Posts tagged mythbusting
Posts tagged mythbusting
I watched Fox News today (yes, I hate myself) and listened to commentators defending various radically restrictive anti-abortion laws, including Texas’ new law. The biggest line of defense seems to be, “Well, we just want women to have all the information. We want to make sure they have the right…
A study in Finland from 1997 says that women are much more likely to die in the year after an abortion then women who carry the child. The same woman who is not pregnant would take more risks then if she was pregnant. Pregnant women were half as likely to commit suicide then non-pregnant women. Miscarriages were 1.4 more likely then non-pregnant with abortion being almost 4 times more likely to commit suicide.
Between 2 and 3 % of all women who have an abortion have their uterus perforated. This risk greatly increases for women with previous abortions or child births. This can cause problems in a later pregnancy if it is not seen and treated.
Hmmm… citation needed for the above “facts” — so I’ll provide some mythbusting. First, mental health:
The relationship between abortion and mental health is a highly contested issue. Some have claimed that a (presumed) negative relationship between abortion and mental health is a reason to make abortion less accessible. This argument is based on the reasoning that if abortion and a mental health problem (e.g., substance abuse) are related, then reducing access to abortion would reduce the prevalence of that problem. We would like to caution the reader against falling prey to this example of the “interventionist fallacy.” The interventionist fallacy results from the belief that if a relationship is currently observed between two variables, the form or magnitude of the relationship will remain unchanged if an intervention is instituted—for instance if the availability of abortion were to be dramatically reduced. As applied to the case of abortion, this reasoning (that if the number of abortions were to decrease, then there would be a proportional decrease in mental health problems) is ﬂawed.
One consequence of such an intervention would be that the characteristics of the population of women who delivered children would change. Characteristics previously more prevalent among women who have abortions (e.g., greater poverty, problem behaviors, exposure to violence) would now be more prevalent among women who deliver. Note that this potential change in the proﬁle of women giving birth may include new mental health problems that might develop from stresses associated with raising a child a woman feels unable to care for or may not want or from relinquishing a child for adoption. Thus, reducing access to abortion could result in poorer mental health among the population of women who deliver. Hence, rather than reducing the prevalence of mental health problems among women, this intervention could potentially increase it.
This is taken from the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion (2008). The task force reviewed every single study regarding the mental health claim from peer-reviewed journals — including the 1997 Finnish study you neglect to cite. Here’s their full report. I’ll give the key findings from the task force:
The relative risk of mental health problems among adult women who have a single, legal, ﬁrst-trimester abortion of an unwanted pregnancy for nontherapeutic reasons is no greater than the risk among women who deliver an unwanted pregnancy. This conclusion is generally consistent with that reached by the ﬁrst APA task force on mental health and abortion (Adler et al., 1990), as well as with a recent review of the literature by Charles, Polis, Sridhara, and Blum (2008).
The relative risk of mental health problems among women who terminate a wanted pregnancy because of fetal abnormality appears to be similar to (and no greater than) that of women who miscarry a wanted pregnancy or experience a stillbirth or the death of a newborn.
The claim that observed associations between abortion history and a mental health problem are caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors, is not supported by the existing evidence. Unwanted pregnancy and abortion are correlated with preexisting and co-occurring conditions, life circumstances, problem behaviors, and personality characteristics that can have profound and long-lasting negative effects on mental health irrespective of how a pregnancy is resolved.
The majority of adult women who terminate a pregnancy do not experience mental health problems. Across studies, the prevalence of disorders among women who terminated a pregnancy was low, and most women reported being satisﬁed with their decision to abort both one month and two years postabortion (Major et al., 2000). Though most adult women do not have mental health problems following an abortion of an unwanted pregnancy, we do not mean to imply that no women experience such problems. Some women do. Abortion is an experience often hallmarked by ambivalence, and a mix of positive and negative emotions is to be expected (Adler et al., 1990; Dagg, 1991). Some women feel conﬁdent they made the right choice and feel no regret; others experience sadness, grief, guilt, and feelings of loss following the elective termination of a pregnancy. It is important that all women’s experiences be recognized as valid and that women feel free to express their thoughts and feelings about their abortion regardless of whether those thoughts and feelings are positive or negative.
And you’re right. Women who are pregnant typically take less risks than women who aren’t pregnant. I have never seen a pregnant woman skydive. So should we all get knocked up to mitigate risk? But Ddd you know that a woman’s leading cause of death rises from accidental injury to homicide if she’s pregnant — particularly if she’s young? So should women never get pregnant? It puts you at a higher risk of being murdered…
This is the correlation = causation fallacy. The homicide rate rises in the summer. So does consumption of ice cream. Therefore, ice cream causes an increase in homicide.
As for the uterine perforation risk, fewer than 0.05% - 0.3% of procedures result in complications like perforation. Further, abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries (See pp.11-22 or numerous medical journal citations).
Guess what? Thirty-four percent of women in the US experience a uterine perforation large enough to pull a baby through. This procedure, otherwise known as a C-section, carries a much higher rate of complication. According to Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, “27% of all c-sections will have some kind of complication and 10.4% of women will have a serious complication. An elective c-section (typically meaning a healthy mom in a controlled situation) has the lowest risk of complications, but that risk is still 7.1%.”
Do I need to discuss the complications with unsafe abortion?