"Research studies indicate that emotional responses to legally induced abortion are largely positive. They also indicate that emotional problems resulting from abortion are rare and less frequent than those following childbirth (Adler, 1989).
Anti-family planning extremists, however, circulate unfounded claims that a majority of the 29 percent of pregnant American women who choose to terminate their pregnancies (Henshaw & Van Vort, 1990) suffer severe and long-lasting emotional trauma as a result. They call this nonexistent phenomenon 'post-abortion trauma' or 'post-abortion syndrome.' They hope that terms like these will gain wide currency and credibility despite the fact that neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognizes the existence of these phenomena.
"The truth is that most studies in the last 20 years have found abortion to be a relatively benign procedure in terms of emotional effect — except when pre-abortion emotional problems exist or when a wanted pregnancy is terminated, such as after diagnostic genetic testing (Adler, 1989; Adler et al., 1990; Russo & Denious, 2001). The many studies of the emotional effects of abortion, however, do not measure precisely the same variables in regard to culture, time, demographics, or the socioeconomic and psychological situation of women who seek abortion. Since the results of these studies cannot be combined or 'averaged out,' the following data illustrate, in general, the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of more than 35 of the worldwide studies that have measured the emotional effects of abortion since its legalization in the U.S. in 1973." -- "The Emotional Effects of Induced Abortion" by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has for more than 30 years been consistent in its support of the right of women to have an abortion without any type of restriction whatsoever. It opposes any type of information being given to the women that suggest that the "fetus" is a baby, it opposes both spousal and parental consent laws, it opposes notifying the mother of any health-related issues that may arise from abortion, and it opposes providing the woman with any type of information that can give women information about the possible negative consequences to their psychological health. Their reason for opposing this last is set out, fairly succinctly, in their article on the health effects on women, quoted above.
Now, however, a study by the University of Oslo adds evidence to the claims of pro-life counselors that women who undergo abortions have a longer and greater negative reaction than women who lose their baby to a miscarriage. According to the BBC in an article entitled "Abortion 'leaves mental legacy' " (December 12, 2005):
An abortion can cause five years of mental anguish, anxiety, guilt and even shame, a BMC Medicine study suggests. University of Oslo researchers compared 40 women who had had a miscarriage with 80 who chose to have an abortion. Miscarriage was associated with more mental distress in the six months after the loss of a baby - but abortion had a much longer lasting negative effect.
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The Oslo team found that, after 10 days, 47.5% of women who had miscarried suffered from some degree of mental distress compared with 30% of the abortion group. The proportion of women who had a miscarriage suffering distress decreased during the study period, to 22.5% at six months and to just 2.6% at two years and five years. But among the abortion group 25.7% were still experiencing distress after six months, and 20% at five years.
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Richard Warren, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "It has always been considered, and this study also shows, that the decision to terminate may bring with it long-standing feelings of anxiety and guilt. "While most women are able to manage and cope with these feelings, when necessary, the need for ongoing support and counselling should be recognised and appropriate help given."
Anna Pringle, from the anti-abortion charity Life, said: "This confirms years of experience with women who come to us for counselling after abortion. "The emotional suffering can be massive."
Of course, as with most things scientific, it appears that there are several studies on this subject with differing conclusions. The reports cited by Planned Parenthood mostly support their claim that there is no lingering harm to the women. The studies cited by the pro-life community, which now will certainly include this University of Oslo study, say that an abortion can, in many cases, cause women real and profound psychological suffering. Which is right? More importantly, does it matter?
Some states have considered enacting or have enacted laws that require that a woman seeking an abortion give her informed consent prior to the abortion procedure and specifying that these women be given certain information at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed. According to Planned Parenthood, these types of laws are being implemented by "anti-choice" legislators whose sole purpose is to block the right of the woman to have an abortion. The proponents of such legislation, on the other hand, argue that such laws are necessary, at least in part, to make certain that women have all available information to make an informed decision that could affect their physical and psychological health. Planned Parenthood dismisses the idea that women need to be informed of the possible consequences of their decision, saying, "These laws are insulting to women. They assume that women haven't thought about what they want to do with their pregnancy until they walk into the clinic, when most women have been thinking about it since after they missed their period, or longer." "Impact of Abortion Restrictions.
It seems to me that Planned Parenthood misses the mark here. One of the reasons that the Supreme Court initially overruled the Texas state's ban on abortions in Roe v. Wade (1973) was over concerns that keeping a woman from having an abortion could possibly put her health at risk. Justice Blackmon said:
"The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable early in pregnancy may be [involved]. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of brining a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation." (Emphasis added.)
Part of the reason that the court granted the right to an abortion is out of fear that the pregnant woman will be harmed, psychologically and otherwise, from the denial of an abortion. Therefore, if one of the primary motivations for permitting abortions in the first place is the health of the mother, then on what basis should we refuse to give the woman the complete information of all of the possible health risks from that abortion? Planned Parenthood complains that those health risks are fictitious as the result of the studies that they rely upon, but obviously these other studies exist and report to the contrary. Doesn't it make sense that if we are above all else interested in the health of the woman that "responsible physicians" should tell the pregnant woman about all of the potential health risks that have been supported by studies even if that particular physician disagrees with the studies' conclusions?
This study, while not determinative, adds credence to the reasoning behind informed consent laws. An abortion is a medical procedure which may have serious consequences for the woman receiving the abortion (and even more certain dire consequences for the baby being aborted), and it is both good and appropriate that women be given full information about the nature of the procedure, the objections to the procedure, and the risks to their own health before having the abortion. Planned Parenthood's efforts to block such information from being given to women marks them as an irresponsible caregiver.