Pregnancy

Motherhood Flaw Uncovered In Study Linking Abortion To Mental Illness

By  | 

abortion and mental illnessThe notorious study that hoped to link abortion with mental illness has since been reexamined and the science doesn’t hold up. Although the American Psychological Association has found that women do understandably experience “grief and sadness” following an abortion, new research has since gone back to look over the assertion that those women are more likely to experience a host of mental problems following the procedure. And considering that the majority of women who have abortions in the United States are mothers already, one of the researchers pointed out a monumental flaw.

The original 2009 study by Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University in Kentucky reportedly compared the mental health of 399 women who had an abortion with that of 2,650 women who had never had the procedure. She and her colleagues asserted that the women who had abortions were consequently more likely to suffer “higher rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders.” Yet, the data did not properly discern whether these women had experienced such symptoms prior to having an abortion.

Another big question mark was also raised given that the study compared women who had aborted to those who had never been pregnant– and not, say, to women who had given birth due to an unplanned pregnancies. So whether the mother kept the baby or ultimately placed the child up for adoption, their experiences were not considered a relevant group for comparison.

One researcher noted:

“This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data,” study researcher Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor in the University of California, San Francisco’s department of psychiatry, said in a statement. “The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors.”

The Journal of Psychiatric Research, which published the original study, has no plans to retract it. The original researcher has also reportedly tried to clarify her study, adding that her data was never supposed to suggest that abortions caused mental health disorders in the first place:

In an email to LiveScience, Coleman wrote that she and her colleagues never asserted that abortions caused the mental health problems. Steinberg declined to comment on Coleman’s intentions, but pointed to phrases in the original paper such as “the effects of abortion,” which seem to insinuate causality.

Dr. Steinberg noted that “These strategies,” specifically including women who have given birth “should be the focus of future research” about elective abortions. Six out of ten women who receive abortions are mothers already, so this area of research would do well to tap into that demographic.

(photo: Shutterstock)