Oft-Cited Study Linking Mental Health Problems to Abortion Debunked

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lanier67/5533216942/sizes/m/in/photostream/">lanier67</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The latest issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research includes a scathing critique of a 2009 study it published linking abortion to a variety of mental health problems. Via the New York Times blog Motherlode, the article states that the data the authors of the study relied on doesn’t actually support their “assertions that abortions led to psychopathology.”

That 2009 study linked conditions like panic disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, agoraphobia, bipolar disorder, mania, major depression, and alcohol and drug abuse to women who have had abortions. The paper, from lead author Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, has been touted by anti-abortion groups and deployed to support state laws requiring doctors to warn women of potential health problems before they can have an abortion in places like South Dakota.

But the results just don’t hold up, according to a critique from Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, and Lawrence Finer, the director of domestic research with the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights group. For one thing, they report, the paper failed to factor in whether the women included in the study had exhibited those mental health problems before having an abortion. Steinberg and Finer reevaluated the data Coleman and her colleagues relied on and found that the conclusions in the paper were not supported by the data. “These deficiencies are fundamental analytical errors that were incorrectly presented in the original paper,” they write, “… not a scholarly difference of opinion.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate