Abortion does not cause mental illness

From Science Sounds:

A recent article in the New York Times reported results from an APA study that concluded that abortion does not cause mental illness. The full title of the article is “Abortion Does Not Cause Mental Illness, Panel Says.” Maybe I am being paranoid, but somehow that title calls the results into question (as in, “a panel claims this, but we’re still not sure”). However, in the brief summary, the author points out that these results are the same as results from a large scale review of evidence in 1990. So, why are we continuing to ask this question? Is it because conservative forces are hoping that we’ll find something that gives credence to the idea that women shouldn’t have control over their own bodies? Given that this finding has been replicated in two large studies now, for my money, I’d rather invest in exploring mental health consequences of issues that have less to do with partisan politics and more to do with actual risk.


2 thoughts on “Abortion does not cause mental illness

  1. Hey there Em,
    While I agree that the money is probably better spent elsewhere, I think that there are a host of people who need to hear this stuff, and at least a small portion of them reads the NYT.
    Besides, if all it would take was 2 studies for anti-abortion standbys to stop using the scare tactic of “You will become depressed if you decide to have an abortion,” I say let the panels convene.
    Unfortunately, It’s going to take a whole lot more work to reveal all of this and it probably still won’t resolve any of the political issues.
    Anyway, no depression-abortion connection sounds like good news to me…

  2. Hey Adi,
    I completely agree that the work is worth doing initially, but my reaction was more to the tone of the NYT article which seemed to suggest that the results are not yet believable. I am all for strong methods and replication, but my read of the coverage was that despite two large reviews by big scientific bodies, the author was still not convinced, whereas if there had even been even a suggestion in the other direction, my sense is that people would freak out.

    Furthermore, consider the paradoxical effect that sometimes processing information has the opposite effect than what is intended. So, if I give present some information framed in the negative (“John is not a murderer”; “Abortion does not cause mental illness”) under certain reading conditions (like when people aren’t devoting full attention), the reader might keep the association but lose the negation (“Maybe John is a murder”; “I seem to remember some connection between abortion and mental illness”)? Check out Houston and Wegner (1993) for examples of when people do or don’t take the real meaning from a message, and Wegner (1994) for some other interesting, ironic effects when trying to exert mental control.

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