No Link Between Abortion and Depression In Teens

A new study reveals that what pro-choice advocates have known for a long time is true: there is no connection between abortion and depression in teens.  The study was inspired by claims that there are causal links between abortion, depression and regret, which were mostly discounted by a 2008 study released by the American Psychological Association.  The APA study did not, however, make claims about mental health consequences for adolescents, so this study is an important addition to a body of work that proves that psychological preparation is not a necessary prerequisite for abortion access.

As Jodi Jacobsen points out in a piece for RH Reality Check, this knowledge does not deter states from legislating that women receive counseling or warnings about the potential negative consequences of abortion.  It also seems to be deeply embedded in lawmakers’ assumptions, to the point where Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing in a 2007 decision to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortions, presented these negative consequences as logical, if unsubstantiated:

“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort…Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

Jacobsen points out that, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 34 states currently require that women receive counseling before an abortion is performed.  This is despite the fact that, in the words of the study authors, “Consistent with previous studies of abortion and psychological outcomes, the strongest predictors of depression and low self-esteem were prior depression and prior low self-esteem.”  In other words: the people who were likely to be depressed or suffer from low self-esteem following an abortion were people who were already depressed.  This means that the abortion itself in all likelihood had nothing to do with any negative mental health consequences.

The truth is that the stories about negative psychological impacts only serve as a an anti-choice deterrent for women for whom abortion may already be heavily stigmatized or portrayed as frightening.  Being told that depression is a possible consequence will make women think twice about whether they want an abortion – regardless of whether it’s true.  But we can hope that this study will serve as good ballast for people who are trying to take down this particular piece of anti-choice mythology.

Photo from Flickr.


Lindsey DTSW
.5 years ago

Since any person has the right to kill to protect himself or herself from harm, then abortion to protect the mother's life or health could in no way be murder. I'm legally allowed to kill even an innocent adult human being if that person, even inadvertently, is threatening my health or life and there's no other way to stop the threat. Among other things, it's called justifiable homicide.

So abortion for those reasons can't be murder. In those cases, it's unequivocally justifiable - otherwise, we're legally giving a fetus greater rights than a born person.

Sarah D.
Sarah D.5 years ago

"abortion makes me so mad. you are a MURDERER if you have had an abortion."

I dare you to say that to a group of rape survivors who were impregnated by their rapists. What about women and girls who have to have an abortion to save their lives?

"Selfish sex breeds selfish acts of the aftermath."

And just what is "selfish sex"? That's probably one of the most iditoic anti-choice comments I've read. The only ones who are being selfish are the anti-choicers. All you are advocating is to punish women for having sex by forcing them to be reproduction facilities.

And not everyone is willing to adopt. If everyone were willing to adopt we wouldn't have so many homeless children in America and the world.

Sarah D.
Sarah D.5 years ago

Having an abortion doesn't cause depression in teens, however denying a teen girl an abortion could lead to depression.

Heather A.
Heather A.5 years ago

To answer the poll, counselling IS required before an abortion, and so it should be.

Lika S.
Lika S.5 years ago

@ Aidan M. Please copy and paste this blog code:

I think you should read it. For those who are using Mosaic Law, in Hebrew 6th Commandment does read "thou shalt do no murder". That is different than "thou shall not kill".

If a serial rapist breaks into my home, threatens my body and life, and I kill this person, It's not illegal to kill. If I go and cold heartedly take someone's life, that is murder, which IS illegal. You're missing the concepts here.

Lika S.
Lika S.5 years ago

I think that the pre-abortion counseling should include a test for depression, and look for signs that this particular person may or may not have a depression problem afterward. If the girl is already in the predicament of being depresses or psychologically unstable, the abortion will compound it.

On the other hand, one who is well adjusted and is having an "oops" should fly through it just fine. Just my idea.

Aidan M.
Aidan M.5 years ago

abortion makes me so mad. you are a MURDERER if you have had an abortion. It's as simple as that. Women do have the RIGHT to kill...

Heather A.
Heather A.5 years ago

I know 4 women who've had abortions in their teens and they were absolutely fine afterwards. These "I regret my abortion" stories are the exception, not the rule, and cases involving actual mental health problems are even rarer.

Wanda F - "By the time most women know they are pregnant the living being can feel pain."
No, Wanda, most women know they are pregnant long before 24 weeks.
"Women are made to be caring, feeling...."
That's a mere stereotype, but nonetheless, "caring" and "feeling" is wasted when applied to non-sentient things, like 1st and 2nd trimester foetuses, and most women know this.
Did you even follow Bente's links on Mother Theresa? You can't deny that that woman was a piece of work.

No, Rosemary, all this "argument" supports is that the supposed links between abortion and depression that are touted by anti-choice groups are LIES.

Empress Ginger - You can refuse to believe anything you like, but that doesn't change the fact that most women who access abortion do not regret it or feel grief. Two professional, non-biased health organizations release studies (one case, the compiled results of every study they could find) about abortion and mental health problems. You don't like the results, so you conclude that these non-biased organizations tampered with their studies. Sorry sister, that's not logical.

Tom Y. also thinks the APA and the NICHD release biased studies. I guess some people enjoy their little conspiracy theories...

Patricia T.
Patricia T.5 years ago

I had an abortion as a teen (almost 30 years ago) and I can honestly say that it did most definitely contribute to depression, anxiety, and deep-rooted regret. I mourned the approximate, expected birth (month) of a child I never had for many years. It was intensely emotional for me personally. I really hate it when ppl put stories/reports out there and try to cover everyone's feelings/experiences. Just like everyone has a different (abortion) experience, ppl will have different mind-sets and thoughts on their abortion. Don't try to generalize and make it the same for everyone. It's not.

Jennifer Martin
Jennifer M.5 years ago

I can't really say if women should be counseled first. How can she know it's not a trap to get her to change her mind?? I had a friend that had an abortion a few years ago. It was an extremely hard decision for her to make. And to make matters worse, there were protesters there with posters of bloody fetuses and stuff, calling her a murderer. She was 20 years old and already had a daughter. The father was not a good guy, and already had a ton of children. She was also on birth control when she conceived. So she got the abortion. It was hard for her. She was in counseling for months. But now, she's lost her daughter and she's a drug addict. I'm thankful she didn't bring that child into her world, and so is she. The kid would have had a horrible life and would have probably ended up in the system.
Bottom line, it's nobody's business what a woman choses to do with her own body. The world is overpopulated. Millions and millions of people are starving to death every day. All these people are so against abortion. Where are they when that fetus they saved is an unwanted child? I don't see them running to adopt them all. Mind your own damn business if you aren't going to take care of the kids that were given up because you scared a woman into not aborting.