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Twenty-five years ago I began writing about abortion. I had talked to a number of women who had abortions and I was convinced that abortion had devastating and long lasting negative consequences. Knowing it and proving it are, however, two different things. There was substantial evidence of negative outcomes, but the defenders of abortion as a positive solution argued that the problems experienced by women after abortion could be traced to problems they had before their abortion. In order to disprove this claim it would be necessary to construct a study that could take into account all factors.
Finally, we have such a study. Thirty years ago a birth cohort study was begun that has allowed us to take all the various factors into consideration. Researchers entered all the children born in Christchurch, New Zealand in one year and have tracked them for over 25 years. At year 25 there were approximately 500 women whose health histories were available for the study. The results confirmed that young women who have abortions subsequently experience elevated rates of suicidal behaviors, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental problems.
According to the lead researcher, David Fergusson, the higher rate of subsequent mental problems could not be explained by any pre-pregnancy differences in mental health: “The findings did surprise me, but the results appear to be very robust because they persist across a series of disorders and a series of ages. . . . Abortion is a traumatic life event; that is, it involves loss, it involves grief, it involves difficulties. And the trauma may, in fact, predispose people to having mental illness.”
In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, Fergusson pointed out that the study had taken into account social background, education, ethnicity, previous mental health, exposure to sexual abuse, and a whole mass of factors and the negative effects of abortion remained.
There was some resistance to publishing the findings since they were “politically incorrect,” but Fergusson, who is pro-choice, insisted that it would be irresponsible not to do so. The study was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and a review of the findings can be found on the website abortionrecovery.org.
I wish I could say that the resistance to publishing evidence that contradicts the politically correct views was an anomaly, but in my experience it is the rule rather than the exception. Whether it is stem cell research, same-sex attraction, abortion, or the effects of divorce on children, the media routinely suppresses solid research and promotes as “scientific,” studies that are poorly designed and later totally disproved.
If you hear about a study that seems to prove that disobedience to the Church’s teachings is going to make you healthy and happy, don’t believe it. After 25 years of looking at this so-called evidence, I have found that these studies are almost always poorly designed with small samples or worse, ignore their own findings. We never have to be afraid of solid, well-designed research. The Church’s teachings on life and marriage are divinely inspired. The God who created everything can be relied on to understand how everything works. He knows what will be a blessing and what will be a curse. Sooner or later science will prove what we should have known all along; the Father knows best.
Dale O’Leary is an internationally recognized lecturer and author of “The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality.”