Group calls study on men­tal health, abor­tion ‘de­bunked’

Says re­search shows ‘no causal link’

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY CHERYLWETZSTEIN

In the sim­mer­ing bat­tle over abor­tion and men­tal-health prob­lems, a re­pro­duc­tive-health or­ga­ni­za­tion says a pub­lished study link­ing the two has been “de­ci­sively de­bunked,” while the lead au­thor of the study says her find­ings still stand.

The men­tal-health is­sue is rel­e­vant be­cause at least 35 states re­quire women seek­ing abortions to be coun­seled first, and “spu­ri­ous re­search” al­ready is lead­ing to mis­in­for­ma­tion be­ing spread via some of these coun­sel­ing laws, the Guttmacher In­sti­tute said Mon­day.

The “high­est-qual­ity stud­ies have found no causal link be­tween abor­tion and sub­se­quent men­tal-health prob­lems,” said Lawrence Finer, the in­sti­tute’s di­rec­tor of do­mes­tic re­search.

Also on Mon­day, the Jour­nal of Psy­chi­atric Re­search (JPR) pub­lished a let­ter to the ed­i­tor by Mr. Finer and Cal­i­for­nia psy­chi­a­try pro­fes­sor Ju­lia R. Stein­berg about a 2009 ar­ti­cle by Priscilla Cole­man and col­leagues.

Ms. Cole­man, a pro­fes­sor of hu­man de­vel­op­ment and fam­ily stud­ies at Bowl­ing Green State Univer­sity in Ohio, ex­am­ined data in the Na­tional Co­mor­bid­ity Sur­vey, and found that hav­ing an abor­tion was “re­lated to an in­creased risk” for a va­ri­ety of men­tal-health and sub­stance-use dis­or­ders.

In their let­ter to JPR, Mr. Finer and Ms. Stein­berg said their own re­search of the co­mor­bid­ity data showed that the Cole­man ar­ti­cle con­tained sev­eral “er­ro­neous state­ments or analy­ses,” and as a re­sult, “false claims” were made about the im­pli­ca­tions of the find­ings.

The study did not dis­tin­guish be­tween men­tal-health out­comes that oc­curred be­fore the abor­tion and those that oc­curred af­ter­ward, they said.

“This was an abuse of the sci­en­tific process to reach con­clu­sions that are not sup­ported by the data,” Ms. Stein­berg said.

In a sep­a­rate com­men­tary on Mon­day, JPR co-ed­i­tor-in-chief Alan F. Schatzberg and Ron­ald C. Kessler, prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor of the co­mor­bid­ity sur­vey, agreed that the Stein­berg-finer cri­tique had “con­sid­er­able merit,” and the Stein­berg-finer re­search pro­duced “more plau­si­ble” re­sults than Ms. Cole­man’s anal­y­sis.

Still, the Stein­berg-finer re­sults were not in­con­tro­vert­ible ei­ther, wrote Mr. Schatzberg and Mr. Kessler, and they sug­gested re­searchers use a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to re­search fu­ture ques­tions about abor­tion and men­tal dis­or­ders.

Ms. Cole­man, reached in London on Mon­day, said er­rors in sam­pling weight in the JPR ar­ti­cle had been pub­licly cor­rected, and that “the pat­tern of re­sults did not change much.”

She added that de­tails about this and dozens of other stud­ies re­lat­ing to abor­tion and health are be­ing as­sem­bled by a new non­profit that she will di­rect, called World Ex­pert Con­sor­tium for Abor­tion Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion.

The group will take a “non­re­li­gious, non­par­ti­san” ap­proach to dis­sem­i­nat­ing sci­en­tific re­search on the “rapidly ex­pand­ing lit­er­a­ture on the health con­se­quences of abor­tion,” it said on its web­site.

Ac­cord­ing to Guttmacher In­sti­tute’s March 1 re­port, 35 states re­quire women seek­ing an abor­tion to first re­ceive coun­sel­ing.

Many states of­fer “ac­cu­rate” in­for­ma­tion in their pre-abor­tion coun­sel­ing, the in­sti­tute said.

But some states say that abor­tion raises their risks for breast can­cer, in­fer­til­ity and men­tal ill­ness when “in re­al­ity, none of these claims are med­i­cally ac­cu­rate,” it said.

Pro-life groups, how­ever, main­tain that a grow­ing num­ber of stud­ies find that a por­tion of women — as many as a third — ex­pe­ri­ence some kind of post-abor­tion psy­cho­log­i­cal ill ef­fect, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, sui­cide ideation and anx­i­ety.

The Silent No More Aware­ness Cam­paign, founded in 2002 to ad­dress “the emo­tional and phys­i­cal pain of abor­tion,” said last year that it was com­mon for women and men to still seek heal­ing 20 years af­ter the abor­tion.

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