Having an abortion does not increase the risk of depression, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The study is one of the largest on the topic to date, and included nearly 400,000 women. Numerous previous studies have also found no link to abortion and mental health diagnoses.
Are Women Who Have Abortions More Likely to Need Antidepressants?
The study specifically looked at the link between abortion and subsequent use of antidepressants. Researchers followed a cohort of 396,397 women born in Denmark between 1980-1994. During the study, 30,384 (7.6%) had a first-trimester abortion, and 85,592 gave birth to their first child.
Women who had abortions were more likely to take antidepressants during the study period. However, after controlling for differences between the women, this difference disappeared. Researchers found that women at risk for depression were more likely to have abortions—not that abortion increased the risk of depression.
The team also looked at antidepressant use in the year following abortion. This is a more direct way to assess whether abortion affects a woman’s emotional well-being. They found that the rate of antidepressant use among women who had abortions did not change in the year before and the year following an abortion.
The Research is Clear: Abortion Does Not Cause Mental Illness
Numerous states require doctors to give women false information about the link between abortion and depression. North Carolina abortion clinics, for example, are required to tell women false information about the physical and mental health risks of abortion. Women must also wait 72 hours to have an abortion after receiving this information.
The latest study is just one among many finding no link between abortion and mental illness. Other studies have directly investigated the link between abortion and depression, not just abortion and antidepressant use. Some highlights include:
- A study that found no link between abortion and substance abuse.
- Research showing that military policies which refuse to cover abortion care harm the mental and physical health of women soldiers.
- The ongoing Turnaway Study, which follows women denied abortions and compares them to women who have abortions. That study consistently shows that abortion does not harm mental health, but being denied an abortion does. The study also concludes that women do not regret their abortions.
Other research has found that anti-abortion regulations may endanger women’s health, and that anti-abortion stigma puts women’s mental health at risk.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says there is no such thing as post-abortion syndrome, and that abortion does not harm women’s mental health.
The Maternal Health Crisis: The Real Risk to Women’s Health
Anti-choice lawmakers insist that they only care about making women safe. Yet they’ve done little to address a maternal mortality crisis that is the words in the industrialized world. Perhaps that’s because poor women and women of color are disproportionately affected.
If the risk of depression is a reason to ban a procedure, perhaps Republicans should look into banning pregnancy. Conservative estimates suggest that 10-20% of women experience postpartum depression. Research has directly linked far-right policies to this mental health epidemic. Paid family leave, for example, lowers the rate of postpartum depression. Republicans almost universally oppose it.
It has never been about safety, about women, or about families. Anti-choice policies will always be about punishing women. Numerous studies show abortion does not cause depression.