realitycheck(dot)ie

Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Abortion and Mental Health

A new study from Norway followed 120 women following abortion (80) and miscarriage (40) for 5 years and found that while women who miscarried at more short term emotional reactions, women who had an abortion had more longterm and more atypical reactions including avoidance and feelings of guilt and shame.
After Abortion, a blog that focuses on this kind of research says that this particular study is getting more media coverage than other similar ones and Emily says she's gonna think about why.
My guess is that it's a reflection of the vast number of women who have had abortions over the last 30 years and how their pain, grief and mixed emotions have been the taboo of the sexual revolution. Hard facts on the emotional and psychological effects of anything, especially abortion, are difficult to find. Some pro-choice advocates refuse to accept that many women have anything but great joy following abortion. Regardless of these abstractions, women continue to have abortions, not knowing that emotional upheaval is a real possibility for many years to come.
The Telegraph have an editorial that everyone should read.

If we find this surprising, that in itself is a reflection of how imperfectly we understand abortion. The politicisation of the debate means that it is usually only unfashionable pro-life activists who point out its psychological dangers, and they are rarely given a proper hearing. Meanwhile, the Family Planning Association continues to insist that "there is no evidence to suggest that abortion directly causes psychological trauma".

The Oslo research exposes the absolute fatuity of that last claim. Abortion, like miscarriage, involves the loss of a baby; unlike miscarriage, the loss is the result of a conscious decision. And the operation itself, as Germaine Greer has taken to reminding her fellow feminists, is a gruesome one. No wonder that a fifth of women continue to feel depression, shame or guilt.

At this point we should stress that those feelings may be (and probably are) inappropriate. This newspaper has never offered a view on the morality of abortion per se. What is blindingly obvious is that women who are suffering as a result of an abortion need psychological help. Yet - in a society that offers counselling to anyone who has watched a distressing episode of EastEnders - such help is hard to obtain.

"We don't see that many women for post-abortion counselling," says the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Why? Because they do not need it? Or because they have been assured that abortion is a mere "procedure", tantamount to contraception?

In the short term, more post-abortion counselling is needed. In the long term, the need for it should be reduced by a change in the law. The current limit of 24 weeks is appallingly high; yet Tony Blair, a practising Christian, has opposed efforts to reduce it even slightly. It is he, rather than women who have been pressurised into having abortions, who should feel ashamed.


Both Cura and Life in Ireland provide post-abortion counselling and both organisations have had to step up their services in this regard due to increased demand.

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