By Brenda Major
Sunday, November 7, 2010
The latest war on abortion is being fought less over women's bodies than over their minds. In the past few years, under the banner of "a woman's right to know," a number of states have passed laws mandating that women seeking abortions be told that going ahead with the procedure would expose them to mental health risks, including post-traumatic stress and a greater danger of suicide.
Such warnings might sound like a good idea. The decision to terminate a pregnancy can be difficult, and some women end up regretting it. It's commendable to help women make an informed choice. But an informed choice requires accurate information. And these laws mandate that women be misled.
Rigorous U.S. scientific studies have not substantiated the claim that abortion, compared with its alternatives, causes an increased incidence of mental health problems. The same conclusion was reached in 2008 by an American Psychological Association task force, which I chaired, as well as by an independent team of scholars at Johns Hopkins University. As recently as September, Oregon State University researchers announced the results of a national study showing that teenagers who have an abortion are no more likely to become depressed or to have low self-esteem one year or five years later, compared with their peers who deliver.