The Elliot Institute News
From the Leader in Post-Abortion Research
Vol. 7, No. 2 -- Feb. 13, 2008
UnChoice Campaign: TheUnChoice.com
IN THIS ISSUE:
Study Finds High Rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Women Who Had Abortions
Researchers: PTSD Rates Increased by 61 Percent After Abortion
According to a study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, women who have experienced abortion have high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which follow findings from earlier studies linking abortion and PTSD.
The study of 155 women in South Africa who had abortions looked at symptoms before abortion and at one month and three months after abortion. Almost one-fifth of the women had symptoms that met the criteria for PTSD, leading the authors to note that "high rates of PTSD characterize women who have undergone voluntary pregnancy termination." Further, at three months after the abortions, the number of women with PTSD had increased by 61 percent compared to before the abortion.
The researchers compared levels of pain and psychological outcomes among women who had received a local anesthetic versus those who had received IV sedation. Women who had received a local anesthetic had higher levels of pain before and during abortion and were more likely to experience PTSD symptoms, but researchers found no difference in symptoms over a longer period of time.
In other words, what the study found was that using one form of pain management over the other did not effect rates of psychological trauma experienced by women after abortion. These findings lend credence to the theory that abortion itself is the cause of trauma for women, not the amount of physical pain they experience.
This study is not the first to link abortion with increased levels of PTSD. In a 2004 study published in the Medical Science Monitor, 65 percent of American women who had undergone abortions reported symptoms of PTSD, which they attributed to their abortions, and slightly over 14 percent reported all the symptoms necessary for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD.
Other studies have linked abortion to higher rates of sleep disorders, which are often associated with PTSD, as well as higher rates of anxiety disorders, clinical depression, substance abuse, suicide, and other problems. One study found increased rates of death from cardiovascular rates among women who had abortions up to eight years earlier compared to women who gave birth, which the researchers speculated could be related to trauma symptoms.
The authors of the BMC study called for more screening to be done on women prior to abortion in order to "help identify women at risk of PTSD and provide follow-up care." However, there is no evidence that abortion alleviates any psychological symptoms in women and abortion has been in fact linked to increased mental health problems — including PTSD — after abortion.
The Elliot Institute's model legislation, the Protection from High Risk and Coerced Abortion Act, would require abortion businesses to screen women for evidence that they are being coerced or forced into unwanted abortions and for other risk factors that are likely to put them at risk for post-traumatic stress and other problems after abortion.
"The abortion industry should not be subjecting women to a procedure that is likely to increase or cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress or other mental health problems," said Elliot Institute director Dr. David Reardon, who has worked on more than a dozen studies documenting the psychological impact of abortion on women. "Furthermore, the evidence shows that many of these abortions are unwanted and the result of pressure or coercion from others. The industry should be held liable for putting women at risk and performing unwanted and dangerous abortions."
Sharain Suliman et. al., "Comparison of pain, cortisol levels, and psychological distress in women undergoing surgical termination of pregnancy under local anaesthesia versus intravenous sedation," BMC Psychiatry 2007, 7:24.
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