23.12.2011: Abortion Review: Some Women Likely to Suffer Mental Health Problems after Abortion

12th December 2011

The Review on Induced Abortion and Mental Health issued last Thursday by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges found that there is no medical evidence that abortion is in the best interests of women’s mental health. However, the review concluded that women in certain categories are more likely to suffer mental health problems after the procedure.

Commenting on the review, Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said:

“The most revealing feature of the review is the fact that there is no mental health benefit to women from abortion. At a single stroke this cuts the ground from under the medical rationale for the main part of Britain’s abortion legislation. 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.”

However, Dr Cullen said “the way the review was presented in certain sections of the media helped create the false impression that whether a woman opted for an abortion or continued with the pregnancy it posed the same risk to her mental health. This of course is not true.”

Pro-life groups have accused some in the media of trying to spin the latest findings in favour of abortion rather than highlighting the fact that the review completely undermines one of the main arguments put forward to justify legalised abortion.

On this feature of the debate, Dr Cullen said: “Not only is there no evidence that abortion improves the mental health of women with unwanted pregnancy, and that it heightens the risk to women in certain instances, but there is mounting peer-reviewed research linking mental health problems directly to abortion. This is the reality behind some of the media spin that seeks to divert attention from the facts.”

Following publication of the review, Professor Tim Kendall of the Royal College of Psychiatrists was reported as saying that the focus of research going forward should be on dealing with the impact of unwanted pregnancy rather than on whether abortion itself causes mental health problems.

Responding to this, Dr Cullen said: “Evidently what is needed is more research not less. I know it makes some defenders of abortion uncomfortable but we owe it to women and their babies to end the cover-up about the negative impact of abortion which has gone on far too long.”

Dr. Priscilla Coleman MD, author of Abortion and mental health, a study published in September, which comprised a meta-analysis of 22 earlier studies and whichh examined 877,000 pregnancies has critisised the Review.  You can read her analysis in full here.

Dr. Patricia Casey, Professor of Psychiatry at University College Dublin has also commented on the review stating that it is crucial that the report is fully understood. Responding to suggestions in some media reports that abortion improves women’s mental health, she said that such a reading of the review was “highly misleading”. She said: “While the report suggests that opting for abortion or carrying through with pregnancy has equal effect on mental health, it also acknowledges there are certain groups who are likely to develop mental health problems following abortion. This is in keeping with some of the most up-to-date peer reviewed findings showing the negative effects of abortion for some women. I think it is extremely important that women be fully informed about these likely adverse consequences.”

Professor Casey continued: “One of the clearest points to emerge from the review is that abortion does not improve the mental health of women who have unwanted pregnancy. This would appear to undermine the rationale of Britain’s abortion law. The vast majority of abortions carried out in Britain take place under the mental health provision of the 1967 Abortion Act. Abortion is not an indicated treatment for any psychiatric condition.”

The review was commissioned by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and was funded by the British Department of Health. It was carried out by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH) at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.