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Do abortions cause depression?

Teenagers who have abortions do not appear to be at increased risk for depression or low self-esteem, according to the first nationally representative study to examine the issue.

Jocelyn T. Warren of Oregon State University and her colleagues analyzed data collected from 289 teenage girls who reported having at least one pregnancy when interviewed as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health between 1994 and 1996. Sixty-nine reported having had an abortion. They were also interviewed again five years later. The analysis found no association between having had an abortion and depression or low self-esteem within either a year of the pregnancy or five years later, the researchers report in a paper being published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

The researchers said the findings are important because the supposed psychological risks of abortion have been used to justify restricting access to the procedure. Some 34 states currently require women to receive counseling before an abortion, and seven states specifically require that women be warned of possible negative psychological consequences.

The researchers conclude: "Opponents of legalized abortion have suggested that abortion is a traumatic event with severe consequences for women's mental health. However, the results of this study and the best evidence available indicate that abortion does not cause either depression or low self-esteem among women, including adolescents. Yet despite professional consensus, women in some parts of the United States are advised during pre-abortion counseling that they are jeopardizing their mental health by having an abortion. Paradoxically, laws mandating that women considering abortion be advised of its psychological risks may jeopardize women's health by adding unnecessary anxiety and undermining women's right to informed
consent."

By Rob Stein  | September 24, 2010; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  Abortion, Kids' health, Mental Health, Motherhood, Pregnancy, Psychology, Reproductive Health, Sex, Teens, Women's Health  
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Comments

And what about report bias?

Women who are not happy with their abortion - ashamed of it, etc., may be less likely to report their abortion and would thus not appear within the sample set.

Has report bias been accounted for?

Posted by: skellmeyer | September 24, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Abortion should be outlawed on the basis of the 14th Amendment and on the basis of Natural Rights theory in general:

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-in-dallas/abortion-and-the-14th-amendment

Posted by: Garydr | September 24, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the link posted by Garydr, one of the several problems with this anti-choice argument is that neither an embryo nor a fetus is a "person" under the 14th Amendment. Another example of never letting the facts confuse the issue?

Posted by: sg2000 | September 24, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

This is only the latest in a long line of surveys documenting the lack of any connection between abortion and depression. But the anti-choice crowd won't accept facts that conflict with their beliefs. Beliefs they never stop trying to impose on everyone. I am so tired of this subject. But the pro-choice movement will never give up because most people do not want to live in a world like "The Handmaid's Tale." Though Garydr would love it.

Posted by: pirate1 | September 24, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

How do do a non-biased study on this sort of thing?

My two cents: Sounds like a nice propaganda piece for the liberal machine....although you might look at this issue as an act of self cannibalization.

Posted by: jkerse2 | September 24, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

What a shock! The Washington Post found some study that says abortions don't cause depression. And since when are researchers political scientists? How can a report's conclusion refute (or support) an alleged political talking point? I suppose anyone is now an expert in anything, a la economist-cum-climatologist Tom Freidman. OK, well, I am a lawyer, but I will weigh in on the scientists' study: You are biased hacks. Obviously having fetuses vacuumed out of your body is physically and emotionally traumatic. And although you may not commit suicide (although some most certainly do-guess the scientists couldn't interview the dead women), are the scientists advocating that abortions are healthy? If it doesn't hurt you, then it must be good for you? I think I'll go get one now, just to exercise my right!

Posted by: liberalbias1 | September 24, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I can tell you for a fact abortions don't cause depression. But many women do feel a profound sense of relief.

Posted by: shewholives | September 24, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

One year, five years, sure ... but what about an onset of depression during their next pregnancy or upon the birth of a "wanted" child?

The broader your pregnancy experiences, the deeper your understanding of the sanctity of life becomes.

And no matter the choice or outcome when a life is created -- adoption, abortion, natural birth, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, still birth -- for the mother, that life is impossible to forget.

Some memories are happier than others.

Posted by: purelittleking | September 24, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Facts never get in the way of the anti-choice crowd.

Posted by: sanderling5 | September 24, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

The reason for this research report result is the same as that to which Einstein said he would have attributed a negative result in a research report looking for proof of his General Theory of Relativity: "poor experimental technique."

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | September 24, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Being forced by state law to have children you can not afford or children that you do not want is what can lead to depression! Abortion should always be an option, available to all and affordable.

Posted by: junofilly | September 24, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

How funny. But if you listen to the so-called Christian right wingnuts on WAVA, people get depressed because they don't pray enough.

But that's what you get when you put faith ahead of science or even common sense.

Posted by: kjclark1963 | September 24, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

The anti-choice people need to realize that the plural of anecdote is not data.

This is another in a long line of studies that have shown there is no relationship between mental health issues and abortion. The APA's summary of the issue delineates this very well:
http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/abortion/index.aspx

Posted by: larryclyons | September 24, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Every female has the right to choice, however, there is a subliminal depressive reaction twelve to eighteen months after losing a baby, whether due to abortion or infant mortality. This has been known for decades!!! Who did this study, Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck?

Posted by: icurhuman2 | September 24, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

What many fail to realize is that there is depression, sometimes quite severe and lifelong that follows the relinquishment of a live birth into the adoption system.

While we're on it, let's also bear in mind that the adopted 'child' may suffer depression and other mental health consequences as well.

The referenced study may actually lead to a conclusion that abortion has the least severe consequences of the alternatives that women face.

