A new study in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry called “Is there an ‘Abortion Trauma Syndrome?’ Critiquing the Evidence” looks at all of the studies related to abortion and mental health to conclusively determine what impact, if any, abortion has on a woman’s mental health. “Abortion trauma syndrome” has also been called “post-abortion syndrome.” In a review of 216 peer-reviewed articles on the subject of abortion and mental health, the authors of this study found that “the most well controlled studies continue to demonstrate that there is no convincing evidence that induced abortion of an unwanted pregnancy is a per se significant risk factor for psychiatric illness.” (p. 276)
For starters, let’s contextualize abortion. According to the 2005 World Health Report
- 211 million pregnancies occur worldwide each year; 46 million end in induced abortions.
- 40% of these abortions occur in unsafe conditions, resulting in 68,000 maternal deaths.
- In the US, 1.3 million of the 6 million pregnancies each year end in induced abortion.
- 20% of American women have had an abortion.
- The risk of death in the US from abortion is 1:160,000, which is lower than the risk of death from childbirth, appendectomy, or tonsillectomy.
Given the relatively low risk of death, the debate about abortion has shifted to focus on the perceived mental health impacts of abortion in order for abortion opponents to claim that they are concerned about the health and welfare of women. However, “Abortion Trauma Syndrome” and “Post-Abortion Syndrome” are not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as mental illnesses, and they are not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. [Read more...]