Saturday, October 28, 2006

I thought I'd forward this from the Times as the link seemed to have disappeared.

Abortion exposes women to higher risk of depression
By Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent

WOMEN who have abortions are risking depression and other mental illness and should be told of the dangers, a group of leading doctors says today.

In a letter to The Times, 15 senior obstetricians and psychiatrists say that new evidence has uncovered a clear link between abortion and mental illness in women with no previous history of psychological problems.

Women who have had abortions have twice the level of psychological problems and three times the level of depression as women who have given birth or never been pregnant, they say.

Their letter, which comes on the anniversary of the legislation of abortion 29 years ago, says that the medical profession can no longer “play down” the links between depression and abortion and that the risk to mental heath must be weighed up in the decisions to approve abortions on ground of a risk to the mother.

Since abortion was legalised in 1967 more than six million abortions have been performed in Britain, 95 per cent on the grounds of physical or mental health of the mother or existing children.

“We suggest the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Psychiatrists revise their guidance and that future abortion notifications clearly distinguish between physical and mental health grounds for abortion,” the letter says.

The evidence cited by the doctors was published this year and came after a lengthy study that was conducted in New Zealand.

Although it has been long established that women with a history of mental illness are at greater risk of further instability following an abortion, the New Zealand study established for the first time that abortion could trigger depression and other illnesses in women with no mental problems in the past.

The research prompted the American Psychology Association to withdraw an official statement which denied a link between abortion and psychological harm.

However the letter was challenged yesterday by Abortion Rights who said that the doctors were exaggerating the risks. “On average one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, it is thus a clear exaggeration to say that all these women suffer long-term psychological trauma,” said Anne Quesney, the director.

“The consensus of all authoritative psychiatric and medical opinion is that, for the large majority of women, the effects on psychological health of having an abortion are neither major nor long-lasting. Most women report feeling a sense of relief. They suggest that the most stressful thing is coming to the decision to terminate, particularly when the circumstances are difficult. Some women may experience feelings of sadness and loss; this is not a mental illness, it is just a normal reaction to what can be a negative event.” The anniversary of the legalisation of abortion has also triggered a new row over the time limits for abortion which stand at 24 weeks. The campaign for change in the law will be advanced next week by Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, who presents a bill to Parliament calling for the limit to be reduced to 21 weeks, and for a cooling off period after a woman has decided to have an abortion.

The pro-choice lobby has responded saying there is already an unacceptably long delay in getting abortions on the NHS forcing many women to pay to go privately.

The pro choice lobby seem to be doing themselves no favours by denying the results of this research. A choice surely means an informed choice, which means being aware of any risks that may arise from the procedure. Meanwhile I am all for lowering the upper time limit (see link).


Laura said...

Hi Liz,

If you look into the research you will find that while depression can be related to abortion, it is much more likely to be caused by the circumstances surrounding the abortion rather than the abortion itself: the negative reaction women get from the medical profession, family, pro-lifers esp in the US, inadequate care and attention from hospitals and GPs, lack of support before and after.

Only by improving the abortion process and access to abortion, by fighting against people who frame women as murderers, guilt trip them into regretting their decision and perpetuate the idea of abortion as a taboo subject will we be able to tackle instances of depression. Reducing women's access to abortion by lowering the time limit will not help.

Liz said...

Hi Laura,

The factors you mention may contribute to depression, but I don't think they are the only ones. Research also shows that depression is more likely to occur when women are ambivalent about the decision, especially if they are under pressure to abort from either their family, their partners, or social pressure generally, which in my experience is not very uncommon. Other people often play a part in such a decision, and women who have been pressured are more likely to suffer after it. I think if somebody is to contemplate such a decision then they should be informed of all the possible consequences. I feel that the pro choice movement has downplayed the amount of times men pressure women into abortions - and it happens quite often.

Many women regret their decision anyway, with or without guilt tripping. Some women who are pro life become so after regretting an abortion, and I think it would be unfair to assume they have simply been guilt tripped. That is not often their version of events. Their voices should be heard but the feminist movement seems not to want to hear them, or is dismissive about them. I know personally of some very sad examples.

I am opposed to abortion but feel that greater social support for crisis pregnancies and creating a better climate for mothers (ie maternity leave, child support etc, a more child friendly society) is a more compassionate way to reduce it than to criminalise it -which won't work anyway, it won't stop it but just drive it underground and make it more dangerous. But at the end of the day late abortions are cruel - hence this is my main reason for favouring a reduction in the time limit. It is a destruction of life at any stage, but later on when the foetus is more developed it is all the more tragic. I don't want to have to choose between either women or children - I want to support both.

