Negative Mental Health Effects of Abortion

Does getting an abortion damage women's mental health?

Posted Oct 24, 2011

The website provided a fairly accurate summary of the claims of Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, the author of the meta-analyses published in what the website termed the "prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry." Namely:

 "Women who have had an abortion have an 81 percent higher risk of subsequent mental health problems compared to women who have not had an abortion.

 "Women who aborted have a 138 percent higher risk of mental health problems compared to women who have given birth.

 "Women who aborted have a 55 percent higher risk of mental health problems compared to women with an 'unplanned' pregnancy who gave birth.

 "Women with a history of abortion have higher rates of anxiety, depression, alcohol use/misuse, marijuana use, and suicidal behavior, compared to those who have not had an abortion."

Prisilla K. Coleman, PhD.

And spelled out the implications of Coleman's claims:

"Health care professionals have a duty to advise patients of the benefits and risks of a procedure 'in a manner that reflects the current scientific literature,'  Coleman writes, so patients can make an informed choice. As former abortion clinic staff attest, and as journalists in the U.S. and U.K. have discovered, counselors at abortion clinics conceal mental and physical health risks—as well as the fact that the procedure will violently end a child's life—in order to sell abortions."

Hmm, so Coleman claimed that her results were so strong that health professionals should inform women seeking an abortion of the risk to their mental health they were taking on. Her claims would certainly give comfort to those who want to restrict women's access to abortion and their right to choose abortion without interference. How timely when the antiabortion forces are regrouping and going from state to state challenging women's right to choose.

But how did Coleman arrive at her conclusions? Are they scientific, based on best evidence, or do they reflect prejudgment, nonscientific beliefs intruding into the "prestigious" British Journal of Psychiatry and masquerading as dispassionate scientific findings? Was Coleman really prepared to come for a contrary conclusion if the evidence required it? Just who is Priscilla Coleman? What kind of peer review did Coleman's article receive from the "prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry"? Did something go wrong in the review of this paper? Future posts of the Skeptical Sleuth will examine these issues. For now, you can obtain single copies of the Coleman paper and access the Rapid Responses it has elicited from the scientific community. Stay tuned.