- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Women who abort their first accidental pregnancy are likely to abuse substances, a new study says.

The report, published this month in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, is the latest of more than 20 studies linking abortion to substance abuse.

However, this study differed from others because it was the first to directly compare substance abuse in women who terminated their first unintended pregnancy to abuse in women who carried such pregnancies through.

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“The rate of substance abuse tends to be related to how the unintended pregnancy is dealt with,” Dr. James Reardon, co-author of the report said.

The higher levels of abuse might be linked to higher levels of anxiety, grief and depression, which have been found in women with a history of abortion through previous studies.

Information used in the report was gathered from 1979 to 1988 through the National Longitude Survey of Youth. Out of this collection, 749 women with unintended first pregnancies and 1,144 women who had not been pregnant fit the criteria and were used in the study.

The study examined woman who had no history of substance abuse prior to their first accidental pregnancy. It found that the rate of marijuana abuse was 7.9 percent among women who didn’t abort the pregnancy, and 18.6 percent among woman who did. It also found a 5 percent cocaine-usage rate among those who had abortions, compared with 2 percent of those who hadn’t.

Differences in alcohol use were also noted, with 8.4 percent of those who had abortions saying they thought they were becoming alcoholics, compared with a rate of 4.5 percent among those who carried the pregnancy to term.

Abortion’s psychological damages are so serious, report co-author James Cougle says, that women considering abortion should be warned of them prior to the procedure.

“This is obviously relevant information to give when considering options in the face of an unplanned pregnancy,” Mr. Cougle said. “I know that some women can be ambivalent about the decision when coming in at first for an abortion, so learning about different risk factors which would make them more vulnerable to negative emotional consequences is important.”

Olivia Gans, director of American Victims of Abortion, agreed.

“The work that Dr. Reardon … has done … is definitely a positive advancement for the lives and safety of woman where abortion is concerned,” Ms. Gans said.

None of the pro-choice groups — Republican Majority for Choice, the National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-Choice America — returned calls for comment.

The report suggests that once the medical world is aware of the connections between abortion and substance abuse, it will be better able to assist patients.

“Clinicians who are alert to a patient’s history of pregnancy loss may be better able to identify women who would benefit from a referral for counseling,” the report says.

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