Stop Blaming Abortion for Making Women Depressed

women don't regret abortion signIf anti-abortion activists are to be believed, women who get abortions are setting themselves up for a world of emotional pain and mental illness. They've argued for years that terminating a pregnancy leads to trauma and depression. Now, a large study commissioned by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and funded by the U.K. Department of Health is setting the record straight: Women who have abortions are at no greater risk for mental illness than women who give birth.

The one caveat is when women already have a history of mental health issues and when they've been pressured by their partner to terminate the pregnancy. Duh. Otherwise, the research -- which assessed 44 studies from 1990-2011, examining data on hundreds of thousands of women at least 90 days after an abortion -- concludes definitively that having an abortion isn't going to automatically make a woman lose her mind. Whodathunk?!

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After all, the argument that women are bound to regret their abortion or fall into a black hole of depression after they make the conscious, difficult decision to have one is nothing short of blatantly sexist and antiquated. Under the same logic, men should feel the same way about getting a vasectomy. But do we ever accuse men of going insane after making a conscious decision about his body and health like that? Of course not. Instead, the idea that women can't mentally handle abortion stems from an outdated, ridiculous thought that we as a gender are "too delicate" or unstable to make decisions about our own bodies and well-being. Now there's actual research to prove that idea is completely absurd. YES!

If you really want to know what can cause mental distress, it's the unwanted pregnancy itself, according to the same study. About a third of women who have an unwanted pregnancy suffered depression and anxiety compared to 11 to 12 percent of the general population. What's more, for every extra week a woman carries an unwanted pregnancy, it can represent an extra week of distress. Seems like further proof that we need to do more to help women with unwanted pregnancies by ensuring their access to a safe, legal abortion without delay and by safeguarding resources that prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place, like supporting Planned Parenthood and promoting comprehensive sex ed in schools.

But the idea that mental illness is always attributed to the abortion itself is clearly wrong. There's no way around it -- it's not even an argument anymore, it's a fact.

Do you think abortions make women depressed?

 

Image via Dave Fayram/Flickr

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