say the abortion itself caused the depression.
 
But researchers in the New Zealand study followed the development of a random sample of women over their entire lives and therefore were able to account for women who were predisposed to depression. By doing so the researchers could “isolate the effect” of the abortion experience and thus conclude that it’s not just “at risk” women who suffer after an abortion but “healthy” women, too.
 
The idea that abortion might cause emotional distress is not new. Back in 1992, in a special issue of the Journal of Social Issues dedicated entirely to research relating to the psychological effects of abortion, editor Gregory Wilmoth concluded, “There is now virtually no disagreement among researchers that some women experience negative psychological reactions post-abortion.”
 
What’s more, the proliferation of organizations committed to assisting women who feel grief and guilt after an abortion is a powerful indication that the most common surgical procedure performed on women today is also an inherently harmful one.
 
Sadly, while the abortion-depression link may be gaining acknowledgement within the research community, it is a reality abortion sellers continue to deny. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ website tells women that there is limited to no harm from having an abortion, and that “For most women abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy and having a baby.”
 
Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion peddler, maintains that while “some people who oppose a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions claim that abortion often causes long-lasting emotional problems, or ‘post-abortion syndrome.’ … There is no scientific proof for these claims.”
 
Planned Parenthood’s state of denial over the abortion-depression link is not surprising given that it is, after all, a business that takes in over $100 million from the more than 250,000 abortions it performs annually. But it is downright shameful that the media failed to acknowledge either development. A Lexis-Nexis search for news articles referencing either the APA’s decision or the British doctors’ letter resulted in just one mention, an Associated Press story stating the now outdated line that the APA says “there is no such thing as a ‘post-abortion syndrome.’”
 
It seems the mainstream media are in no hurry to present information that suggests abortion has not been the boon to women it was supposed to be.

Last week, millions of mothers and fathers in California and Oregon voted against their right to be notified about abortions sought by their minor daughters. One has to wonder: Would they have voted the same way had they been aware of the growing consensus among medical experts that abortion can put women at significant risk of depression?

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Mr. Allott is a policy analyst for American Values, a non-profit organization "committed to uniting the American people around the vision of our Founding Fathers."

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