Major, B., Appelbaum, M., Beckman, L., Dutton, M.A., Russo, N. F., & West, C. (2009). Abortion and mental health: Evaluating the evidence. American Psychologist, 9, 863-890.What they found was this:
"The most rigorous studies indicated that within the United States, the relative risk of mental health problems among adult women who have a single, legal, first-trimester abortion of an unwanted pregnancy is no greater than the risk among women who deliver an unwanted pregnancy. . . Most adult women who terminate a pregnancy do not experience mental health problems." (p. 863)Some history:
- 1989. After two years' study, then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop informed then-President Ronald Reagan that there was no data to support the idea that abortion either was or was not psychologically harmful to women. That same year he testified to Congress that all available data indicated that abortion was physically no more dangerous than carrying a fetus to full term.
- 1990. An American Psychological Assocation (APA) panel of experts concluded after a thorough review of the literature that women cope with abortion just about the way they cope with any other life stress.
- 2008. An APA task force reported that the relative
risks are no greater than the risks of delivering an unplanned
The authors of the current article reviewed a whopping 58 papers from five countries published over the course of the last two decades and concluded that
- as stated above, the risk of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term and the risk of a legal abortion are about the same
- termination of a wanted pregnancy because of either the mother's or the fetus's health poses no more risk than if that pregnancy were to end in stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death
- any mental health problems that do occur in individual women following an abortion are not caused by the abortion itself. Rather, both abortions and unwanted pregnancies co-occur with pre-existing social, financial, personality, and behavioral problems (e.g., addiction) that can result in mental health issues "irrespective of how a pregnancy is resolved" (p. 885)
- most women do not regret the decision to terminate.