RE: El Salvador: Citizen’s group called for legal action by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) as a woman accused of having an abortion died in jail. The group is further requesting a review of the case of another woman in El Salvador sentenced to 30 years in jail for seeking an abortion21 June 2012  [Posted on this listserve 17 August]

Having read this news item on the Campaign listserve a few days ago, the Central American Women’s Network in London has just informed us that there have been developments with regard to the case of Sonia Tabora, the woman jailed for 30 years – she has been freed. Here is their news release:

20 August 2012

A young woman has returned to her home in El Salvador after seven years in prison – for a miscarriage. Since the country’s stringent anti-abortion legislation was enacted in 1998, El Salvador has imprisoned 628 women accused of having a pregnancy termination. Sonia Tabora was one of them.

The Sonsonate court in El Salvador’s eastern region has recognised its mistake, following a review of Sonia’s case. The review was secured by the coordinated efforts of tens of Salvadoran civil society organisations, led by the Citizens Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion. These organisations labelled the judiciary’s mistake “state violence”.

Sonia was born in Sacacoyo, a village where 40 per cent of the population live in poverty. She experienced injustice at 18 when the man who had raped her was acquitted. And Sonia also had to survive a common experience for poor women in Central America of being abandoned by her partner after becoming pregnant.

Sonia hid her pregnancy from her employers for fear of losing her job as a maid. In February 2005, during a visit to her hometown when she was seven months pregnant, she unexpectedly gave birth without help in a coffee plantation. Sonia’s sister and father found her bleeding, in shock and speechless, and took her to hospital. But a doctor there reported her to police, assuming she had provoked the abortion. Sonia was later accused of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in jail.

The coalition of groups that campaigned for Sonia’s freedom believed her trial violated legal procedures. They challenged the verdict that she had caused the abortion, which was based on a single doctor’s word, despite lack of evidence or a post-mortem on the fetus.

El Salvador has one of the most stringent bans on abortion, which allows no exception in cases of rape, incest, a threat to the woman’s life or severe fetal abnormality. Neighbouring countries – Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala – share similar legislation, though the latter two nations allow therapeutic abortion to save the woman’s life.

Anti-abortion laws not only regulate access to safe abortion, but also ban the use of the morning after pill and restrict the content of sex education.

In the Central America region 95 per cent of all abortions are unsafe, including self-induced abortion and surgery conducted by non-professionals. Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal death, with high mortality rates of between 100 to 120 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The overwhelming majority of maternal deaths and imprisonment after abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth in El Salvador happen to illiterate women from poor, rural backgrounds – and they are primarily young women. Women like Sonia, who cannot afford a lawyer, are assigned a public attorney who, in line with a culture that penalises abortion, do not dispute the lack of evidence and only aim to reduce the sentence.

Although Sonia has been released, 24 other women remain incarcerated for miscarriage. Activists claim the outcome in Sonia’s case sets a precedent and pledge they will “continue to struggle for the freedom of other women prisoners in the country in the same circumstances”. Campaigners say a public debate has been stirred, with in-depth media analysis of the issue, and they seek to use this opportunity to overturn the strict ban on abortion.

Central America Women’s Network (CAWN)  

by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente, Reporter
24 July, 2012


With two laws passed this year giving citizens more control over legal decisions about their bodies, a campaign is advocating for legal, safe and free abortion in Argentina in order to reduce the number of women who die in clandestine clinics. Still, advocates aren’t confident that the Argentine National Congress will pass the bill this year despite the fact that a majority of Argentines disapprove of penalizing a woman for procuring an abortion.


Analía, 32, obtained a clandestine abortion five years ago in Buenos Aires… “Look, I began a relationship with a man, you know,” she says. “We went out for eight months. We ended when I got pregnant, rather, when we got pregnant. I didn’t make the baby alone, but he left me alone with the matter. Afterwards, he informed me that he was married. There was nothing I could do. He didn’t want to take reponsibility.”


All he offered to do was to pay for the abortion.”He told me: ‘Don’t come to me with your problems. Tell me how much money you need and take care of it yourself.’ It hurt me. I was in love, and I thought that we had a solid relationship.”She decided to have an abortion because she couldn’t afford to raise the child alone.”I don’t have a high-level job,” says Analía, who works as an administrative employee at a local hospital. “I have never worked for much more than the minimum wage. I don’t have higher studies. If I did have the baby, I was going to need economic, family and my partner’s support. I wasn’t capable of facing my family or anybody. I felt very alone.”


