The Elliot Institute News
From the Leader in Post-Abortion Research
Vol. 7, No. 23 -- Dec. 11, 2008


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New Study Links Abortion To Wide Range of Mental Health Disorders

Researchers Found Abortion More Traumatic Than Other Stressful Experiences


A new study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that women who have abortions are at higher risk for various mental health disorders.1


The study, led by Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, used data drawn from a nationally representative survey of mental health conducted by the University of Michigan. A subsample of 5,877 women were asked about their abortion history, stressful life experiences and other potential risk factors for various mental health disorders.


Researchers studied 15 different mental health problems that included anxiety disorders (panic disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder), mood disorders (bipolar disorder, mania and major depression) and substance abuse disorders (alcohol and drug use and dependence).


The researchers wrote that, according to their findings, "For every disorder, the abortion group had a higher frequency that was statistically significant." After removing other factors, they found that abortion "made a significant contribution" for 12 out of the 15 disorders studied. Only mania and drug and alcohol use without addiction were not significantly associated with abortion.


Overall, mental disorders among women who had abortions were 17 percent higher than among women who did not have abortions. When researchers looked at specific disorders, the increased rate among women who had abortions ranged from 44 percent higher for panic attacks and 167 percent higher for bipolar disorder.


Abortion Increases Risks More Than Other Traumas


Women who had abortions were also more likely to report a history of sexual abuse and to have experienced stressful events in adulthood, such as miscarriage, physical violence or being in a life-threatening accident. The researchers noted that women who experience domestic violence are more likely to abort compared to women who are not in violent situations.


But the researchers also found that abortion was more likely to cause mental health problems among women than was a history of other traumas such as childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical violence or neglect.


"What is most notable is that abortion contributed significant independent effects to numerous mental health problems above and beyond a variety of other traumatizing and stressful life experiences," they wrote.


Abortion advocates and some researchers have argued that the increase in mental health problems among women who have abortions is caused by previous traumas or pre-existing mental health problems among women who abort. This study found otherwise, as did the findings of a 2006 New Zealand study which found that, even after controlling for existing mental health problems, women who aborted were more likely to later experience depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.2


More Evidence of Abortion Trauma


Previous research has linked abortion to an increase in mental health problems such as suicide, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, sleep disorders, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other problems. But this is the first study to identify links between abortion and agoraphobia, panic attacks and panic disorders.


The findings are especially worrisome in the light of other research and anecdotal evidence suggesting that many women and teens have unwanted abortions due to pressure, disinformation, lack of support, coercion or violence. According to one survey, 64 percent of American women undergoing abortions said they felt pressured to do so by others, while more than 80 percent reported they did not receive adequate counseling beforehand and more than half said they felt rushed or uncertain before the abortion.3


Further, another survey found that 95 percent of women said they wanted to be informed of all the risks before undergoing an elective procedure such as abortion.4 Unfortunately, much pre-abortion counselingwhen it is offeredgives women and their partners or families deceptive or inadequate information in order to reassure or sell them on abortion, rather than helping the woman find the best solution for her and her unborn baby.

This study adds more evidence to the need for meaningful help and alternatives to abortion, as well as a mechanism to hold abortion businesses liable for failing to screen for coercion and other known factors that put women and teens at risk for mental health disorders after abortion.




To view the Elliot Institute's model bill holding abortionists liable for failing to screen for coercion and psychological risk factors before abortion, visit



1. Coleman, PK et. al., "Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders: Isolating the effects of abortion in the national comorbidity survey," Journal of Psychiatric Research (2008), doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.10.009.

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

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

4. Coleman, PK et. al., “Women’s preferences for information and complication seriousness ratings related to elective medical procedures,” Journal of Medical Ethics, 32:435-438 (2006).





Study: Abortion Provides No Mental Health Benefits to Women, Even When Pregnancy is Unwanted

Abortion Linked to Increase in Mental Health Disorders


Abortion provides no mental health benefits to women and increases the odds that they will develop mental health disorders, according to a new study headed by a pro-choice researcher from New Zealand and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.1


The study, which found that women were 30 percent more likely to experience mental health disorders after abortion than they were for other pregnancy outcomes, could have serious implications for the legality of abortion in some countries.


The results came from an ongoing survey that tracked women in the Christchurch area of New Zealand from birth to age 30. A subsample of about 530 women were given questions about their pregnancy history and mental health outcomes, including being asked whether the pregnancy was wanted or unwanted, and their initial reaction to the pregnancy at the time.


The researchers compared women who had either given birth, had a miscarriage or had an abortion. They found that, after controlling for other variables that could influence the result, abortion was associated with a subsequent increase of a variety of mental health disorders, including alcohol and drug addiction, suicidal thoughts, anxiety disorders and major depression. In contrast, giving birth or having a miscarriage were not "consistently related" to an increase in mental health problems.


