Expert critiques claim there’s no link between abortion and mental health issues
BOWLING GREEN, OHIO, March 9, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – An editorial in a psychiatric publication criticizing a recent study is being cited as a “refutation” of the idea that abortion leads to higher rates of mental illness. But an expert tells LifeSiteNews.com the other side is far from disproving the notion – and has an agenda of its own.
The editor-in-chief of the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Alan Schatzberg of the Stanford University School of Medicine, co-authored an article that criticized a 2009 study conducted by Priscilla Coleman, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, which found high incidence of mental problems in post-abortive women.
A year later, Julia Steinberg of the University of California-San Francisco and Lawrence Finer of the Alan Guttmacher Institute claimed, “For many women, psychiatric illnesses occurred before the abortion.” This, they said, rendered Dr. Coleman’s findings invalid.
Schatzberg recently wrote that he believes their criticisms had merit. The action stopped short of retracting the article, which his journal published.
Coleman wrote in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com that she performed a new evaluation of her data, not eliminating those mentally ill before their abortions, but she “used the correct sampling weight.” On Tuesday, she told the media these adjusted results “did not change much.” She told Reuters news service her study “never made assertions of causality.”
Nonetheless, a number of outlets reported her findings had been “debunked.”
That is far from true, according to Dr. Martha Shuping, M.D., an expert in post-abortion issues. The North Carolina-based psychiatrist told LifeSiteNews.com the link had been tested numerous times.
“It’s not only one study” that establishes a link, Dr. Shuping wrote, “but many statistically significant studies published in peer reviewed journals with statistically significant results that demonstrate that abortion puts women at risk for mental health problems. The website www.standapart.org has one bibliography listing more than 40 such studies, and additional studies have been published since that bibliography was posted in 2008.”
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A similar discussion took place in 2008, Dr. Shuping said, after the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a report drawn up by its Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion. The study was widely cited to imply abortion presented no more negative side effects than a live birth.
But that study had methodological flaws of its own. It “excluded everyone under 21 that is having abortions, which is not insignificant,” she said. That totals at least 18 percent of all abortions, well over 100,000 a year.
They also said their study applied only to women who had a single abortion. Yet Susan Cohen of the Alan Guttmacher Institute wrote in 2007, “About half of all U.S. women having an abortion have had one previously.”
And they said the decision must be by a woman who does not want her baby and is not coerced. “I think there’s a lot more coercion out there than anyone realizes,” Dr. Shuping noted, relating personal anecdotes of women who were bullied, physically assaulted, or drugged before being led into an abortion clinic.
“They’re excluding the majority of women in America who are having abortions every day.”
Shuping pointed to a 2007 study conducted by Sharain Suliman that 18.2 percent of post-abortive women “met criteria for a diagnosis of” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder within three months of their abortion. The research was carried out in an effort to help abortionists find a better means of anesthetic.
Dr. Shuping told LifeSiteNews the truth is simple: “There are many, many women who have mental health issues because of their abortion.” However, researchers are constantly looking for any other explanation.
“If any of those women had said, ‘I was raped and now I have trauma symptoms,’ no one would dispute that,” Dr. Shuping told LifeSiteNews.com, “because we all know that rape is a bad thing for women.”
But when it comes to abortion, “No one wants to believe the women themselves.”