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Abortion's Maternal Victims
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, FEB. 11, 2006 (Zenit.org).- New studies confirm that women suffer serious side effects after aborting. The first victim of abortion is the unborn child. And for years some women's groups and pro-life activists have drawn attention to the negative effects on the women involved.

Recent research on the psychological impact of abortion shows that it raises the risk of mental health problems, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Jan. 3. A New Zealand study, carried out by David Fergusson of the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was described by the newspaper as "the most detailed long-term study to date into the divisive question."

The findings were based on a study of 1,265 children, tracked since birth in the 1970s. Of these, 41% of the women become pregnant by age 25 and 14.6% had sought an abortion, for a total of 90 pregnancies that were terminated. The study was published in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology.

By the age of 25, 42% of those who had aborted had also experienced major depression -- a full 35% higher than those who had chosen to continue a pregnancy. The risk of anxiety disorders rose by a similar degree. And women who had at least one abortion were twice as likely to drink alcohol at dangerous levels compared with those who had not terminated their pregnancies. Those who aborted were three times as likely to be dependent on illicit drugs.

Fergusson said his research was motivated by a desire to improve the level of scientific knowledge in an area where there is little evidence. He described himself as "an atheist, a rationalist and pro-choice."

The findings contradict the results of another study, published in the British Medical Journal last Oct. 28. In their paper entitled "Depression and Unwanted First Pregnancy: Longitudinal Cohort Study," Sarah Schmiege and Nancy Felipe Russo argued: "Terminating compared with delivering an unwanted first pregnancy was not directly related to risk of clinically significant depression."

Schmiege and Russo, from the University of Colorado and Arizona State University, respectively, based their conclusions on a study of 1,247 women in the United States.

Child abuse

Their conclusions were challenged, however, by Julia Millington, political director of the United Kingdom organization ProLife Alliance. Millington noted that a number of other studies published in scientific journals had found evidence of problems stemming from abortion. She cited, for example, research carried out in Canada and published in 2003 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Just a few days after the British Medical Journal published the Schmiege and Russo study, the medical journal Acta Pediatrica published the results of research that showed women who have abortions are more likely to physically abuse their children than women who have not had abortions.

Priscilla Coleman, a professor at Bowling Green State University, carried out the study on a group of 581 low-income Baltimore women, the Washington Times reported Nov. 3. Compared with mothers with no history of induced abortion, those who had aborted had a 144% greater risk of physically abusing their children.

Coleman noted that "a good number of women who have abortions" experience problems of bereavement and guilt, feelings that can cause anger. She also observed that women who lost children due to natural causes may experience some of the same psychological effects as post-abortive mothers, but the effects usually are not so long-lasting.

Then, on Dec. 12, the British newspaper Telegraph reported on a Norwegian study that also found mental distress and guilt among women who underwent abortions. A study carried out by the University of Oslo, and published in the journal BMC Medicine, looked at a group of 40 women who had suffered a miscarriage and 80 women who had an abortion. Researchers questioned the women 10 days, six months, two years and five years after the event.

Women who had a miscarriage suffered more mental distress up to six months after losing their baby. But the women who had an abortion experienced more mental distress at the two- and five-year intervals.

The negative effects of abortion are not limited to mental distress. A French study of 2,837 births found that women who previously had an abortion faced a higher risk of giving birth prematurely, the Telegraph newspaper reported May 15.

Mothers who had previously had an abortion were 1.7 times more likely to give birth to a baby at less than 28 weeks' gestation. Many babies born this early die soon after birth, and a large number who survive suffer serious disability, the article noted.

Little information

Further data came from a report prepared by the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, submitted to the state's governor and Legislature in December. Committees in both the House and Senate of the state heard testimony from a number of women who had undergone abortions. According to the report, they "testified how they became depressed and were haunted by suicidal ideation."

Almost 2,000 women who have had abortions provided statements detailing their experiences. Many women reported that they were pressured into having an abortion, often by the father of their child, but by others as well. As well, many of them testified or reported to post-abortion counselors that if they had been given accurate information, they would not have submitted to the abortion.

Evidence given also revealed deficiencies in the way abortions are carried out. Data provided by the South Dakota Department of Health revealed that in 2003, the latest statistics available, there were 819 abortions performed in the state. In 814 out of 819 procedures, the only information given to the pregnant mother about the unborn child was simply a gestational age. In 813 cases out of the 819, this was done by means of a recorded statement and the women had no way of asking the physician any questions.

According to the procedures described by witnesses from a Planned Parenthood clinic, the abortion doctor sees the pregnant mother for the first time in the procedure room. And this is only after the consent form has been signed and the woman has made her commitment to undergo the abortion.

Lack of support

Another useful study on abortion, published last November, is "Women and Abortion: An Evidence Based Review," by Selena Ewing. The paper was published by the Women's Forum Australia. Ewing, a research officer at Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, Adelaide, reviewed and summarized a wide range of research on abortion.

She found that many abortions occur due to a lack of support for pregnant women. Financial concerns are a major motivator for abortion, as many women believe that continuing with a pregnancy will jeopardize their plans for work and study. Women have concerns about becoming single mothers, suggesting, Ewing observes, a lack of support from men in many cases, and a lack of community support for single motherhood. The report also found that abortion is strongly associated with domestic violence and abuse of women.

Given these factors, Ewing argues that talking about abortion being caused by "unintended" or "unwanted" pregnancies is the wrong way to approach matters. Studies have shown that pregnant women do not find these terms to be adequate in describing their situation, Ewing contends. Moreover, women's attitudes change over time during their pregnancy.

The study also contains numerous references to published research on the physical and psychological effects of abortion. Regarding the latter, Ewing states that 10% to 20% of women suffer from severe negative psychological complications. Sobering evidence indeed.