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As Ireland Considers Repeal of Abortion Ban: Consider Women’s Health

One of the main talking points conservatives and liberals have been fighting over for years, if not decades, is how abortion affects women’s health. For all its controversy, both sides essentially agree abortion ends the life of a baby--or a “fetus” as the left likes to say--but what about mom?

A 2011 study shows something that conservatives have argued for decades: Abortion is “tied to a sharp decline in women’s mental health.” This completely undermines one of the left’s main talking points, which is that abortion hardly affects the mother's health at all and thus it’s the lesser of two evils. Both women in the U.S. and Irish citizens, specifically as they vote on the referendum to repeal their 35-year-old abortion ban, would do well to remember this when advocating abortion solely for “women's rights” as a woman’s choice.

Study links abortion and psychological problems

For decades, conservatives have argued abortion doesn’t just hurt babies but women too--but to be honest, that was hard to prove. While some studies indicated it would cause depression or increase anxiety, until recently it was difficult to link abortion with mental damage. About a decade ago, the American Psychiatric Association tried to look at the link between abortion and mental health and although it was obvious women experience grief, depression, and anxiety following an abortion, they couldn’t find a direct link. Dr. Brenda Major, the chair of that task force, said in a written statement in 2008, "The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion or deliver that pregnancy."

However, this study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, and a few others published in the last twelve months debunk that myth. This particular body of research is quite provocative because the authors analyzed such a large amount of data--877,000 women, including 164,000 who had an abortion--and found women who had an abortion experienced an 81 percent increased risk for mental problems. The authors observed the "results indicate quite consistently that abortion is associated with moderate to highly increased risks of psychological problems subsequent to the procedure.”

CBS reported, “Women who had an abortion were 34 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, 37 percent more likely to experience depression, 110 percent more likely to abuse alcohol, 155 percent more likely to commit suicide, and 220 percent more likely to use marijuana.”

Study contradicts status quo abortion messaging

This data, which confirms what conservatives have long-argued and what liberals have repeatedly denied, also directly contradicts the message of standard abortion propaganda, both here (#ShoutYourAbortion, anyone?) and abroad (“Repeal the 8th,” the tagline for Ireland’s referendum to repeal their abortion ban). Signs plastered all over the Republic of Ireland right now are enveloped in a pink heart and look happy, if not romantic and sweet. The message is the polar opposite of suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety and drug abuse, indicating either blatant dishonesty or ignorance.

This information should be shared

One of the hallmarks of the abortion lobby is their ability to conceal or redirect pertinent information. Not only will Planned Parenthood ignore this study, but it will instead come up with a messaging campaign to deflect from the horrors of what abortion causes for the women who choose it. The same thing has happened in Ireland. There’s been no actual public debate about a phenomenon in Ireland that is not yet a normal, “on demand” occurrence. Imagine that. In fact, when Minister of Health Simon Harris has discussed abortion, he’s only done so in a manner that evokes sympathy for the women who had to leave Ireland to get an abortion. It would be far more damaging to reference a study like this, showing how women will suffer emotionally, mentally, and psychologically as a result of having an abortion, rather than bemoan travel costs of an abortion ban. Yet that is precisely why this information will remain cloaked or be dismissed altogether.

Still, experts--not just pro-life advocates--are now starting to say a study as explosive as this one needs to be shared. Dr. Priscilla Coleman, professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University, told the Daily Telegraph, "There are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counseled prior to an abortion.” Perhaps the people of Ireland would do well remember not just the sanctity of the unborn as they vote on their referendum, but the mental health of Irish women, too.