An authoritative new study from researchers in Denmark, noteworthy for its exceptionally strong methodology, confirms what the best scientific evidence has long shown—that there is no causal link between abortion and mental health problems. The new study, "Induced First-Trimester Abortion and Risk of Mental Disorder," by Trine Munk-Olsen and colleagues, was published in the January 27, 2011, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.The piece notes that this study "succeeds in addressing several critical limitations that have afflicted some other studies that purport to show causation between abortion and subsequent mental health problems" and is "unusually rigorous for this type of research," having used a very large sample size (84,620 women) over 12 years, integrated complete patient medical registries with self-reporting, and had "strong controls for women’s mental health prior to abortion, a critical factor that many other studies do not control for sufficiently, if at all."
These distinctions are critical, because many of the studies (for example) cited as evidence of a causal link between abortion and mental illness are deeply methodologically flawed.
Not all studies on the mental health impact of abortion are created equal. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, methodological flaws are "pervasive in the literature on abortion and mental health." Antiabortion activists often attempt to capitalize on the fact that the public and many policymakers cannot distinguish between studies that allow legitimate conclusions to be drawn about the effects of abortion and those that show only associations between abortion and mental health outcomes.Snicker. *fist-bumps the Guttmacher Institute*
Antiabortion activists have relied on questionable science in their efforts to push inclusion of the concept of "postabortion syndrome" in both clinical practice and law. This latest study strongly confirms the existing body of methodologically sound evidence in clearly refuting the idea that abortion causes harm to women's mental health. The body of evidence is now so robust that researchers should consider shifting their focus to related issues that might be more valuable to explore, such as the factors that cause women to experience mental health problems in the first place.