The meta-analysis in the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry examined 22 studies from 1995-2009 involving 877,000 women, including 163,000 who had experienced an abortion.
The paper's author, Priscilla K. Coleman of Bowling Green State University, said there actually are "hundreds of studies" showing a link between abortion and serious mental health risks, and that three recent studies that reached a very different conclusion had major flaws. One of those studies by an American Psychological Association task force received significant media attention and concluded there were no risks.
But Coleman said her analysis shows that abortion "is associated with moderate to highly increased risks of psychological problems."
"here are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counselled prior to an abortion decision," Coleman writes in her paper before chiding the research community for not conducting unbiased research. "... The responsibility therefore rests initially within the research community to set aside personal ideological commitments, objectively examine all high-quality published data, and conduct analyses of the literature that are based on state-of-the-art data analysis procedures...."
The issue of abortion and mental health problems, she wrote, too often is "shrouded in political controversy" and "has not received the scholarly attention it deserves."
The fact that the study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, one of the world's leading psychiatric journals, is important, those who monitor the abortion debate say.
"Its appearance in a top psychiatry journal indicates that it was carefully critiqued and evaluated by respected public-health scholars," Michael J. New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, wrote at NationalReview.com. "... Hopefully, the prestige of the journal, the volume of studies included, and the consistency of the findings will encourage the mainstream media to give a second look to this important issue."
Coleman's study "offers the largest available body of evidence on the psychological impact of abortion," New said.
Jeanne Monahan, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity, said the study "reveals the indisputable truth that abortion is bad for women's mental health." FRC is a pro-life group.
"With this information, doctors now have a valid and unbiased synthesis of the current research available on the relationship between abortion and women's mental health," Monahan said in a statement. "Because it is a meta-analysis, the research is much more thorough and reliable than any other single study or review to date."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.
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