Her voice drops to a whisper as she talks about the clandestine procedure.”I was six weeks [pregnant] more or less,” she says. She found the doctor who performed the abortion through a contact at the hospital where she works. “There is always someone who knows where you can go,” she says, her voice as thin as she is. “I thought that I was going to die.”The “clinic” was a normal house. One of the rooms contained basic medical supplies.”There, they did a suction on me,” she says. The father of the baby dropped her off but didn’t accompany her inside. “He dropped me off there, and he left. We never talked again.”


Analía is now one of many supporters here of a bill asking for legal, safe and free abortion in Argentina through the Proyecto de Ley de Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo.Analía recently attended a festival in support of the bill, the Festival Itinerante por el Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito (Travelling festival for safe, legal, free abortion), held during the month of May in the city’s Centro de la Cooperación. Local initiatives, like the festival, are generating awareness about a bill that would legalize abortion for all women in Argentina. Advocates say the law would reduce maternal mortality. Advocates say they are encouraged by two laws passed by the Argentine National Congress this year that give people more control over their bodies.


Some 500,000 illegal abortions take place in Argentina annually, according to the Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito (National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, Free Abortion), a campaign that has united various organizations in support of the pending bill. In Argentina, 40% of pregnancies don’t come to term, many ending voluntarily in clandestine clinics. Abortion is the principal cause of maternal mortality in Argentina, accounting for 30% of maternal deaths, according to the campaign. In many cases, neither health complications nor deaths are reported to the authorities after a clandestine abortion. For every woman that seeks help from a doctor after obtaining one, seven others with complications stay quiet and don’t seek health services.Abortion is illegal in Argentina. But the Supreme Court here ruled in March 2012 that any woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape may obtain an abortion. Before this, courts approved abortions on a case-by-case basis, mostly for victims who were mentally disabled. Abortions are also allowed if the pregnancy would endanger the woman’s life.


Nearly 57% of Argentinians disagree with penalizing a woman who has an abortion, according to a 2010 survey of 1,400 adults over the age of 18 conducted by Ibarómetro, a private market research firm.

The bill was presented to the National Congress in 2008 but lost its status because it was not addressed, according to the Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito. In March 2010, the campaign presented the document again with the signatures of more than 30 deputies. Debate began in Congress at the end of 2011, but the bill has not advanced.


In May 2012, the national Senate approved two laws related to the right to decide about one’s own life and body: the death with dignity law and the gender identity law. The first permits terminally ill patients to refuse medical treatments. The second enables each person to legally choose their sex, regardless of the sex assigned at birth.

El Proyecto de Ley de Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo declares that every woman has the right to decide whether to have an abortion during the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy. It also establishes a woman’s right to access abortion that is legal, safe and free.


“The activities of the festival make the people able to know and to have an informed position in respect to [abortion],” Analía says. “It doesn’t try to favor abortion, but to legalize its practice, to end the isolation of women.”With half a million women obtaining abortions annually regardless of the law, legalization would make sure they are safe.


The church hierarchy opposes the bill as did the Supreme Court earlier this year, declaring both an attack on life and a crime against the baby to be born. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of the country, has also repeated that she is against abortion. But the deputies who signed for the reactivation of the bill are for the most part from the party to which she belongs, Frente para la Victoria.But without the president’s support, Analía doesn’t think that the bill will pass this year.”I don’t believe that the law will pass this year,” she says. “That is not to say that we don’t have to keep fighting, although we have the most powerful woman in the country against it.”


Jiménez Abraham underlines the power of the organization of groups and advocates in the Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito.”We know that we have a very difficult path,” he says. “We have the conviction to be fighting in favor of social justice and for the end of inequalities in access to the health and enjoyment of reproductive rights… The slogan of our mobilization proposes a holistic approach regarding sexuality and maternity: sexual education in order to decide, contraceptives in order to not abort, legal abortion in order to not die,” he says.


Analía also charges society with forcing women to seek abortions in clandestine clinics.”To the woman who becomes pregnant, they say that she is the only one responsible for her pregnancy,” Analía says. “But they criminalize her if she decides for herself. It is perverse and sad. They leave the woman alone, without options. The men wash their hands, and the society permits it. Afterwards, the only one guilty is me for aborting.”But she says this is neither accurate nor just.”I am not a criminal,” she says. “No woman who aborts is one. The woman who is going to go into a clandestine clinic is one who, like me, is poor. She doesn’t have the money to pay for a safe and confidential abortion.”

