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New study suggests abortion linked to depression, anxiety in mothers

LifeSiteNews staff

June 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — After more than three years of research, a team of behavioral neuroscientists at Franciscan University of Steubenville has released the findings of a study that suggests what many in the pro-life movement have suspected for years: There are significant negative biological and behavioral consequences caused by abortion.

The study, "Biological, Behavioral, and Physiological Consequences of Drug-Induced Pregnancy Termination at First-Trimester Human Equivalent in an Animal Model," examined the effect of the commonly used pregnancy termination–inducing drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, in rats in a controlled environment. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the study found significant and adverse behavioral changes in the pregnant rats given the abortion-inducing drugs compared to the rats who did not receive the drugs or rats that received the drugs, but were not pregnant.

Among the biological, physiological, and behavioral changes exhibited by the rats in the abortion group were a loss of appetite, decreased exploratory movement, decreased self-care, and changes in vaginal impedance — a factor that appears to relate to fecundity, or the ability to reproduce — that were not present in the pregnant rats that carried their pregnancies to term. The findings suggest behaviors consistent with a wealth of scientific literature documenting the effects of moderate to severe stress on animal models, which scientists have long used due to the similarities in brain mechanisms between rats and humans.

"This is breaking new ground," says Dr. Stephen Sammut, the professor of psychology at Franciscan University who led the research. "In the animal model, we observed depression-like behaviors, and we saw anxiety-like behaviors. The biochemistry indicated potentially long-term effects."

According to Sammut, who is also conducting an extended research project assessing the potential viability of ectopic pregnancy transfers, the findings suggest that social pressure or stigmas — long suggested as cause of depression and anxiety in women who have had abortions — do not adequately explain the potential adverse effects caused by abortion-inducing drugs.

"There is something more than social pressure on a person who feels depressed after an abortion," Sammut said. "There are potential physiological consequences that have not been investigated."

The potential for abortion-related consequences on mental health has been the source of considerable debate in the scientific literature for the past 20 years, with little clear resolution. Experts say the lack of consensus, however, may be tied to institutional bias against studies that might implicate the abortion industry — a charge that is especially frightening given that the abortion-inducing drugs have not been subjected to the same rigorous scientific inquiry applied by Sammut and his team.

"Medical abortion researchers focused on how fast the drug could kill the baby and how much effort it would take on the part of the abortionists to handle complications," said Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-life OB-GYNs. "This study (the first not performed by the abortion industry) raises serious concerns about mental health effects of drug-induced abortions and the differences between spontaneous and induced abortion. Such studies should have been performed long before drug-induced abortion was allowed on the market."

Now that Sammut and his team have established a correlation between pregnant rats given abortion-inducing drugs and depression and anxiety-like behaviors, they hope to more closely examine the potential underlying mechanisms in the brains of the rats. Additionally, Sammut hopes to investigate, in detail, the potential for reversing the effects of the abortion-inducing drugs, guided by the same rigor, objectivity, and the pursuit of truth that have characterized his research at Franciscan University.

"If you have a desire to seek the truth through science, science will show you the truth," Sammut says. "What Franciscan University has enabled is the capacity for this research to take place."

For more information about the research that Dr. Sammut is conducting at Franciscan University, and to read his publications, visit franciscan.edu/faculty/sammut-stephen/.

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