December 15, 2016

Study: Having an abortion doesn't raise risk of mental illness – nor does being denied one

A new study suggests that having or being denied an abortion may have little lasting effect on women's mental health.

For the study, published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers followed nearly 1,000 women for five years. Throughout those years, the researchers interviewed the women semiannually, starting about one week after they first sought the procedure. Some of the women received an abortion; others were turned away (some of those women went on to receive an abortion elsewhere; others gave birth).

What they found was that the women in the study didn't experience long-term increases in mental health issues, regardless of whether or not they had the abortion. 

The New York Times interviewed the author of the study, social psychologist M. Antonia Biggs, who noted that its findings may be counterintuitive to what people may think. 

Some people “would expect the women who have an abortion to have increasing depression and anxiety over time, but instead, we don’t see that,” Biggs told The New York Times.

At the same time, the study found that the women who sought an abortion but were denied the procedure didn't have lasting negative mental health issues.

About six months after being turned away, the overall study participants were similarly unaffected in terms of their mental health.