A popular claim of those looking to restrict abortion rights is that in addition to hurting the microscopic people who take up residence in the uterus, abortion harms women by making them infertile, breast cancer-ridden lunatics. We've known for some time that none of that is true, and now another large study has confirmed that abortion does not cause mental health problems. As anti-choicers will undoubtedly point out, women who terminate pregnancies do have higher rates of psychological problems. However, the researchers found that's true of all women who experience unwanted pregnancies, whether or not they decide to abort.
In research paid for by Britain's department of health, the U.K.'s National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health looked at 44 studies conducted around the world from 1990 to 2011, which included information on millions of women with unwanted pregnancies, according to the Associated Press. Roughly 11 or 12 percent of all women suffer from mental health problems, and that number shoots up to about one third for women who've experienced unwanted pregnancies. Since rates of mental problems were the same for women who had abortions and women who went through with their pregnancy, the researchers concluded that it isn't abortion that's the problem, but the unwanted pregnancy.
Dr. Tim Kendall, director of the centre said,
"We should be looking at what it is about the unwanted pregnancy stage that is so problematic ... We need to try to get those women help sooner so they're not put at greater risk."
We're guessing most people have a pretty good idea of how having a human growing inside you when you want to be fetus-free could increase a woman's stress, depression, and anxiety. But he's right that the focus needs to be on getting women with mental health problems the help they need as soon as possible.
The researchers couldn't tell if their findings were due to unwanted pregnancies causing more mental health issues, or if women with existing mental health issues are more likely to become pregnant when they don't want to be. Either way, the best way to protect women's mental health is to help them be able to choose if and when they get pregnant. But of course, we shouldn't expect to see conservatives advocating for providing comprehensive sex education and making contraception more widely available. They're only concerned about mental health as a talking point in the abortion debate, they aren't actually all that interested in helping women.
Image via Brad Collett/Shutterstock.