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A Healthy Skepticism Required of those Skeptical of the Association between Abortion and Mental Health Risks

by | Oct 25, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D.

To the uncommitted  in general, and especially to those who are not moved by the plight of the defenseless unborn child, it can make a great deal of difference if it is established that abortion hurts women. Pro-lifers have been making that case for decades with an occasional assistance from self-described “pro-choicers” who follow the evidence wherever it may lead.

So it’s no surprise that pro-abortionists would do most anything in an attempt to discredit a study published last month in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry which documented a trail of negative mental health after-shocks to women who aborted.

As we talked about at the time, “Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research”  is the largest, most definitive analysis of the mental health risks associated with abortion. Conducted by Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, the analysis examines 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009 involving 877,181 women, of whom 163,831 had abortions.

The findings:

— “Women who have had an abortion have an 81 percent higher risk of subsequent mental health problems compared to women who have not had an abortion.

— “Women who aborted have a 138 percent higher risk of mental health problems compared to women who have given birth.

— “Women who aborted have a 55 percent higher risk of mental health problems compared to women with an ‘unplanned’ pregnancy who gave birth.

— “Women with a history of abortion have higher rates of anxiety, depression, alcohol use/misuse, marijuana use, and suicidal behavior, compared to those who have not had an abortion.

Coleman notes that a 2010 study by Canadian researchers published after she completed her analysis of the 22 studies, arrived at “strikingly similar” conclusions regarding the increased risk of mental health problems associated with abortion.

We have already published two analyses that debunk the critics of Coleman’s fine study, with the most recent appearing at www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2011/10/david-fergusson-wades-in-to-defend-coleman-over-abortion-mental-health-link/. Since those appeared, we have a new critique, this time appearing in a popular journal—a blog of Psychology Today.

James Coyne, Ph.D. is “The Skeptical Sleuth” and we are advised by the headline that his task is “applying a healthy dose of skepticism to new findings about health and psychology.” Fair enough.

But all Coyne does is engage in the cheapest of cheap shots and then advise his readers to “stay tuned” (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-skeptical-sleuth/201110/negative-mental-health-effects-abortion).

For example, he wonders aloud about “What kind of peer review did Coleman’s article receive” from the British Journal of Psychiatry? and whether her conclusions were a reflection of “prejudgment, nonscientific beliefs” rather than “based on the best evidence.” And, snidest of all, “Just who is Priscilla Coleman?”

Taking the criticisms in reverse order, Dr. Coleman has researched and written extensively on the topic of the mental health aspects of abortion. She has published a number of studies in the “best” —peer-reviewed –journals.

And other than disagreeing with Dr. Coleman—as Coyne clearly does—why would he (a) impugn the integrity (and in a mocking tone) of a first-rate journal like the British Journal of Psychiatry, and (b) trivialize the work of a scholar whose most recent study is a paradigm of how to study a massive amount of data?

And, by the way, the “gold standard” for those who deny there is a mental health downside  to abortion—a study produced by the American Psychological Association—is rife with serious methodological errors. Shouldn’t Coyne be aiming his skepticism to the APA as well?

Pro-abortionists MUST demolish the trail of evidence that leads from abortion to increases in a plethora of mental health issues, even if it requires attacking scholars who disagree with them and trumpeting studies of their own which are deeply flawed.

Your feedback is so very important to improving National Right to Life News Today. Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com. If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/daveha

Categories: Abortion