Pro-life experts skewer methodology of study that denied post-abortion depression
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Eager to prove that abortion is harmless to mothers and informed consent warnings are unnecessary, researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) kept data for five years on 917 women who either had an abortion or sought an abortion.
After one week, the women who sought but did not get an abortion (often because they were past the gestational limit of the abortuary they visited) reported greater anxiety, lower self-esteem and lower life satisfaction than the women who did get abortions, according to the researchers.
The data showed those negative effects dissipated after six months. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.
Researchers concluded not only that abortion causes no psychological ill effects, but there is no such thing as Post-Abortion Syndrome. In addition, the study's authors imply that being "denied" an abortion does have psychological ill effects.
But pro-life doctors say the study is fundamentally flawed.
First of all, there is no control group of women who choose to give life to their baby. Both sets of pregnant women in the UCSF study chose to abort.
Second, only 40 percent of invited women agreed to participate in the study. No attempt was made to inquire as to their motivation for having an abortion. Furthermore, nearly a third of participants did not complete all five years of follow-up.
Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D, the National Right to Life director of education, refuted every major point of the study.
"We know that some women do eventually have serious negative psychological responses to their abortions, some within a year or two, but most several years down the road," O'Bannon explained. "There is actual ample evidence that this is so, evidenced by reputable studies such as that by Fergusson, et al, 'Abortion in Young Women and Subsequent Mental Health,' from the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry."
That study found that women who procured an abortion experienced significantly elevated rates of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviors, and substance abuse.
"Informed consent or 'right to know' laws … vary from state to state. However, these laws generally have, in addition to basic information on fetal development and practical alternatives and assistance available to pregnant women, some aspect that deals with the potential physical and psychological risks associated with abortion," Bannon said. "Women deserve to have that information when making up their minds about abortion."
As far as the study's authors concluding that being "denied" an abortion is detrimental to a woman's health, Bannon reasoned that one would expect a woman who had been planning to abort and found that "solution" no longer an option to be frustrated and anxious. She must readjust her plans entirely.
"Frustration and anxiety are not surprising at this point," Bannon observed. He pointed out that shortly after being denied an abortion, "even with their data, depression, anxiety, satisfaction levels are all relatively the same."
"Much of it dissipates with the arrival of the baby," Bannon noted.
Bannon also pointed out that five years after an abortion is not long enough to fully measure psychological consequences. "We know, anecdotally, from both women who have had abortions and professionals who have counseled those women, that reactions may not present until 10 years or more later, perhaps once the woman has gotten married and is either contemplating having a child or has just given birth to a child," he said.
Bannon concluded that Post-Abortion Syndrome might not happen to every woman who aborts her baby, but "it is a serious and agonizing consequence that we know from experience does occur with some aborting women. Women considering abortion need to be aware that this is a real and painful reaction some women do indeed have."
"If the UCSF authors truly believe that '[w]omen considering abortion are best served by being provided with the most accurate, scientific information available to help them make their pregnancy decisions,' full and complete a disclosure would seem to require telling women of these very real and serious reactions too."