The Daily Telegraph breathlessly reports that the National Health Service is spending £1 million a week on carrying out “repeat abortions”; that is, on women who have had abortions in the past. Some particularly crafty ladies have gotten away with up to nine free abortions!

Is it problematic that the NHS is spending that much money on abortions? Yes, because that means women are having trouble accessing the contraception they need to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy, an issue that the Telegraph actually reported on three days ago in an article called, “Women finding access to contraception ‘difficult'”. The article reported that four in ten women who unintentionally became pregnant had problems getting contraception, and that areas where it’s hard to access contraception have higher abortion rates.

It’s incredibly frustrating that the reporter who wrote the “repeat abortion” piece did not once refer to the statistics that were published just days before by the same fucking paper. Instead, she warps numbers and quotes pro-life sources to push the idea that the number of “repeat abortions” is indicative that, as one antiabortion supporter is quoted as saying, “abortion is being seen by many as a form of contraception. But is this surprising when we live in a society which says it’s all right to have an abortion once. If it’s fine once, why not two, three or four times.” That quote makes me want to go DAHKJDHASJHADAHKDA. But, instead, let’s break down the reasons why this article is bullshit.

In the very first sentence, we learn that, “in some cases,” women are getting up to nine abortions! Wouldn’t that statistic make even the most pro-choiciest of pro-choicers somewhat concerned? Later, however, we learn that only 85 women across the entire country had an abortion for the eighth time in 2010. Sorry, Telegraph and antiabortion advocates everywhere, but that’s a negligible amount of people. It’s also unspecified whether these women took RU486; they may not have even had surgery.

The only other numbers we get are that, in 2010, “189,000 terminations took place, with more than 64,000 of them being performed on someone who had already undergone the procedure.” That’s a far less incendiary — and far more vague — statistic, isn’t it?

We also learn that “five out of every six repeat terminations being requested by a woman who is unmarried.” THANKS! That’s really important information, definitely more crucial than, say, information on access to contraception. Would it be okay if more married women wanted abortions?

The Department responded to the statistics by saying that there’s no evidence that proves women are using abortion as a method of birth control and that abortion rates have increased only slightly in the last ten years. In the Telegraph article that ran a few days before, Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

“There has been much government focus on ‘problems’ with abortion services, despite evidence that women receive high quality care when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. At the same time, real and pressing problems with women’s access to the contraception they need to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy in the first place appear low down the list of government priorities.

Policy to guide family planning services, which could help prevent these pregnancies, is now a year overdue.

Women need access to high-quality contraceptive services that are not restricted on the basis of age or location, with straightforward access to abortion care when their method lets them down.

We call on policy-makers to deliver a sexual health strategy that empowers healthcare professionals to deliver the contraception and abortion services that women in the 21st Century need and deserve.”

The Telegraph leans conservative and is clearly pro-life; remember their recent undercover investigation in which they purportedly filmed doctors agreeing to “illegal abortions” on the basis of a baby’s sex? If you read the piece, it’s clear that the doctors were just trying to do their job without judging their patients: “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination,” one doctor said. This nonjudgmental attitude is apparently not okay with theTelegraph, which is bent on convincing the country that women are wily sluts who want to get dozens of abortions so they can sleep around and, on the off-chance they decide to have a child, “illegally” decide its sex.

The paper’s plight would be laughable and pathetic if it wasn’t so terrifying: if the takeaway for readers is that women are carelessly getting tons of abortions — I mean, seriously, this whole thing reminds me of the genius Onion Abortionplex article that some people didn’t realize was satire — that will only hurt the women who desperately need access to contraception in the real world.

Here is a blog in France where women talk about their abortion experience: “I had an abortion – and I feel well, thank you”

What October Baby lacks for in quality, it makes up for in heavy handedness. The stiff acting and bland writing would normally just makeOctober Baby a dull movie. But, coupled with ignorance and surprisingly good sales – $1.7 million in its first weekend – it also poses a threat to the narrative around choice by pushing a misleading and deceptive message about abortion.

The protagonist of October Baby is a college-aged woman, Hannah, who realizes she is adopted and the result of a failed late-term abortion. Her doctor speculates that this late-term abortion attempt is the cause of her health problems such as her bad hip and asthma.

