So I realize that there is still debate around whether abortion leads to subsequent mental health issues... after all, crisis pregnancy centers rely on this scare tactic to make women feel panicked about considering abortion. Even though a panel of the American Psychological Association reported back in August 2008 (after two years of research examining over150 studies) that there's no evidence that a single abortion causes mental health issues... though they acknowledged that some women who choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy may experience feelings of grief and loss, this does not reach the magnitude of mental illness.
But some shoty research published in 2009 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research by Priscilla Coleman and her fellow researchers may have heightened these concerns again. Coleman alleged that their study revealed a relationship between past abortions and mental disorders that were present "at the time of data collection, providing assurance that in most cases, the abortion preceded the diagnosis," -- thereby supposedly supporting a causal relationship between abortion and subsequent mental health. Without saying, this article raised eyebrows and red flags all around.
So news reporters as well as other researchers began to examine the Coleman study. According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Guttmacher Institute, there is no doubt that Coleman's study had fundamental analytical errors that render its conclusions invalid. This conclusion has been confirmed by the editor of the Journal of Psychiatric Research in which the study appeared. Most egregiously, Coleman's study did not distinguish between mental health outcomes that occurred before abortions and those that occurred afterward, yet she still had the audacity to conclude that her data indicate having an abortion makes it likely that you will then have a mental disorder.
Coleman was called out in the March 2012 Journal of Psychiatric Research issue where, in a letter to the editor, UCSF's Julia Steinberg and Guttmacher's Lawrence Finer describe the study's serious methodological errors -- mainly the findings were not replicable. Notably, the journal's editor concluded in an accompanying commentary that "the Steinberg-Finer critique has considerable merit," and that the Coleman paper utilized a "flawed" methodology; likewise, "the Coleman et al. (2009) analysis does not support [the authors'] assertions."
Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor in UCSF's Department of Psychiatry explains,
"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... The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors."
Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute discusses,
"Studies claiming to find a causal association between abortion and subsequent mental health problems often suffer from serious methodological limitations that invalidate their conclusions... In thorough reviews, the highest-quality studies have found no causal link between abortion and subsequent mental health problems."
That said part of this whole story is that when bogus research is discovered, many politicians jump on these studies and that often lead to awful consequences. False studies that erroneously fuel the debate the abortion is linked to mental illness are used to justify mandatory counseling laws -- where many states now require women seeking an abortion to receive "supposedly" medically accurate information, but that, in all actuality, have no basis in fact. Among other terrible lies, mandatory counseling may require that a woman be told that having an abortion increases her risk of breast cancer, infertility and mental illness. Yet, none of these claims are medically true. These laws not only represent a gross intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship, but they also serve to propagate falsehoods... intentionally misinforming the women on important medical matters.
So while the crisis pregnancy centers and other scare tactic websites revere such research -- even though it is misleading and not grounded in any facts, my kudos go out to "true" researchers... those unbiased folks who simply are looking for the TRUTH...no agenda. So, I see this one as a victory... for TRUTH... science has now, ONCE AGAIN, been able to set straight one of the "supposedly" strongest studies claiming a link between abortion and mental illness. So for all those concerned... there is no evidence to show that having an abortion leads to mental issues. Coleman and friends... you have been DEBUNKED! Hopefully, many of you may be able to sleep better now.
And please spread the word... the best way to dispel such untruths is through the power of word. Repost this blog on your Twitter or Facebook walls. You can also EMAIL this blog to your friends ... let them know that if considering having an abortion, not to let the fear of it triggering a lifetime of mental illness factor into their thought processes.
- Why Do Women Have Abortions?
- Methods of Abortion
- Why Perform Abortion Services?
- Checklist: Deciding to Obtain An Abortion
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