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Friday, February 17, 2006

 

Abortion and Mental Health: A Pro-Life Reaction

'Evidence Doesn't Matter' -- APA Spokesperson Says of Abortion Complications

Studies Showing Emotional Problems Not Relevant to American Psychological Association's Pro-Choice Advocacy

To: National Desk

Contact: Amy Sobie, for the Elliot Institute, 217-525-8202
SPRINGFIELD, Il., Feb. 17 /Christian Wire Service/

-- According to a spokesperson for the American Psychological Association, the APA's pro-choice position, first adopted in 1969, is based on a civil rights view, not on scientific proof of any mental health benefits arising from abortion.The admission that ideology, not science, governs the APA's support for abortion came in response to a request by a Washington Times columnist for the organization's reaction to a new study linking abortion to mental illness. The study tracked 25 years of worth of data on women born in Christchurch, New Zealand. The researchers had expected that their data, drawn from one of the largest and most comprehensive longitudinal studies in the world, would definitively refute a recent series of studies linking abortion to higher rates of mental health problems.

The Christchurch team, led by a self-professed "pro-choice atheist," Prof. David M. Fergusson, expected to find that any mental health problems occurring after abortion would be fully explainable by prior mental health problems, which some believe are more common among women who have abortions. Instead, the New Zealand research team found the opposite. Even after the researchers controlled for this and numerous other alternative explanations, abortion was clearly linked to elevated rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.The findings so surprised Fergusson's research team that they began reviewing the studies cited by the APA in its claims that abortion is beneficial, or at least non-harmful, to women's mental health. The researchers concluded (1) that the APA's publications defending abortion are based on a small number of studies that had major methodological shortcomings (a view that echoes former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's complaint in 1987 that the research on abortion was too inadequate to draw any definitive conclusions), and (2) that the APA appeared to be consistently ignoring a body of studies published in the last seven years that have shown negative effects from abortion.

The Christchurch team's criticism of the APA's selective and strong assurances of the mental health benefits of abortion prompted Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist and newspaper columnist, to call the APA for comment on Fergusson's criticisms. He was referred to an APA expert and spokesperson on abortion and women's issues, Dr. Nancy Felipe Russo. Russo was among the leaders within the APA who, in 1969, led the organization to adopt an official position in favor of abortion as a civil right. She has subsequently been active in research and advocacy efforts opposing parental notification and mandatory informed consent statutes related to abortion.

APA is Not Neutral on Abortion Science

When asked to comment on the New Zealand study and the pro-choice authors' criticisms of the APA, Russo told Throckmorton that the APA's position on abortion was established on the view that abortion is a civil right. As quoted in Throckmorton's Washington Times column, Russo explained that the Christchurch study would have no effect on the APA's position because "to pro-choice advocates, mental health effects are not relevant to the legal context of arguments to restrict access to abortion."In the first draft of Throckmorton's column, which he sent for comment to another expert on abortion research, Dr. David Reardon of the Springfield, IL-based Elliot Institute, Russo was quoted more bluntly, saying, "it doesn't matter what the evidence says." Throckmorton and Russo subsequently agreed to the clarification of her statement as it appeared in the Washington Times.

According to Reardon, an author of several of the studies on abortion that have been ignored by the APA, Russo's statements "confirm the complaint of critics that the APA's briefs to the Supreme Court and state legislatures are really about promoting a view about civil rights, not science. Toward this end, the APA has set up task forces and divisions that include only psychologists who share the same bias in favor of abortion."

Reardon believes the APA's task forces on abortion have actually served to stifle rather than encourage research. "When researchers like Fergusson or myself publish data showing abortion is linked to mental health problems, members of the APA's abortion policy police rush forward to tell the public to ignore our findings because they are completely out of line with their own 'consensus' statements which are positioned as the APA's official interpretation of the meaningful research on abortion," he said.

When is Relief Not Relief?

Reardon is especially disturbed by what he decries as the "one note" optimism found in position papers by the APA, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations supporting abortion.Among the studies most frequently cited by abortion supporters are those that have asked women to check off a list of feelings they have after their abortions, often within just a few hours, a week, or a month of the procedure. The list may include words like "relief," "regret," "guilt," and "happiness." These studies have found that the most commonly reported reaction after abortion is relief. Indeed, the phrase, "the most commonly reported reaction is relief," frequently shows up in information and consent forms for abortion."All the emphasis on women experiencing relief is misleading because most women reporting relief also report negative reactions," Reardon said. "Indeed, when you add up the number of women reporting negative reactions, it regularly exceeds the number of women reporting relief."