Hannah proceeds to go on a trying-to-be-quirky but actually maudlin coming-of-age road trip to find her biological mother. The trip is packed full of slow-motion crying scenes and temper tantrums.

Of course a person has license to be wrought after learning she was adopted at the age of 19 and her parents have kept it a secret all that time. But, Hannah is downright infantile – reflecting the GOP’s seeming perception that women are children that need to be watched over. Hannah regularly stomps off from mild disputes with arms crossed and falsetto whimpers, while the men in her life level reasonable concerns in even tones. The girl literally pouts in her father’s car while he and her romantic interest, Jason, have an argument about her future.

Can I point out again that this is a 19-year-old college student? Yet her father spends most of the movie telling her friends how they are allowed, or rather not allowed, to behave around Hannah.

I haven’t even gotten to how abortion is directly discussed in the movie. But, how women are treated and men are elevated to the status of patriarch and protector is what the choice debate is all about. GOP leaders don’t think women can make choices for themselves and that they need to be protected – not just from spooky outside forces – but from themselves. Jason is always there to provide a condescending pat on the head. What more could a dopey girl want in a man? Certainly not someone who wants an egalitarian relationship not dictated by archaic standards. (Spoilers: Jason finally goes on a giggly date with Hannah because her patriarch called him and said the two should get together. So many gals love it when their parents set up their dates for them, right? No need to be an autonomous individual then.)

To the issue of abortion!

On her road trip, after getting out of being arrested by pulling that notorious “I’m the result of a failed late-term-abortion” card, a cop tells Hannah that while searching for her mother she should “hate the crime, not the criminal.” Sure, the guy is speaking somewhat metaphorically, but coming from a cop it sure makes abortion sound like a crime. Which, may I remind you Red States of the USA, it is not!

A scene that is supposed to be emotionally pivotal occurs when Hannah meets a nurse who was present during her abortion attempt/birth. Cue the crying montage! Cut to nurse weeping alone in her cheap apartment. Cut to Jason lurking protectively outside the complex. Cut to Hannah tearing up the card with her bio-mother’s phone number, before cutting to a scene where she stares intently at the poorly taped up card.

But, back to the scene prior to crying: the nurse relays that she was made to do horrible things at the clinic she worked at for a doctor who had been the recipient of threats of violence. She tells Hannah that her biological mother was a woman who wanted to get an education and insinuated she got the abortion at 24 weeks because of convenience. Less than two percent of abortions happen after 20 weeks. And, late-term abortions are not doled out casually. In most states there needs to be threat to life and health of the mother, or the fetus needs to be non-viable for a late-term abortion to be legally performed.

The nurse wraps up about the bio-mom by saying that she did get that education and career after all. And, we in the audience are supposed to bellow: At what cost? This made my eyes roll so loud that I got “shhhd” by other audience members. Ok my eye-rolling didn’t get shushed, but it seemed plausible.

I counter that straw man (big ole’ patriarchal dominating straw man by the way) with facts. Women get abortions – regardless of the laws on the books, and women are safer when abortion is legal. (So, that should make the paternalistic women-protecting GOP happy, right?) About 30 percent of women will get an abortion before the age of 45. And, in countries where abortion is illegal and harder to obtain, women get them at higher rates and experience greater risk to their health than where abortion is legal. As mentioned earlier, women don’t get late-term abortions because they are silly fickle things who don’t have a solid man to help them make up their minds. Women get later abortions because their health is threatened or the fetus isn’t viable. Instead of insinuating that abortion is criminal, we should be making sure the procedure is accessible at an earlier stage of pregnancy and safer at later stages of pregnancy when women do have to make that difficult decision.

October Baby was produced and supported with funding from evangelical groups like Focus on the Family. The directors, brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, said that this wasn’t meant to be a political movie, but rather intended to inspire thoughtful discussion. But, in their false representation of abortion they’re amplifying fear rather than appealing to viewers’ higher cognitive reasoning.

Despite their stated purpose, the directors are playing the same simplistic game the GOP has been playing in trying to reduce a complicated issue down to fear tactics and misplaced sentimentality.

By Sophie Borland

PUBLISHED: 00:22 GMT, 9 March 2012 | UPDATED: 03:36 GMT, 9 March 2012

An activist claims to have hacked into the website of Britain’s largest abortion clinic.

