Researchers compared mental health outcomes for women who had been granted abortions and those who had been denied it due to the baby’s gestational age. It found that those who seek abortions have similar mental health outcomes whether they are granted the abortion or denied it for reasons of law or policy beyond their control.
Abortion proponents have been telling us for years the damage it would do to women if abortion were made illegal. Now a major gold-standard study has shown that argument to be fatally flawed. In a bizarre twist, however, The New York Times has reported on the research as if it favored the pro-abortion position.
The Times article, written by Pam Belluck, carries the headline “Abortion Is Found To Have Little Effect On Women’s Mental Health.”
Science journalism can be tricky. Sometimes it’s embarrassingly oversimplified, sometimes it’s distorted, especially on topics with potential political implications. It’s always important to consult the original source.
What It Says
Here’s what the actual research report says: Researchers compared mental health outcomes for women who had been granted abortions and those who had been denied it due to the baby’s gestational age. It found that those who seek abortions have similar mental health outcomes whether they are granted the abortion or denied it for reasons of law or policy beyond their control.
What It Tries To Say
But the Times tries to extend its findings far beyond that. For example:
Some states require women seeking abortions to be counseled that they might develop mental health problems. Now a new study, considered to be the most rigorous to look at the question in the United States, undermines that claim.
Is that true? No, because of what isn’t said in either the Times article or the original research.
What It Doesn’t Say
The research report says nothing about the effects of counseling women before abortion. All of the study participants had visited abortion clinics seeking the procedure. Some of them were allowed to abort, others were denied; none were actually persuaded not to have the abortion.
In other words, the study is completely silent on the mental health effects of deciding not to have an abortion, whether that’s because they know it is wrong, or they’re persuaded by family members not to have it, or even if there’s no facility nearby where they might hope to obtain an abortion.
So there’s nothing in this study that measures the effect of moral persuasion.
What It Says Again
If a woman chooses abortion but is coerced out of it against her will, her long-term mental health is likely to be the same as if she were allowed it.