Sunday, December 02, 2007

A little public health - part 2

In my last public health post, I talked about the fallacy that abortion increases a woman's chance of getting breast cancer. This time, I want to talk about the fallacy that all women, or most women, who have an abortion, later regret their decision.

Now, I'm sure that some women who have abortions do regret their decision. (I'm also sure that some women who have kids regret their decision, but that's a post for another day....)

But if you look on the Internet, searching Google on, say "abortion + regret", you will see a LOT of misinformation on this topic. This
enrages me. The Internet is a great place, but for certain topics, it's much easier to find misinformation than correct information. And abortion is one of these topics.

So let's take a look at what the Internet has to say about abortion and regret, shall we? Here are the Google search results:

1.
Takes us to Abortion and the Regrets: It reads: "This page contains stories from women who have had an abortion, regretted the decision, and requested that their story be posted on this web site. The purpose of this page is to show that women are not always informed properly and that abortion is not necessarily the best the solution. "

2.
Takes us to The Silent No More Awareness Campaign. It reads:

Welcome to the Silent No More Awareness Campaign website...Silent No More Awareness is a Campaign whereby Christians make the public aware of the devastation abortion brings to women and men. The campaign seeks to expose and heal the secrecy and silence surrounding the emotional and physical pain of abortion.

3. Takes us to After Abortion.com

So you've had an abortion... Think you're alone? Think again. By age 45, 1 out of every 2.5 women in the United States has had at least one abortion!Who are these women? They are single women, married women and divorced women. They are your sisters, your cousins, your aunts, your mothers, your neighbors, your co-workers, your schoolmates, they are women you see every day when you go out into the world...So with all these women undergoing this common medical procedure, why isn't there more support for women after an abortion, to discuss their experience? Why so few support groups to talk about your physical and emotional issues afterwards? The fear of political or religious backlash, and the fear of negative reactions from friends or family keeps most women from discussing anything they feel after their abortion. This website provides a neutral, non-political, non-religion based, non-judgmental place for women to communicate with each other after an abortion.

4. Takes us to "HolyWeb.com" which gives us some information on the stages of grief as well as some
religious advice

5. Takes us to SteadyHealth.com which informs us that "research" shows that abortion regrets last for years

This is just a sample of what you find on the Internet. Of the 5 sites that I found chronologically on Google, only one of them (#3) is anywhere near useful. I find this not only infuriating, but scary. People rely on the Internet for information, and on this topic (and many others, I imagine), real information is scarce.

After taking a look in PubMed, which, as I explained before, is a place to find peer-reviewed research, I was surprised to find research articles about both miscarriage and abortion when I did a search of "abortion." In PubMed, miscarriage is "spontaneous abortion" and abortion is "induced abortion." (As a side comment, there are quite a number of studies showing the adverse psychological effects of miscarriages, which are far more common than abortion... but that is also a topic for another day.)

In any event, I found an article that seemed useful. It is from the Journal of Advanced Nursing from 2000. This article is entitled "Psychological responses of women after first-trimester abortion." Here is the abstract:

BACKGROUND: Controversy exists over psychological risks associated with abortion. The objectives of this study were to examine women's emotions, evaluations, and mental health after an abortion, as well as changes over time in these responses and their predictors. METHODS: Women arriving at 1 of 3 sites for an abortion of a first-trimester unintended pregnancy were randomly approached to participate in a longitudinal study with 4 assessments-1 hour before the abortion, and 1 hour, 1 month, and 2 years after the abortion. Eight hundred eighty-two (85%) of 1043 eligible women approached agreed; 442 (50%) of 882 were followed for 2 years. Preabortion and postabortion depression and self-esteem, postabortion emotions, decision satisfaction, perceived harm and benefit, and posttraumatic stress disorder were assessed. Demographic variables and prior mental health were examined as predictors of postabortion psychological responses. RESULTS: Two years postabortion, 301 (72%) of 418 women were satisfied with their decision; 306 (69%) of 441 said they would have the abortion again; 315 (72%) of 440 reported more benefit than harm from their abortion; and 308 (80%) of 386 were not depressed. Six (1%) of 442 reported posttraumatic stress disorder. Depression decreased and self-esteem increased from preabortion to postabortion, but negative emotions increased and decision satisfaction decreased over time. Prepregnancy history of depression was a risk factor for depression, lower self-esteem, and more negative abortion-specific outcomes 2 years postabortion. Younger age and having more children preabortion also predicted more negative abortion evaluations. CONCLUSIONS: Most women do not experience psychological problems or regret their abortion 2 years postabortion, but some do. Those who do tend to be women with a prior history of depression.

So these researchers followed a fairly large group of women from the time before they had an abortion to 2 years after the abortion. What they found is that MOST of the women were satisfied with their decision, and MOST of them said that they would have the abortion again (I assume this means that they don't regret their decision). Most of them felt that there was more benefit than harm from their abortion, and most were not depressed.

The researchers did find that some women did experience depression, and a small number had posttraumatic stress disorder, which is not unreasonable. They conclude that most women do not have psychological problems, but some women, especially those with a prior history of depression, do have some problems.

These findings make sense to me. The bottom line is: some women do regret their abortion decision; most women don't. Some women do experience depression and other psychological impacts after their abortion; most women don't. What drives me crazy is all the misinformation on the Internet that says that MOST women have regrets, MOST women have psychological problems, etc. I'm not sure what the solution is, but I certainly hope that women looking for good advice in this area don't turn to the Internet for it.

A late addition to this post: some interesting info on this topic from ReligiousTolerance.org

2 comments:

nachtwache said...

Ok, you're subscribed.
You've really been looking into this. There is lots written on the web, I guess it also comes down to ones personal stand on it. I'm definitely not neutral, for me it's a moral issue. I can see you're very passionate about this and I agree that honesty about facts is important, it's certainly immoral if people lie to make their case. I can agree to disagree, it is something that comes down to a very personal decision. I'm lucky I've never had to make that choice and I'd never judge someone who has. It would be agonizingly hard.

Mr Lady said...

Wow. I'm right there with you on this one. In my experience, i have found that those people who feel badly about their choice are the people that are MADE to feel badly about their choice, mainly those from seriously Christian or right-winged families.

I have had two, and though that's not something I sing from the rafters, I am very thankful that at those points in my life, I had the choice to make.