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Mental Health

The Aspect of Abortion No One Is Talking About

Abortion is undoubtedly a hot topic in the news, especially following events like the signing of the controversial “fetal heartbeat” bill by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and the passing of a bill restricting abortion (even in cases of rape or incest) in Alabama.

Regardless of whether they identify as pro-life or pro-choice, 85 percent of people favor abortion when the mother’s physical health is jeopardized, such as when complications like preeclampsia or hemorrhaging arise. Pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike do, however, typically fail to address a similar factor of abortion: the mental health of the mother. And worse, when it is addressed, it’s usually a pro-lifer propagating the myth that abortion leads to mental health problems.

The fact of the matter is that there is little to no evidence of abortion itself causing mental health issues in the mother. That’s right- the idea of most women having a “traumatic response” to abortion, dubbed “post-abortion syndrome,” is false.

The American Psychological Association states that having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk for developing depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, women who are denied an abortion, not women who have an abortion, are those more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction, lower self-esteem, and other mental health-related problems, such as remaining in an abusive relationship.

It is true that directly following an abortion, some women may experience grief, sadness, or other negative emotions. Having said that, these short-term feelings are more common in those denied an abortion than those granted an abortion. When these negative emotions are, however, felt in women who recently had an abortion, it is often due to outside circumstances, such as having preexisting mental health issues, coming to a decision to terminate the pregnancy too quickly, or being pressured into having the procedure. Relief, in fact, is the most common feeling immediately following an abortion, with 95 percent of women feeling they made the right decision one week post-abortion.

What’s more is that unwanted pregnancy is a huge risk factor associated with the development of postpartum depression. This study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that women forced to carry out an unwanted pregnancy had twice the risk of developing postpartum depression. And, if the woman keeps the baby after giving birth, the effects of postpartum depression will be exasperated by the guilt and shame of the depression affecting the care of the infant. It’s a vicious cycle.

Abortion doesn’t cause mental health problems, and can even prevent against some mental health issues that could have occurred if the abortion was denied. Although there have been studies concluding that abortion itself presents with somewhat of an increased risk of mental health problems, many of these have been discredited due to scientific errors like flawed methodologies and confused causation and correlation.

Before Roe v. Wade, many women in the U.S. had to undergo unsafe abortions, leading to the unjustified deaths of thousands. Keeping abortion legal keeps women healthy, both physically and mentally.

Photo: Lorie Shaull/Flickr

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Christine is an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt University. She is passionate about medicine and enjoys writing about health-related topics. In her free time, you can find her on the softball field or listening to podcasts.

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