Does Abortion Traumatize Women?
Does abortion leave some women severely emotionally traumatized? That question has been the focus of a long bitter debate, with some claiming that abortion can cause a syndrome similar to post-traumatic stress disorder dubbed "post-abortion syndrome."
A new study out today is wading back into this hot-button question --and concludes that research exploring this issue remains unreliable and politically slanted.
In 1989, then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop concluded in a letter to President Reagan that the politics of abortion had skewed scientific research into this question, leaving the evidence inconclusive. Over the years, other reviews have found any emotional toll of abortion is the result of normal stress and coping. The American Psychological Association reached similar conclusions earlier this year.
In the new study, Robert Blum of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and his colleagues combed through the scientific literature published on the subject since 1989. Of the more than 700 articles the researchers found, the team identified 21 they considered the best based on a variety of standard scientific criteria, including whether the study involved at least 100 subjects, followed subjects for at least 90 days and compared the women who had abortions to those who did not. The researchers then rated the studies based on whether they used an appropriate comparison group, used valid mental health measures, took pre-existing mental health status into account, and controlled for potentially confusing factors and other measures.
In the December issue of the journal Contraception, the researchers report that the highest quality studies tended to produce neutral results--finding that women who had abortions tended to fare no better or worse emotionally than those who did not. In contrast, the studies the researchers deemed the weakest "consistently" tended to find women who had abortion suffered emotional distress.
Based on the findings, the researchers conclude: "In the 20 years since Koop's review, scientists are still conducting research to answer politically motivated questions... If the goal is to help women, we are obligated to base program and policy recommendations on the best science, rather than using science to advance political agenda."
Anti-abortion groups, however, dismissed the new paper. Moira Gaul of the Family Research Council, for example, said the analysis itself was politically motivated and flawed. She says the researchers failed to include studies that did find an association and did not properly apply their own criteria to rating the studies they did include. She called for the federal government to fund new research into this issue.
What are you thoughts? Would anyone feel comfortable sharing their experiences?
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