In a study conducted by Jocelyn T. Warren of Oregon State University et al., young women who have abortions are no more likely than teenagers who do not end their pregnancies to have low self-esteem or become depressed during their pregnancy or five years later. This study is available online (PDF) and will also be in the December issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. This nationwide study is the first to examine the potential outcome of depression and low self-esteem in a representative sample of teens who have induced abortions.
It is based on data from 289 respondents to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health who reported at least one pregnancy between the survey’s two waves. Of those 289 individuals, 69 reported an induced abortion.
A prior study conducted in 2008 by the American Psychological Association focused on the effects of abortion on adult women and found that induced abortion did not cause mental health problems. However, the study was unable to conclude whether or not induced abortions caused mental health problems in adolescents because of the scarcity of the evidence.
Currently, 34 states (PDF) require women receive counseling before an abortion is performed. Seven states require women be warned of the possible negative psychological consequences resulting from induced abortions. The authors of the study suggest possible harm resulting from a counseling requirement:
Paradoxically laws mandating that women considering abortion be advised of its psychological risks may jeopardize women’s health by adding unnecessary anxiety and undermining women’s right to informed consent.
Now that the supposed mental health risks of having an abortion have been debunked for women and teenagers, states should act to lift any requirements of sharing inaccurate information before obtaining abortion care.