He claims to have the ‘entire database and contact details’ of women who had contacted the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and warned that information would be released today.

BPAS has been quick to reassure women who have had treatment that he would have been unable to access any medical or personal information about them, saying there is no danger their names were about to be made public.

The clinic’s website is down, so cannot be viewed. A message says it is ‘undergoing maintenance’.

Yesterday the unnamed activist wrote a message on Twitter  claiming he had ‘hacked’ into the  website of BPAS, which sees 50,000 women a year. ‘Database dump will be released tomorrow [Friday]’ he added.

Later he wrote another message under the pseudonym Pablo Escobar saying: ‘British Pregnancy Advisory Service has been attacked because they kill unborn children that have no rights. It’s murder.’

When another user of the website suggested his claims were untrue, he wrote: ‘Wrong. We have their entire database and customers’ contact details.’

Last night the chief executive of BPAS, Ann Furedi, said: ‘It’s not true that women’s details are going to be leaked. What I can say is that we are confident that women are not going to be at risk.’

The protester also put a picture on Twitter apparently showing the BPAS website after it had been hacked.

On the website’s homepage was a hacker’s logo and message which read: ‘An unborn child does not have an opinion, a choice or any rights. Who gave you the right to murder that unborn child and profit from that murder?

‘The product, abortion, is skilfully marketed and sold to women at the crisis time in her life. She buys the product, and wants to return it for a refund. But it’s too late.’

Later a spokesperson for BPAS confirmed: ‘The website of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) was hacked into and defaced for a period on 8th March, 2012 in what appeared to be a sophisticated cyber attack by an anti-abortion extremist.

‘Around 26,000 attempts to break into our website were made over a six hour period, but the hacker was unable to access any medical or personal information regarding women who had received treatment at bpas.

‘The website does store details (names, addresses and phone numbers) of people who have requested information from bpas via the website, including those making personal inquiries as well as health and education professionals, the media and students.

‘These may have been inquiries relating to contraception, pregnancy, abortion, STI testing and sterilisation.

‘All relevant authorities have been informed and appropriate legal action taken to prevent the dissemination of any information obtained from the website.’

BPAS, which was founded in 1968, is a charity which provides abortions and counselling in 40 centres in England and Wales.

It does not receive direct funding from the Government but is paid by the NHS for some of its services, such as carrying out abortions in some hospitals and providing contraception.

The real Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug baron, believed to have fuelled the U.S. cocaine trade during the 1980s.

The hacker’s account bore the logo of the notorious hacking group Anonymous, a collection of loosely connected online hackers from around the world.

But last night other alleged members of the group on Twitter were distancing themselves from the ‘Pablo Escobar’ tweeter, claiming he was not a member.

Anonymous is a sister group of the hacking community Lulzsec, which this week had four members arrested after an FBI sting operation.

The group’s chief, Hector Xavier Monsegur, was arrested by the FBI in June last year and worked with the agency to arrest some of the network’s most high-profile hackers.

Lulzsec members have been behind several significant online security breaches, including taking the CIA website offline and stealing from Sony’s database.