Let's all get real that there are no good answers to unwanted pregnancies. Rather than demonizing pregnancies, let's set the agenda back to responsible parenting for both men and women and provide appropriate support for women to keep their babies.

Posted by: hapax142 | September 24, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

The article jumps from abortions specific to teenagers and then summarizes it as, "Opponents of legalized abortion have suggested that abortion is a traumatic event with severe consequences for women's mental health. However, the results of this study and the best evidence available indicate that abortion does not cause either depression or low self-esteem among women, including adolescents."

That's a big jump to suddenly include women of all age groups in the study about adolescents. The fact is, that while adolescents might not fully comprehend what has happened, for most women, abortion is an extremely painful and heartwrenching experience involving a lot of tears and a long recovery period, both physically and emotionally.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | September 24, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

If you think it's wrong on principle, you should not fight over the results of a study either way. If that is your position, it should not matter whether it causes depression or not, it would still be wrong. I think the pro-life community is making a tactical mistake by tying their campaign to the results of studies like these. What if the next study shows abortion is preventive of something? Now what?

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Posted by: shoestrade28 | September 24, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Does being forced to have a baby that was conceived by rape or
incest cause depression in an adolescent?

Posted by: janye1 | September 24, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Many things cause depression . . . including child birth.

Posted by: ncarv | September 24, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

If the GOP had their way a woman who got pregnant from rape by an illegal alien would be forced to bear a child who they would then deny citizenship. I find that depressingly stupid personally.

Posted by: Nymous | September 25, 2010 4:16 AM | Report abuse

This new study is all over the news today claiming that there is no link between abortion and depression in teens. Could have fooled me, both on a professional and personal level.

The study was done by three women who work in "reproductive health". Jillian T Anderson, Jocelyn Warren and S Marie Harvey. Just a short search on the computer links them all to PP . They also quote the 2008 study by the American Psychological Association on abortion and mental health done by major pro abort Brenda Major. Remember that? http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/abortion/mental-health.pdf

These studies make me angry as they deny the very real feelings experienced by so many women and teens. In fact, I find it criminal in that those in a serious depression as a result of abortion could be brought to total despair.

I had my abortion as a teen and was locked in to depression for years as a result of it. I suffered from suicidal ideation, anxiety, depression and host of other issues for one reason. I had an abortion. I would have loved to be part of their research as I know countless other women who would have as well. One has to wonder why post abortion ministries where women are going for help, or Silent No More, or Operation Outcry or even sites on the internet filled with people suffering from a past abortion were not contacted for their research.

In the end, they can do as many studies as they want, but it does not change the truth of abortions harm to both women and teens. we are speaking out for ourselves now, and no study can silence us.

Posted by: lumina1 | September 25, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Of course.

How silly to think that killing your baby has any sort of emotional consequence.

Posted by: JPDG | September 26, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Remember folks, Science IS the enemy of Religion. Religion will try to use science to jutify it's own faith but in a "faith-based" world, Science loses because it always has to accept the fact that it's willing to test it's own biases. Religion never does.

The radical Christianists want you to believe that an unborn fetus and potential person should have more rights than the mother that carries it. This allows them to impose numerous restrictions on women because they have "life potential" and are, therefore, just a vessel that allows the unborn to become born. They wvwn invoke Science to prove that there are "feelings", nrevous responses in an unborn fetus and, therefore, it's a fully endowed Human. Never mind history, all the other science that describes less than full functioning, full human "value" untill the 'Child" is born.

Since the pro-chioice argument always demands that the health of the mother (even the mental health) take precedence, the anti-abortion crowd needed to "prove" that an abortion is bad for the mental health of the mother. So the politically motivated legislators could impede abortions by claiming they were (according to Science) protecting the health of the mother.

Those how "believe" they know that abortion is murder or sin or will always believe that. Science can be used to justify anything, right? They just 'proved' that.

Posted by: thebobbob | September 27, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Remember folks, Science IS the enemy of Religion. Religion will try to use science to jutify it's own faith but in a "faith-based" world, Science loses because it always has to accept the fact that it's willing to test it's own biases. Religion never does.

The radical Christianists want you to believe that an unborn fetus and potential person should have more rights than the mother that carries it. This allows them to impose numerous restrictions on women because they have "life potential" and are, therefore, just a vessel that allows the unborn to become born. They try to invoke Science to prove that there are "feelings", nervous responses in an unborn fetus and, therefore, it's a fully endowed Human. Never mind history, all the other science that describes less than full functioning, full human "value" until the 'Child" is born.

Since the pro-choice argument always demands that the health of the mother (even the mental health) take precedence, the anti-abortion crowd needed to "prove" that an abortion is bad for the mental health of the mother. So the politically motivated legislators could impede abortions by claiming they were (according to Science) protecting the health of the mother.

Those how "believe" they know that abortion is murder or sin or will always believe that. Science can be used to justify anything, right? They just 'proved' that.

Posted by: thebobbob | September 27, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

"Remember folks, Science IS the enemy of Religion." How completely wrong, but let's forget about this.
Religion aside, if "pro-choice" people could make a search for "abortion video" on the internet and let me know what they think as a human being it would be most interesting.
Thanks.

Posted by: arnobizbiz | September 28, 2010 5:40 AM | Report abuse

"Obviously having fetuses vacuumed out of your body is physically and emotionally traumatic."

Being forced to continue a pregnancy would be physically and emotionally traumatic for me. And for many other women.

Posted by: nepenthe_m | September 30, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

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