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Friday, January 06, 2006

New Zealand study shows mental-health dangers after women have an abortion

Paul Gray

PERTH, Australia (CNS) -- Citing a lack of scientific research on abortion, a New Zealand medical team has published a new study highlighting mental health dangers for women who have an abortion.

The New Zealand study found that a young woman's risk of depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol abuse is raised by having an abortion.

"Abortion is the most common medical or surgical procedure young women undergo by far, and there are potential adverse reactions," said psychologist and epidemiologist David Fergusson of Christchurch University in New Zealand. "The aim of our research was never political. It was to say, 'The science in this area is not good. Let's add to it.'"

The study followed 1,265 children born in the 1970s. The research showed that 41 percent of more than 500 women remaining in the study had become pregnant by age 25, and 14.5 percent of those remaining had sought an abortion.

By age 25, it said, 42 percent of the women who had an abortion had experienced major depression in the previous four years; this was almost double the rate of those who had never been pregnant and 35 percent higher than those who had continued their pregnancies.

The study was published in early January in The Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, a widely recognized British academic publication. The study suggested that abortion increases psychological distress rather than alleviate it.

Fergusson described himself as "an atheist, a rationalist and pro-choice." He told the Sydney Morning Herald he anticipated that the results would produce cheering from pro-lifers and criticism from those who favor abortion.

In a radio interview, Fergusson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that other medical researchers had described his team as foolhardy for undertaking a project in this area. He said this was because "everybody knows that if you do research in this area, one side or the other is going to turn upon you because your results don't support them."

He also said his team had experienced "a certain amount of difficulty" in getting the results published.

"Journals we would normally have expected to publish them just declined the papers," he said. "I think it's because the debate is so very hot."

  • Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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