One stark, inescapable conclusion of life as a doctor is that abortion hurts. It may not be a widely publicised conclusion – after all, even pro-lifers grant that abortion is intensely personal. But that is no reason to stay quiet. If anything, the intensity and emotional involvement of a decision to terminate a pregnancy calls for urgent attention towards those hurting from it.
It has long been known by those in the pro-life movement – and, all too painfully, by those who have had terminated pregnancies – that abortion hurts not only the unborn but also the mothers involved. The facts of foetal life are now well known, and many mothers terminate pregnancies only out of desperation, or because of cultural or domestic pressure. The significance of the decision is well known to those women suffering from it: it is hidden only by an industry and ideology dependent on keeping it obscure.
What has long been known is now being codified. In past generations, mental health has been a manipulable political tool. Diagnoses were vague, the academic detail was sketchy and the entire field – including doctors and patients – was plagued with a stigma that stifled meaningful discourse. Indeed, it is precisely the handwaving attitude towards psychiatry that has led to the current situation: what was initially a clause limiting termination of pregnancy to cases where continuing the pregnancy presented a risk to the mental health of the mother led to, effectively, abortion on demand. The lack of resources and willingness to judge genuine mental health risk and outcomes liberalised abortion policy so completely that simply seeking a termination is now considered good evidence of such a risk.
So it troubles me – not least as a doctor – that with all the advances of modern medical science, our abortion policy is still stuck in the dark ages of psychiatry.
If “mental health” can mean anything we want it to, then it means precisely nothing.
We now have compelling evidence that abortion is not associated with any decreased risk of mental health disorders. This is not even controversial: the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states quite plainly: “Women with an unintended pregnancy should be informed that the evidence suggests that they are no more or less likely to suffer adverse psychological sequelae [conditions] whether they have an abortion or continue with the pregnancy and have the baby.” Comprehensive reviews in the literature say the same. And I have not found any reputable body saying otherwise.
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