The review was commissioned by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AOMRC) and carried out by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH) at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Dr Roch Cantwell, chairman of the review's steering group, has claimed that the review
"shows that abortion is not associated with an increase in mental health problems."Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, told the media:
"The NCCMH's assertions are predictable - the NCCMH's draft review document published in April ignored many important studies and thus failed to treat the problem with the seriousness it deserves. Clinical case studies* and stories written and told by many women confirm empirical findings of the psychological harms of abortion. Prior mental health may influence mental health after abortion, but does not begin to account for all of the effect. Abortion is associated with severe negative psychological complications for some women. SPUC will, of course, continue scrupulously to review the data in this area, firmly keeping in mind the difference between the violent intrusion of abortion and the fulfilment of a woman’s fertile capacity in childbirth."* See list of studies in notes below.
SPUC's quotable notes on abortion and mental health:
Stories written and told by many women confirm that abortion can be very damaging to their emotional health. Also, there are studies with empirical findings of the psychological harms of abortion:
- Women experience a range of negative emotions after abortion including sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt, grief, doubt and regret. Even women who are initially relieved after their abortions may well go on to experience these emotions.
- Abortion may trigger post-traumatic stress disorder in some women.
- Many more women experience emotional distress immediately after the abortion and in the months and years following.
- Prior mental health may influence mental health after abortion, but does not begin to account for all of the effect.
- Risk factors for psychological harm from abortion include a lack of emotional and social support, ambivalence and difficulty making the decision to abort, relationship violence, and a history of psychiatric illness.
- Abortion is associated with severe negative psychological complications for some women, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, neurotic depression, depressive psychosis and schizophrenia
- Women who have experienced abortion also have an increased risk of substance abuse and self-harm. This is particularly true during a subsequent pregnancy.
- Abortion for foetal disability is particularly traumatic and can be psychologically damaging for women.
- Casey PR (2010) Abortion among young women and subsequent life outcomes. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology 24:491-502.
- Coleman PK & Nelson ES (1998) The quality of abortion decisions and college students’ reports of post-abortion emotional sequelae and abortion attitudes. J Social and Clinical Psychology 17(4):425-442.
- Coleman PK, Reardon DC, Rue V & Cougle J (2002) State-funded abortions vs deliveries: a comparison of outpatient mental health claims over four years. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 72:141-152 Coleman PK, Reardon DC, Rue VM & Cougle JR (2002) A history of induced abortion in relation to substance use during subsequent pregnancies carried to term. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 187:1673-8.
- Coleman PK (2005) Induced abortion and increased risk of substance abuse: a review of the evidence. Current Women’s Health Review 1(1):21-34.
- Coleman PK, Reardon DC & Cougle JR (2005) Substance use among pregnant women in the context of previous reproductive loss and desire for current pregnancy. British Journal of Health Psychology 10:255-268.
- Coleman PK, Reardon DC, Strahan T & Cougle JR (2005) The psychology of abortion: a review and suggestions for future research. Psychology and Health 20(2):237-271.
- Coleman PK, Maxey CD, Spence M & Nixon CL (2009) Predictors and Correlates of Abortion in the Fragile Families and Well-Being Study: Paternal Behavior, Substance Use, and Partner Violence. Int J Health Addiction 7:405-422.
- Coleman PK, Rue VM & Coyle CT (2009) Induced abortion and intimate relationship quality in the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey. Public Health 123:331-338.
- Coleman PK, Coyle CT, Shuping M & Rue VM (2009) Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders: Isolating the effects of abortion in the national comorbidity survey. Journal of Psychiatric Research 43:770-776.
- Coleman PK, Coyle CT & Rue VM (2010) Late-Term Elective Abortion and Susceptibility to Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms. Journal of Pregnancy 2010:1-10 Coleman PK (2011) Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009. The British Journal of Psychiatry 199(03):180-186.
- Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ & Ridder EM (2006) Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(1):16-24.
- Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ & Boden JM (2008) Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study. British Journal of Psychiatry 193(6):444-451.
- Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ & Boden JM (2009) Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health. The British Journal of Psychiatry 195:420-426.
- Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ & Boden JM (2011) A further meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry 199 doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.077230Fischer M (2005) Fatal toxic shock syndrome associated with Clostridium sordellii after medical abortion. N Engl J Med 353:2352–60.
- Gissler M, Berg C, Bouvier-Colle MH & Buekens P (2004) Pregnancy-associated mortality after birth, spontaneous abortion, or induced abortion in Finland, 1987-2000. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 190(2):422-7.
- Gissler M, Hemminki E & Lönnqvist J (1996) Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: register linkage study. British Medical Journal 313:1431-4.
- Gissler M, Kaupplia R, Merilainen J, Toukomaa H & Hemminki E (1997) Pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland 1987-1994 – definition problems and benefits of record linkage. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 76:91-97 Gissler M, Artama M, Ritvanen A & Wahlbeck K (2010) Use of psychotropic drugs before pregnancy and the risk for induced abortion: population-based register-data from Finland 1996-2006. BMC Public Health 383:1-10.
- Reardon D, Makimaa J & Sobie A (eds) (2000) Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault. Acorn Books.
- Reardon D (2005) Study fails to address our previous findings and subject to misleading interpretations. British Medical Journal Rapid Responses, 1 November.
- Reardon DC & Coleman PK (2005) Relative treatment rates for sleep disorders and sleep disturbances following abortion and childbirth: a prospective record-based study. Sleep 28(12):1293-1294.
- Reardon DC & Cougle JR (2002) Depression and unintended pregnancy in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth: a cohort study. British Medical Journal 324:151-2.
- Reardon DC, Coleman PK & Cougle JR (2004) Substance use associated with unintended pregnancy outcomes in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 30(2):369-83.
- Reardon DC, Cougle JR, Rue VM, Shuping MW, Coleman PK & Ney PG (2003) Psychiatric admissions of low-income women following abortion and childbirth. Canadian Medical Association Journal 168(10):1253-6.
- Reardon DC, Ney PG, Scheuren F, Cougle J, Coleman PK & Strahan TW (2002) Deaths associated with pregnancy outcome: a record linkage study of low income women. Southern Medical Journal August 95(8):834-841 Rue VM, Coleman PK, Rue JJ & Reardon DC (2004) Induced abortion and traumatic stress: a preliminary comparison of American and Russian women. Medical Science Monitor 10(10):SR5-16.
- Tankard Reist M (2000) Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s stories of grief after abortion. Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney.
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