The problem, Reardon says, is that while statistics on "relief" may have value in marketing or lobbying for abortion, they have little or no value as a scientific measure. "Women are simply presented with this single word," he said. "So women who feel relief that they survived an unpleasant surgery, relief that they will no longer face their boyfriend's badgering to have an abortion, relief that they are no longer having morning sickness, or relief from any number of other stresses, are all lumped into the same category, even though their experiences are different. Lumping all forms of relief together helps to makes it sound like most women are reporting that abortion has fundamentally improved their lives, but it's a sloppy and misleading data variable. In fact, when you really look at the data, most of the very same women who are reporting 'relief' are also reporting grief, shame, traumatic reactions, or other negative feelings."

"Thirty-five years ago, when the APA joined in the effort to legalize abortion, they were promising more than just 'relief,'" he added. "They were insisting that abortion would fundamentally improve women's mental and physical health by sparing them the burden of unwanted children. But 38 million abortions later, there is still not a single statistically-validated study that has shown that abortion has actually improved the lives of women who abort compared to those who carry to term."Instead, if you look at the data instead of consensus opinions, depression rates are up, not down, among women who have had abortions. Suicide and substance abuse are up, not down. Premature deliveries are up, not down. But instead of including this data in their statements on abortion, the APA's self-selected panels of abortion advocates continue to distract the media from the all hard evidence linking abortion to higher rates of suicide, substance abuse, depression and anxiety by promoting meaningless statistics about relief."

Reardon says he is thankful that Russo has finally helped to call attention to the fact that the APA's position on abortion is principally based on a commitment to defend abortion as a civil right. But this admission, he says, "should be weighed in light of criticisms against the trend toward 'consensus science' as a means of influencing politics. As one critic, best-selling author Dr. Michael Crichton, creator of Jurassic Park and ER, has succinctly observed: 'The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics.'"

Sources:

David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, and Elizabeth M. Ridder, "Abortion in young women andsubsequent mental health," Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(1): 16-24, 2006.

Warren Throckmorton, "Abortion and mental health," Washington Times, January 21, 2005.

David, H., " Retrospectives" From APA Task Force to Division 34," Population & Environmental Psychology Bulletin 1999, 25(3):2-3.

Comments:
Good grief -- could you be any more blatant Warren?

You are anti-abortion on religious grounds. That much we can all understand -- but this type of thing is undignified.

This is a puff piece from Elliot Institute about their own director. The Elliot Institute is an ANTI-abortion outfit, funded by god knows who. They are not a research institute. They were established with one goal in mind -- to make abortion illegal.

Reardon himself is an engineer (if I recall, electrical), and his Ph.D. (in ethics) was BOUGHT from Pacific Western University with that one goal in mind -- to make abortion illegal.

PWU itself is a notorious correspondence diploma mill in California. PWU is (or should be) well known to anyone in academic and business recruitment circles because it is occasionally used by fraudsters to inflate resumes with utterly unearned qualifications.

The piece also neglects to mention one salient bit of info -- Russo gutted Reardon in the BMJ (if I recall) in a follow-up to a paper that Reardon had submitted. Reardon had miscoded the data. Russo correctly coded it, and found something very different.

The comment from Fergusson about one of Russo's concerns (in your Washington Times piece) -- "It's true we did not take into account specifically whether a pregnancy was wanted or not. However, this limitation is not sufficient grounds for dismissing the results." -- is of further interest because (if I recall) it was one of the very factors that Russo specifically examined following Reardon's publication. She found to be significant.

Perhaps Fergusson is unaware, or this history between Reardon and Russo has slipped his mind.

In any case, nowhere -- other than Fergusson's telling and continued pro-choice position -- do I see any consideration for the outcome for all those women who have abortions if they were instead to be compelled to carry to term or seek out an illegal back-yard abortionist.

I was just yesterday reading through a UN report on Africa (where abortion is illegal in most countries). The results? 4 million abortions a year, and 40,000 dead women. Who knows how many others were physically or mentally damaged. Those are some mental health problems for you to get your teeth into -- and all due to the fact that abortion is illegal.

While you and Reardon may chose to deem it "a civil rights approach not based in scientific evidence" the APA stands on solid ground. The APA recommends a proper and informed decision. The APA does raise the issues that may affect some women. If heightened or additional concerns to be established, the APA would adopt them.

But the APA is also very clear that the best outcomes are arrived at by allowing women to make that informed decision. That some may later regret that decision, or even be distressed having made it, does not alter that basic and well-founded premise. It has nothing to do with the APA (let alone Russo) denying the evidence for some political end.

I again note your complete lack of irony regards the contrary positions you take on abortion and exgay therapists. But there's actually nothing ironic about it afterall, is there?