I do define myself as pro life but I would agree with you on fighting against extremists who would define women who abort as murderers. I believe in compassion, not condemnation. I believe it is possible to be both pro woman and pro life. Indeed I abortion can be a tool of male oppression (as the early feminists believe), and the procedure itself is invasive and degrading. It's not a decision I want anybody to have to make - that's why I favour better contraception, sex education and social reforms to make society more woman and child friendly.

While you probably will disagree with much of this I hope you concede that a fairer and more equal society should at least make abortion rarer and prevent more women from having to make what is very often a traumatic decision and an unpleasant experience. A choice made either through male pressure or lack of resources is not a free choice.

Laura said...

Yes, I do agree with your last comment: it would be great if we had perfect contraception and could prevent women having to have abortions. I do think it is also important to highlight that women are pressured into abortions in some cases, and you are right to say that this is often ignored in discussions of abortion. I also agree that of course there are women who regret their abortion who haven't been guilt tripped.

However, I am pro-choice because I believe we need to give women the option to abort if they want to. We all regret things we've done, and while it is awful that women suffer because they regretted their abortion, I don't think this gives them the right to try and prevent other women having access to it. Telling other women they regretted theirs is of course fine and I can completely understand why they would want to do so, but attacking and shouting at women outside abortion clinics is just nasty and disrespectful, while trying to remove all access to abortion - as in the US - or chipping away at existing laws with the same ultimate aim in mind - as in the UK - will harm more women than it saves from suffering regret or depression.

Paddy Garcia said...

This is interesting, from

Action Succeeds Against Abortion Clinic That Used 'Abortion Alternative' Listing

By Meg Jalsevac

NEW YORK, October 31, 2006 ( - A New York abortion clinic known as Dr. Emily Women's Health Center has settled a lawsuit filed against them last month on the condition that they cease advertising their services under the 'abortion alternative' heading in phone directories or online directories.

The lawsuit was filed by the Expectant Mother Care Pregnancy Center (EMC) and was settled in the State Supreme Court in White Plains, NY. EMC is a pro-life organization that operates clinics in New York and New Jersey to offer life-giving choices and assistance to pregnant women.

Dr. Emily Women's Health Center was represented by attorneys from the NYCLU which is the New York branch of the ACLU.
So you see the ACLU cares more about corporate profits than whether or not women are taken advantage of. So much for an unbiased apporach to civil liberties
In the lawsuit, EMC accused Dr. Emily Women's Health Center of using selective language for their directory listings depending on what heading the listing was under. Its listing under the heading 'abortion provider' used terminology such as "gentle abortion", "no-pain anesthesia" and "abortion pill for natural at-home experience." How sick is that? Why don't we advertise "gentle genocide" and "natural at home rape." And let's not forget about the dangers of the abortion pill or a woman being alone in her home with a recognizable unborn child. The woman forever will think of her home as the site of her traumatic event, and no mention is made of the sadness women face post-murder. The listing under the 'abortion alternative' heading did not include any such terminology.

Ambassador Yellow Pages describes businesses listed under the 'abortion alternative' heading as those businesses which "do not provide information and/or counseling on the attainment of abortion services nor do they provide abortion services."

In the settlement terms the Women's Health Center agreed to "immediately and permanently refrain from advertising in the "abortion alternatives" section" of any directory.

Chris Slattery, Founder and President of EMC said that the fact that the abortion clinic reached a settlement signified that "they had absolutely no case. There's no First Amendment right to outright fraud and deception"

Because directories are organized alphabetically according to the headings, 'abortion alternatives' come before 'abortion providers'. When pregnant women turn to the phone book or other such directory, 'abortion alternative' listings are what they see first. Slattery said directories are "a space where we get the first shot at reaching abortion minded women who will see our ads first." So if you think you're right you can lie and overrule guidelines. If you'll lie about this, what else will you lie about -- abortion risks? the breast cancer link? What happened to wanting abortion to be safe, legal, and rare -- I guess not if you are competing against those offering alternatives.

Slattery said that this legal victory was a great step for the pro-life movement in New York because "our advertisements in the Yellow Pages are our largest means of reaching women in crisis pregnancies who are considering abortion."

According to Slattery, two-thirds of the women who contact EMC for assistance end up choosing life for their child.

Pro-choicers, I'm aching to hear you guys defend this mess.

Paddy Garcia said...

Sorry, mistake in website link, here it is: