A new study published in July of 2016 confirms that abortion is consistently associated with increased risk of mental health disorders and substance abuse in late adolescence and early adulthood. Dr. D. Paul Sullins of the Catholic University of America released the results of an analysis conducted on data collected from 8,005 women in the United States who were followed over the course of thirteen years. The article was published in Sage Open Medicine, a peer-reviewed open-access journal, and can be accessed for free here.
Abortion activists have repeatedly denounced attempts to link abortion with any adverse events. In medical schools across the country, students are taught that there are no long-term consequences of abortion, and that abortion is a safe procedure. However, these statements are misleading at best. One of the major problems with abortion statistics in the United States is that each state sets its own reporting laws, which means that some states, like California for instance, don’t require any public reporting of abortion statistics. So for starters, we don’t know what we don’t know. Additionally, of the states that do report abortion statistics to the CDC, not all of those states report the same amount of information. Furthermore, the private pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute has consistently reported much higher (as much as 30% higher) abortion rates than those listed in the CDC reports, which calls into question the reliability of state reporting. Another major issue is that only 16 states require reporting information on abortion complications, and only 8 of these states actually publish abortion complications in their public abortion reports. Only 4 states inquire about maternal mortality post-abortion, and only one state inquires about any follow-up care provided to post-abortive mothers.
If your head is spinning with these numbers, that’s understandable, because the conclusion is that it’s shockingly difficult to get any straight answers on nationwide abortion statistics. Why are we being taught that there are no long-term consequences of abortion if we don’t have reliable reporting systems with which to track this information?
Here’s what you need to know about the Sullins study:
- The Sullins study followed 8,005 women and tracked them across three average age time points: age 15, age 22, and age 28. All 8,005 of these women were examined at all three time points (the initial study had about a 20% dropout rate, but Sullins only included the women who completed all of the evaluations).
- These data were from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (ADD Health), which was funded by 18 federal agencies and was initiated in 1994 with the intent of being “the largest and most extensive study of the health-related behaviors of U.S. adolescents during the transition to adulthood.”
- Extensive adjustments for possible confounding variables were made, including adjustments for age, race, region of origin, childhood family conditions, socioeconomic status, educational status of participant and of participant’s parents, history of abuse, and preexisting mental health conditions.
- It’s not the first longitudinal study to conclude that there’s a significant link between abortion and mental health disorders. Two examples of similar studies were Fergusson and colleagues’ New Zealand study (link) and Pedersen’s Norway study (link), both of which followed cohorts of women from adolescence into their late 20s. Both of those studies also concluded that there was a clear connection between abortion and “affective and addictive disorders, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and abuse of marijuana, alcohol, or other illicit drugs.”
- The conclusions of the Sullins study are that even after adjusting for over twenty demographic variables and covariates, there is still a clear, significantly increased relative risk of mental health disorders for women who have abortions.
- Importantly, the Sullins study compares across all pregnancy outcomes too (abortion, live birth, or unintended pregnancy loss). Even when comparing a woman who chooses abortion to a woman who loses a pregnancy for any other reason, the relative risks of mental health disorders are higher in post-abortive women.
- Table 5 from the Sullins study is shown below and lists the relative risks associated by category:
Abortion, Substance Abuse and Mental Health in Early Adulthood: Thirteen-Year Longitudinal Evidence from the United States. D. Paul Sullins, 2016, Sage Open Medicine.