Evidence suggests that abortion can be potentially damaging for women’s mental wellbeing, writes Ruth Cullen
Irish Examiner, Tuesday, 20th December 2011
You may have missed it, but the week before last, a doctor working for Marie Stopes International was struck off the medical register in England for almost killing an Irish woman during a botched abortion.
It wasn't especially widely reported, but the UK's General Medical Council withdrew Dr Phanuel Dartey’s licence to practice after he carried out a number of other botched procedures on women including the abortion which led to the Irish woman suffering a perforated uterus and where parts of the unborn baby were left inside her following the procedure.
Marie Stopes claimed this was an isolated incident, and that they have rigorous procedures for vetting staff who work for them. But in 2001, when he worked with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Dr Dartey had been involved in a case in which a woman had actually died during an abortion procedure, an inconvenient truth which somewhat undercut Marie Stopes' claims.
The week before last, also saw the publication of a review by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges on induced abortion and mental health.
One of the most notable things to emerge from the review was its finding that abortion provides no mental health benefit to women.
The finding fatally undermined the medical rationale for the most used grounds of Britain’s abortion legislation. Ninety five percent of abortions performed in the UK are performed on the grounds that continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.
We already know abortion is never in the best interests of the unborn child. Now we know for a fact it is not in the best interests of the mother either.
Unfortunately, some of the coverage of the report created confusion as to its actual findings. Writing in this paper, columnist Colette Browne claimed the review nailed “the lie that those who opt to terminate their pregnancies are more susceptible to mental illness.”
However, what the review actually said was that particular categories are more likely to suffer mental health problems following an abortion.
This finding is buttressed by a series of robust, peer reviewed studies, published in highly respected publications like the British Journal of Psychiatry, which link mental health problems directly to abortion.
Increasingly, the evidence is giving the lie to the pro-choice slogan of abortion being ‘safe, legal and rare’. Sadly, the facts indicate that, on the contrary, many women suffer severe negative consequences following abortion.
These uncomfortable facts pose a problem for those who wish to see abortion legalised. So instead of engaging with this reality, they seek to dismiss it, insisting that such women simply don't exist. Hence Ms Browne’s offensive question “where are all the mentally ill women hiding?”
It's the same kind of dismissive tone adopted last year by the National Women’s Council following the launch of Women Hurt, a project by women who regret their abortions and wish to share their stories of hope and healing with other women in similar situations.
Abortion advocates claim that they alone speak for women going through unwanted pregnancies. But who they choose to speak for is quite selective.
They don’t speak for the thousands of women who contemplated taking their advice but changed their mind and now cannot believe that they ever considered ending the lives of the children they adore.
The mounting evidence is that abortion doesn't just involve the death of the unborn child, but also damages women. This is on top of the evidence which has repeatedly shown that Ireland without abortion is officially recognised as a safer country for pregnant women than countries like England and Holland, which allow abortion on demand.
This undermines the case of those who want the Government to legislate for abortion on foot of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision in A, B and C v. Ireland.
The Government is not obliged to so legislate. For a start, the ECHR does not take supremacy over domestic law. Secondly, the European court in question did not even request that we introduce abortion. It called on Ireland to clarify its laws regarding abortion.
What the Government is obliged to do is act in the best interests of both mother and child, by protecting the unborn and acknowledging the risks posed to the health of women from legal abortion.
When a clear distinction is made in opinion polls between necessary medical treatment during pregnancy and induced abortion, a clear majority of Irish people consistently oppose abortion.
The Government's approach to abortion must be about having an authentic vision on vindicating the most basic human right of all, namely the right to life at all biological stages and conditions of dependency.
Dr. Ruth Cullen is a spokesperson for the Pro Life Campaign.