Mental health problems
Women who have an abortion are at an increased risk of suffering from subsequent problems with their mental health. These mental health problems can include major depression, anxiety disorders, thoughts about suicide, and drug and alcohol dependence16. This increased risk is significant- according to one study, women who undergo an abortion have an up to 81% increased risk of mental health problems17. Some of these mental health problems are severe- one study indicates that at least 10-20% of women who have had an abortion suffer from severe negative psychological complications18. Although most abortions in New Zealand are allowed on the grounds of mental health, there is no study that shows that abortion reduces the risk of mental health problems19.
16 Fergusson D. Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study. The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008) 193: 444-451 doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.056499
17 Coleman P. Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995–2009. The British Journal of Psychiatry (2011) 199: 180-186 doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.077230
18 Coleman, Reardon, Strahan & Cougle, 2005
19 Fergusson D. Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study. The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008) 193: 444-451 doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.056499
Women who have had an abortion are at an increased risk of subsequently taking their own life. In one Finnish study that examined over 600,000 women, it was found that women who had an abortion showed a suicide rate that was three times higher than that of the general population. Women with a history of abortion also committed suicide at a rate six times higher than women who carried their pregnancies to term20. Another study found that for women who miscarried or delivered, the risk of suicide decreased after the event; but for women who aborted the risk of suicide increased21. In addition, women with a history of abortion were 70% more likely to engage in self-harm than women who had not had an abortion22.
20 Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987–94: register linkage study. BMJ 1996; 313 doi: 10.1136/bmj.313.7070.1431
21 Morgan et al, “Suicides after pregnancy, Mental health may deteriorate as a direct effect of induced abortion,” British Medical Journal, 1997 Mar 22, 314 (7084); 902-3
22 Gilchrist et al, “Termination of pregnancy and psychiatric morbidity,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 1995 August, 167(2):243-8
It is common for women to experience emotional distress after an abortion. However, instead of decreasing with time, these negative emotions may become more intense as time goes on, and may not surface until years after the abortion23.
23 Major B, Cozzarelli C, et al. Psychological responses of women after first-trimester abortion. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2000 Aug; 57(8): 777-784.
Alcohol and drug problems
Studies indicate that women who have had an abortion are more vulnerable to subsequent alcohol and drug problems24. In one study of women who suffered from negative post-abortion reactions, most of those who engaged in substance abuse said that they did it in an attempt to cope with abortion related stress25. Another study reported that women who aborted a first pregnancy were 3.9 times more likely to report substance abuse than women who carried to term26.
24 Fergusson, Horwood and Ridder (2006); Pedersen (2007)
25 Speckhard A, “The Psycho-Social Aspects of Stress Following Abortion,” Kansas City MO; Sheed & Ward, 1987, p 51
26 Reardon D, “Substance abuse subsequent to abortion, American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 26(1):61-75, p 61, February 2000
Abortion can negatively impact a woman’s relationships, especially with her boyfriend or partner. In a study of women in steady relationships who had an abortion and subsequently separated from their partners, 60% said there was a connection between the abortion and the separation27.
27 Barnett et al, “Partnership after induced abortion: a prospective controlled study,” Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 1992 October, 21 (5):443-55
Requirement of psychological treatment
Women who have an abortion are more likely to subsequently seek psychiatric treatment. One Canadian study found that 35% of aborted women made visits to psychiatrists, as compared to 3% of women who had not had abortions28. A large study of all pregnant women throughout the nation of Denmark also found that psychiatric hospitalisation was more common among women who had an abortion than among women who declined an abortion and carried the pregnancy to term29.
28 Badgley et al, “Report of the Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law,” Ottawa, Canada, Supply and Services, 1977, p 313-321
29 “The Rawlinson Report: The Physical and Psychosocial effects of Abortion in Women (1994). A report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Operation and Consequences of the Abortion Act,” London, HMSO