- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2008

During the Democratic primaries and caucuses, Barack Obama said he hoped to find common ground with the pro-life movement in order to reduce the number of abortions. But the issue has not been raised much since then. And yet, there is much common ground which can be found.

An Oct. 9 panel discussion held at the Family Research Center titled “Post-Abortion Mental Health Effect, Awareness, and Politics” provides valuable information. It is well-known that when a woman is pregnant, she has three choices: keep the baby, make an adoption plan, or have an abortion. What is not fully known, however, is that each of these choices has long-term effects for both the parents. An abortion, much like the other two options, is not consequence-free.

A growing body of evidence indicates that women who have an abortion experience adverse psychological effects.

The research reveals that 20 percent to 30 percent of women experience prolonged post-abortion reactions. There are 1.3 million abortions conducted annually in the United States, which means that there is a minimum of 260,000 new cases of mental health problems that emerge every year as a result. Abortion significantly increases risk for depression, anxiety disorders, sleep problems, suicide ideation, suicide and substance abuse. Abortion carries greater mental health risks than unintended pregnancies that are carried to term.

Nonetheless, despite the growing body of such studies - conducted both in America and around the world - the pro-choice movement is still in denial that there is a mental health impact. In fact, the American Psychological Association concludes that the “risk of psychological harm is low.”

David Reardon from the Elliott Institute debunks the widespread assumption that abortion is safe.

Many in the scientific community insist that there is no proof of a causal relationship between abortion and mental health problems. But, in Mr. Reardon’s view, this runs contrary to even the testimonies of women who have had abortions and who insist that their subsequent disorders are a result of the stress, trauma and grief they experienced from the procedure. According to an automated national telephone poll conducted Feb. 4-5 of 626 respondents, 85 percent of adults said they believe negative emotional problems after an abortion are common to very common, 71 percent stated that more research into this is needed and 70 percent said that abortion doctors should screen women for risk factors that identify women who are more likely to experience emotional disturbances after an abortion.

Thus, the dialogue on abortion can benefit from a fresh perspective: The discussion should not be centered solely on whether girls and women should be permitted to have an abortion. Women must fully grasp that abortion actually comes with mental-health consequences.