The Elliot Institute News
From the Leader in Post-Abortion Research
Vol. 7, No. 18 -- October 10, 2008


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Remember Link Between Abortion and Mental Health Problems on Depression Screening Day


Today is National Depression Screening Day, an event that provides resources and raises awareness of screening for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and other mental health problems.


While the event has drawn attention among mental health groups, many may not be aware of studies that suggest women who have undergone abortion are at higher risk of depression and other disorders afterwards.


The most recent study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, found that women who had an abortion in their 20s were more likely to score above the cut-off date for depression. The author concluded that "[y]oung adult women who undergo induced abortion may be at increased risk for depression."1

The findings came from a survey of 768 women in Norway who were tracked between the ages of 15 and 27. The women answered questions about their reproductive history and depression and were also surveyed about their family relationships and other characteristics that could also cause depression.

More Findings


The latest findings are just one in a number of studies linking abortion to increased risk of depression and other disorders. Other studies found that:

  • Among women who had abortions, 64 percent of American women reported multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which they attributed to their abortions. Slightly over 14 percent reported all the symptoms necessary for a clinical diagnosis of abortion induced PTSD.2

  • Compared to women who carry their first unintended pregnancies to term, women who abort their first pregnancies are at significantly higher risk of clinical depression as measured an average of eight years after their first pregnancies.3

  • Compared to women who gave birth, women who aborted were 65 percent more likely to be at risk of long-term clinical depression after controlling for age, race, education, marital status, history of divorce, income, and prior psychiatric state.4

  • Among women with no prior history of anxiety, women who aborted a first, unintended pregnancy were 30 percent more likely to subsequently report all the symptoms associated with a diagnosis for generalized anxiety disorder, compared to women who carried to term.5

  • In a record based study of nearly 57,000 women with no known history of sleep disorders, women were more likely to be treated for sleep disorders after having an abortion compared to giving birth. Numerous studies have shown that trauma victims will often experience sleep difficulties.6

  • In a New Zealand study headed by a pro-choice researcher, women with a history of abortion were nearly twice as likely to suffer major depression compared to women who carried to term, and had higher rates of substance abuse, anxiety disorders and suicidal behavior—even after ruling out women who had mental health problems before abortion.7

Studies have also linked abortion to other problems such as substance abuse, suicide, and higher rates of psychiatric care. Further, many women abort because of pressure, coercion, disinformation and even force from others. In one survey, 64 percent of women who had abortions reported being pressured by others, while 84 percent said they did not receive enough counseling to make a decision.8


Women being screened and treated for depression and other disorders could be helped if mental health professionals ask about a history of abortion and other pregnancy loss, and help provide resources to help them work through unresolved issues related to the abortion.




For more information on these and other studies, see our Recent Research fact sheet.


1. W. Pederson, “Abortion and depression: A population-based longitudinal study of young women,” Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 36(4): 424-428, 2008.
2. VM Rue et. al., “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10(10): SR5-16, 2004.

3. DC Reardon, JR Cougle, “Depression and Unintended Pregnancy in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth: A Cohort Study,” British Medical Journal 324:151-2, 2002.
4. JR Cougle, DC Reardon & PK Coleman, “Depression Associated With Abortion and Childbirth: A Long-Term Analysis of the NLSY Cohort,” Medical Science Monitor 9(4):CR105-112, 2003.
5. JR Cougle, DC Reardon, PK Coleman, “Generalized Anxiety Following Unintended Pregnancies Resolved Through Childbirth and Abortion: A Cohort Study of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth,” Journal of Anxiety Disorders 19:137-142 (2005).

6. DC Reardon and PK Coleman, “Relative Treatment Rates for Sleep Disorders and Sleep Disturbances Following Abortion and Childbirth: A Prospective Record Based-Study,” Sleep 29(1):105-106, 2006.

7. David M. Fergusson, et. al., “Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(1): 16-24, 2006.

8. VM Rue et. al., “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10(10): SR5-16, 2004.





U.S. Denies Funding to Abortion Group Over Ties to China


The Bush Administration has denied funding Marie Stopes International, a UK-based abortion group, on the grounds that the organization is involved in forced abortion and sterilizations in China.

Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, wrote that although Marie Stopes has denied supporting the one-child policy, "its aggressive promotion of abortion, and its longstanding collaboration with China's coercive program leave little doubt that it is not only aware of the massive human rights abuses that have resulted in that country, but is actively collaborating with it."

Marie Stopes is one of the largest abortion advocacy groups in the world.  Under the Kemp-Kastern amendment, the U.S. government cannot fund any organization that "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization." The Bush administration has also denied funding to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities on the same grounds.






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