Journal disavows study touted by U.S. abortion foes

By Sharon Begley<>


NEW YORK (Reuters) – A leading psychiatry journal has distanced itself from a controversial study that it published in 2009 which suggested a link between abortion and mental illness, including such severe forms as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and drug addiction.
In an unusual commentary, one of the Journal of Psychiatric Research’s editors-in-chief and a co-author warned that the 2009 paper, which has been widely cited by legislators and advocates to argue that abortion raises a woman’s risk of mental illness and to push for laws requiring providers to tell women that, in fact “does not support assertions that abortions led to psychopathology.”
Led by Priscilla Coleman, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the study used data from the Harvard-based National Comorbidity Survey, which assesses the prevalence of mental illness in the United States. She and her co-authors concluded that there is a link between past abortions and mental illness.
In 2010 Julia Steinberg of the University of California, San Francisco, and Lawrence Finer of the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute published their own analysis of the same data from the comorbidity survey. They identified a number of errors in the Coleman paper, including statistical ones.
The Guttmacher Institute is a non-profit research and education group that advocates for reproductive rights, including access to abortion.
The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 but opponents have sought, particularly at the state level, to impose restrictions on the procedure.
Steinberg said that the biggest problem in the original Coleman study was that “many of the incidents of mental illness she included came before the abortion.” That cast doubt on whether abortion triggered mental illness. Instead, women with mental illness might have been more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy and terminate it.
“Determining the ‘effects of abortion’ is not possible unless it can be established that the diagnoses occurred after the abortion,” said Steinberg. “For many women, psychiatric illnesses occurred before the abortion.”
Last July Coleman acknowledged the statistical errors, but that was far from the end of the battle. A letter from Steinberg and Finer in the March issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research reiterates the criticism about including episodes of mental illness over a woman’s entire lifetime.
In a published response, Coleman conceded that she had used lifetime estimates of mental illness, rather than only episodes after an abortion. It “is certainly true” that this makes it difficult to figure out whether the abortion or the mental illness came first, she wrote.
In an email Tuesday from London, where she had addressed members of Parliament “about the abortion and mental health association,” Coleman said that “the pattern of results” -greater incidence of mental illness among women who have had an abortion – “did not change much” when she made the statistical corrections. Moreover, she wrote, “we never made assertions of causality.”
The title of her paper included the phrase “the effects of abortion.”
Coleman’s arguments did not sway the journal. In an unusual step, a commentary co-authored by Alan Schatzberg, an editor-in-chief and professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, concludes that the criticism of the Coleman study “has considerable merit.”
Her analysis “does not support assertions that abortions led to psychopathology,” it continued, and using lifetime diagnoses of mental illness is “flawed.” Studies of abortion and mental illness “should consider only mental disorders subsequent to the pregnancy.”
Despite these problems the paper has not been retracted. “The ultimate decision to retract is made by the publisher using preset procedures including an independent committee,” Schatzberg said in an email to Reuters.
Journal publisher Elsevier “has specific policies and procedures for evaluating and instituting any possible retraction decisions. Authors are also free to request a retraction.” Editors can also initiate the process leading to a retraction.
Critics say the paper is flawed enough to be excised from the scientific literature. “This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data,” said Steinberg. “The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors.”
Another concern has been whether Coleman fully disclosed any possible conflicts of interest. In a presentation she gave in 2011 to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, she said, “I have a plan to develop a new non-profit organization devoted to understanding and publicizing the real risks of abortion. I would like to bring together many credentialed scientists with a research program pertaining to the physical, psychological, and/or relational effects of abortion on women and their families.”
Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate disagree on whether the strongly worded commentary, plus a letter to the editor pointing out serious mistakes in the 2009 study, will affect policy.
Thirty-five states require pre-abortion counseling, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Of those, nine include only negative psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts or other forms of mental illness. Courts have thrown out some of these requirements, including South Dakota’s that abortion providers tell women that the procedure “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide.”
There is no shortage of studies on abortion and mental illness. But expert analyses have found that many are as poorly done as the 2009 paper. Two reviews of the science, one by the American Psychological Association, found that higher quality studies were much less likely to find adverse psychological effects from abortion than lower-quality studies were.
Opponents of legalized abortion believe there are enough studies linking the procedure to mental illness to support state laws mandating that women be told of that risk. Kansas requires a doctor to say that “after having an abortion, some women suffer from a variety of psychological effects ranging from malaise, irritability, difficulty sleeping, to depression and even posttraumatic stress disorder.”
Texas tells women that some “have reported serious psychological effects after their abortion,” including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and behavior, flashbacks, and substance abuse. West Virginia says that many women “suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Syndrome following abortion,” and can experience suicidal thoughts or acts, depression, fear and anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse.
The 2009 study was “not alone in driving legislation” requiring pre-abortion counseling that includes a mental health warning, said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, a non-profit group that opposes abortion rights. “A number of other authors have reached the same conclusion, so my read is that it’s very solid.”
Many of those studies compare mental health after abortion to mental health after childbirth. But the crucial comparison, argued Schatzberg, is between women with unwanted pregnancies who aborted or gave birth. To compare women with wanted pregnancies who gave birth to women with unwanted pregnancies who aborted can be misleading.
For the journal that published the controversial 2009 paper to essentially disown it can “help put a spotlight on the issue and encourage states to revisit their existing materials to ensure that they are accurate,” said Elizabeth Nash, a policy expert at Guttmacher. “States give the misinformation the same weight as the empirical evidence. The problem is that when states include inaccurate information, a woman reading the materials does not have the information she needs to make an informed decision.”

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