Media tout questionable study claiming abortion doesn’t increase suicide attempts
November 21, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A new study has caught the attention of the mainstream media for its conclusion that having an abortion does not increase a woman’s likelihood of attempting suicide, but a prominent pro-life researcher says the evidence indicates otherwise.
On Tuesday, The Lancet published a study by a team of University of Maryland researchers who reviewed abortion and self-harm data from over half a million women in Denmark.
“We found that women who had abortions had a higher risk of non-fatal suicide attempts compared with women who did not have an abortion,” it concluded. “However, because the increased risk was the same both the year before and after the abortion, it is not attributable to the abortion. Thus, policies based on the notion that abortion increases women’s risk of suicide attempts are misinformed.”
Commenting on the study to The Daily Mail, Dr. Jenneke van Ditzhuijzen of the University of Amsterdam suggested that the suicide attempts could be attributed not to the abortion itself, but to other factors linked with unwanted pregnancy, such as domestic violence or relationship stability. “This does not mean that having an abortion is an indication that women are going through a difficult time, or that the symptoms of mental disorders are attributable to the abortion,” she claimed, “but rather that some women are at an elevated risk of multiple adversities at a certain period in their life, which could include an unwanted pregnancy and abortion.”
However, Catholic University of America visiting professor and Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) scholar Dr. Michael New informs LifeSiteNews that the study’s conclusions are limited by certain methodological shortcomings, and the study itself is inconsistent with a body of evidence from other studies.
New first notes that the study analyzes suicide attempts rather than actual suicides and that some of the “attempts” it counts were actually cases of self-harm without an intention to die.
“Furthermore, the study only analyzes women over 18,” he continues. “It does not analyze multiple suicide attempts (it only considers the first) and it does not analyze how multiple abortions might have impacted suicide attempts. Finally, it only looks at first trimester abortions — it does not analyze how late term abortions would impact suicide attempts.”
New goes on to note that numerous prior studies have found a link between abortion and increased suicide risk, including a 2019 study of Italian women, a 1996 study out of Finland, and a 2012 study of California Medicaid recipients, which found that women who aborted were 154% more likely to commit suicide than women who gave birth.
“The 2011 meta-study that was authored by Priscilla Coleman and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry identified 5 studies that analyzed how abortion impacts the risk of suicide,” New writes. “All 5 studies found that abortion increased the risk of suicide. In four of the five studies the increase reached conventional standards of statistical significance.”
By the same token, he adds, pro-life laws that discourage women from aborting their children help save mothers’ lives in addition to babies’.
“In 2012 the journal Economic Inquiry published a study by Joseph Sabia and Daniel Reese which found very solid evidence that pro-life parental involvement laws in the United States reduce the suicide rate for teen females,” New says.