Women who have abortions increase their risk of suffering with mental health problems by 30 per cent, a new study shows.
The findings “clearly pose a challenge” to the use of mental health reasons to justify abortion, the authors of the study say.
Over 200,000 abortions take place in Great Britain every year, with over 90 per cent performed on the legal ground that continuing with the pregnancy would put the mother’s mental health at risk.
But the researchers behind the new study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, say there is no evidence to suggest that having an abortion reduces risk of mental health problems.
The New Zealand-based study of over 500 women from birth to age 30 found that even when other factors were taken into account, the risk of mental health problems increased by 30 per cent for women who had abortions.
The authors conclude that since countries like New Zealand and Great Britain allow abortion on mental health grounds, their findings have “important implications for the legal status of abortion” there.
These findings are echoed in the results of a second study showing that women who lose a baby by the age of 21 – either through an abortion or a miscarriage – were at three times the risk of developing a drug or alcohol problem compared with women who either had no pregnancy or those who had a child.
Researcher Kaeleen Dingle, of the University of Queensland, Australia, said: “Abortion and miscarriage are stressful life events that have been shown to lead to anxiety, sadness and grief and, for some women, serious depression and substance use disorders.”
Numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that Great Britain’s annual abortion total is set to continue rising, with 105,000 abortions already recorded in the first six months of 2008.
However, pro-abortion campaigners claim that abortion should be more easily available and play down its links with mental health disorders.
Commenting on the new study, Ann Furedi, of leading abortion provider the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, admitted abortion could cause a huge amount of stress and anxiety but added: “Abortion does not necessarily cause the problem. It can be linked to other events in their life.”
The study follows news last week that schoolgirls are to be shown a film about their abortion ‘rights’ which claims to explode myths about the risks associated with the procedure.
Literature accompanying the film claims: “Women may feel relieved, have mixed feelings or feel sad. Only a few women experience long-term psychological problems and those women who do often had similar problems before pregnancy.”
But earlier this year the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) warned that having an abortion can damage a woman’s mental health. The RCP said women should be warned of the risks before proceeding.
Commenting on the film, Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust said: “They are not doing women any favours by pretending that abortion is a simple and safe procedure that rarely leads to lasting trauma.”
He added: “The truth is that every abortion involves a personal tragedy for a mother and a child, which will have lasting consequences, whether immediately felt or not.”