PS: at least the Fergusson study did have one fascinating finding. The mental health of teen girls who get pregnant and have a baby is on par with those who don’t get pregnant. I guess I won’t be seeing a piece from you at Abstinence Clearinghouse on that finding... :)
 
Good grief? Is your BP back to normal now?

I know nothing of his pedigree but I do know he has peer reviewed publications beyond the BMJ. I think the jury is out on the mis-coding issue.

Regarding the back-alley stuff, you know that the APA took the position it did before there was research.

But to be fair to Russo, if the evidence were all sweetness and light, it would not change religious opposition to abortion.

The point is that the APA is a scientific organization, not a religious one. Taking a position on abortion is to choose moral sides. I don't want them to say abortion should not be a civil right because some women are harmed by it - that would not be appropriate either. I just want them to stay out of defining what is psychologically sound public policy about political/moral matters.
 
I think the irony regarding ex-gay and abortion issues is that the evidence for harm in providing ex-gay therapy is actually minimal and of poor quality compared to the evidence for some harm from abortion. The APA should either issue an advisory regarding possible mental health consequences of abortion or they should drop their advisory regarding ex-gay therapy while they await more and better research.
 
I don't think the APA has taken a position on abortion per se. They certainly haven't taken a moral position. They have made statements on it, and advocated a pro-choice position (which is, of course, different to being pro-abortion).

They have taken a position on the mental health benefits that comes with people being able to determine their own intimate lives based on their needs and values. It's not specific to it, but that self-determination extends to abortion.

Regarding the back-alley outcome of making abortion illegal or difficult -- what study would you suggest the APA should have conducted before deciding abortions would best occur in proper medical facilities rather than some tin shed with a deregistered doctor (or worse)?

Do you need to study such things?

And perhaps you don't particularly care that someone would be so deceitful about academic qualifications, but I do. They say nothing about the quality of a research paper, but they say an awful lot about the quality of the individual.

Reardon has piggybacked on people with real qualifications. He's been promoted by people aligned with his views, but who should know better. And he's hence been actively sought to provide any anti-abortion viewpoint, you know -- for "balance".

But science isn't a democracy, and there's no jury to be out. Reardon is not accepted by the academic community, regardless of how appealing his campaign is to others.
 
the evidence for harm in providing ex-gay therapy is actually minimal and of poor quality

Ok -- roll back a few years when gay to straight therapy was heavily promoted and forced on people.

Do you imagine anyone doing it even cared that it caused harm?

None of the therapists cared. They never bothered to properly assess their current clients, let alone ones that had fled or cracked up. No, they blamed the client and moved onto another victim.

R.I.P. Rado, Hatterer, Socarides.

I'll make another suggestion: after you've got to know some gay couples -- and not just by email, or in passing -- ask them to direct you to a few of an older generation that took the brunt of that callous indifference by previous therapists. Ask those older men and women about harm, and publish what you find.

Actually just ask Jack Drescher.
 
I'm a few weeks late on this post, but would like to answer Grantdale's comment that "I don't think the APA has taken a position on abortion per se...They have taken a position on the mental health benefits that comes with people being able to determine their own intimate lives based on their needs and values. It's not specific to it, but that self-determination extends to abortion."

Actually, from 1987 through 1994, the APA did take a position, a medical one, though not on abortion's mental health benefits. They included induced abortion as one of the psychosocial stressors that can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the APA's DSM-III-R, a book that was the diagnostic tool for psychologists and psychiatrists nationwide for seven years.

You can get a used copy on Amazon, as I did.

Then when the DSM-IV came out, they simply had removed abortion from the book altogether, without a single research study or review of such studies to warrant doing so.

That just isn't how anything is entered or removed from that manual.

If you'd like to read extensive excerpts without having to buy your own copy, I wrote an article on this here:
http://afterabortion.blogspot.com/2004/05/you-might-recall-my-recent-comment.html
 
I'm a few weeks late on this post, but would like to answer Grantdale's comment that "I don't think the APA has taken a position on abortion per se...They have taken a position on the mental health benefits that comes with people being able to determine their own intimate lives based on their needs and values. It's not specific to it, but that self-determination extends to abortion."

Actually, from 1987 through 1994, the APA did take a position, a medical one, though not on abortion's mental health benefits. They included induced abortion as one of the psychosocial stressors that can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the APA's DSM-III-R, a book that was the diagnostic tool for psychologists and psychiatrists nationwide for seven years.

You can get a used copy on Amazon, as I did.

Then when the DSM-IV came out, they simply had removed abortion from the book altogether, without a single research study or review of such studies to warrant doing so.

That just isn't how anything is entered or removed from that manual.

If you'd like to read extensive excerpts without having to buy your own copy, I wrote an article on this here:
http://afterabortion.blogspot.com/2004/05/you-might-recall-my-recent-comment.html
 
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