New Study Finds Abortion Does Not Cause Mental Health Problems Among Adolescents

Teens who have abortions are no more likely to become depressed or have low self-esteem than their peers whose pregnancies do not end in abortion, according to "Do Depression and Low Self-Esteem Follow Abortion Among Adolescents? Evidence from a National Study," by Jocelyn T. Warren of Oregon State University et al., which is available online and will appear in the December issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The study found that the factors most closely linked with depression and low self-esteem after abortion are having experienced those problems in the past.

A 2008 study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found no evidence that induced abortion causes mental health problems in adult women, but because of a scarcity of evidence on teens, no conclusions were drawn at that time about the impact on adolescents. The new study is the first to look at depression and low self-esteem as potential outcomes of abortion among a nationally representative group of teens, and the results are consistent with the findings of the earlier APA report—induced abortion does not cause mental health problems in adolescent women.

While 34 states currently require that women receive counseling before an abortion is performed, seven of these states specifically require that women be warned of possible negative psychological consequences resulting from the procedure. "Paradoxically," the authors of the new study suggest, "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."

The study is based on data from the 289 respondents to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health who reported at least one pregnancy between the survey’s first two waves, 69 of whom reported an induced abortion.

The article is currently available online and will appear in the December 2010 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

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