Most notably, the study found that women who continued an unwanted or mistimed pregnancy did not experience a significant increase in mental health problems. This challenges pro-abortion arguments that abortion is better for women than carrying an "unwanted" pregnancy to term.


"In general, there is no evidence in the literature on abortion and mental health that suggests that abortion reduces the mental health risks of unwanted or mistimed pregnancy," the authors wrote. "Although some studies have concluded that abortion has neutral effects on mental health, no study has reported that exposure to abortion reduces mental health risks."


While the researchers pointed out that their findings were limited based on the small number of participants who gave birth following an "unwanted" pregnancy, they said their findings did not support the argument that abortion of an unwanted pregnancy benefits women. 


"[T]here is nothing in this study that would suggest that termination of pregnancy was associated with lower risks of mental health problems than birth following an unwanted pregnancy," they concluded.


Challenging the Status Quo


In a previous paper published in 2006, the authors were critical of the American Psychological Association's claim that abortion does not pose mental health risks for women.2 In fact, the lead author, Prof. David Fergusson, who describes himself as pro-choice, has been an outspoken critic of the APA and has called for more research into the safety of abortion.


Earlier this year, Fergusson published an editorial supporting the position of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the U.K., which said that the evidence suggests that abortion can increase mental health problems for some women. He also criticized a report released in August by the APA that dismissed post-abortion research and claimed that abortion is generally safe for women.


The Legal Implications


The research team was cautious about their findings, saying that the results seem to lead to a "middle-of-the-road position that, for some women, abortion is likely to be a stressful and traumatic life event which places those exposed to it at modestly increased risk of a range of common mental health problems.


But they also pointed out that their findings could have an impact on the the legal status of abortion in some countries. For example, British law only allows abortion when the risks of physical and psychological injury from continuing a pregnancy are greater than if the pregnancy is aborted. And in New Zealand, more than 90 percent of abortions are done under a provision in the law that only allows abortion when "the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth) to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl."


As the researchers noted, "this evidence clearly poses a challenge to the use of psychiatric reason to justify abortion" in countries where abortion can only be performed when there is evidence that pregnancy poses a risk to the woman's mental health.


In addition, the evidence that even a small group of women might be at risk for mental health providers after abortion is leading some expertsboth pro-life and pro-choiceto call for better training and awareness of post-abortion issues among mental health professionals who may be in a position to help those struggling after abortion. Dr. Patricia Casey of Ireland, writing in the pages of the British Medical Journal, noted,


"The findings of this study will provoke controversy, but they should not be clouded by ideology. Rather, the focus should be on identifying vulnerable groups of women and providing optimum treatment for them ..."


Further, even a small increase in mental health problems among some women who have had abortions points to the need for health care providers and abortionists to screen women and girls for coercion and other known, statistically-validated factors that put them at risk for mental health problems after abortion. Such screening would help put an end to abortions that are unwanted, unsafe and unnecessary and would help protect the rights of both women and their unborn children.




For more information and criticism on the report from the APA's Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, visit our APA Abortion Report Page at


To view the Elliot Institute's model bill holding abortionists liable for failing to screen for coercion and psychological risk factors before abortion, visit




1. Fergusson, DM et. al., "Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year-longitudinal study," The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008), 193: 444-451.

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





Volunteers Needed

One way to be a partner in our work is by donating your time and skills as a volunteer.


Our needs change as projects arise, but currently, we could use help with:


1) Graphic designers and production artists

Primarily detail-oriented production work or fine-tuning existing designs


2) Media buyer/planner to serve as a consultant to pro-life groups running UnChoice ads

You would need to be available/accessible by phone or email to answer questions from small groups who want to run ads but may need a hand with a simple, low-budget media plan.


If you are interested in volunteering, please send a resume and/or information on your skills, availability and area of interest to Please put “Volunteer for: (job name)” in the title. (Please contact us by email only).


Please note that we’re not able to reply to all submissions, but we will keep your information on file as new projects come up. You will not be contacted unless/until a specific project arises.  Also, check our web site often for new volunteer needs updates.


Thank you for sharing your time and talents!





Half-Off Book Sale!!

Hurry! Ends January 22


Between now and January 22, order any of our books and get 50% off your entire order (shipping extra). This is a great way to stock up on books for the coming year!


The following titles are all on sale:

  • Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief After Abortion

  • Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion

  • Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault

  • The Jericho Plan: Breaking Down the Walls Which Prevent Post-Abortion Healing (great gift for priests and pastors!)

  • Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for A Divided Nation

  • Detrimental Effects of Abortion (Third Edition): An Annotated Bibliography With Commentary (excellent reference source)

Hurry! We are reducing our inventory and quantities of some titles may be limited. Orders must be placed by 5:00 pm on CST on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009.


For more information, including pricing and shipping information, click here.


To place an order, call 1-888-412-2676 or send your order to: Elliot Institute, Acorn Books, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62704.





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