Anyone interested in understanding more about the effects of abortion on the mental health of women, and any psychiatrists reading this, will find a new online article by consultant psychiatrist, Dr Previn Thevathasan, of interest.
As well as briefly reviewing a few of the main recent studies on mental health and abortion (those by Fergusson, Munk-Olsen and Coleman, which have also been covered in more detail on previous CMF blogs: here, here and here) Thevathasan’s primary concern is to highlight the continuing influence of the one-sided report by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) which, together with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, brought out a systematic review last year claiming that there was no causal link between abortion and subsequent mental ill health.
The steering group that produced the Review included psychiatrists Ian Jones and Rock Cantwell. These two will be presenting at an International Congress for Psychiatrists in July, along with Munk-Olsen, whose research was heavily used in the AMRC Review and yet was funded by the pro-abortion Susan Buffett Foundation. (See the CMF commentary on the AMRC Review).
Whilst of course these two would be expected to present their Review at such a conference, the concern that Thevathasan has, and the reason I am bringing this to the attention of readers of the CMF blogs, is that there are no speakers lined up to present any alternative views or research that comes to different conclusions i.e. no speakers who might challenge or question some of the conclusions and research used in the AMRC Review:
‘In July of this year, there will be an international congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Liverpool. The abortion and mental health presentations will be given by Ian Jones, Rock Cantwell and Trine Munk-Olsen. Professors Fergusson and Coleman will not be presenting.’
‘Given that there is good evidence to show that some women are hurt by abortion, it is surprising that there will be such a one-sided presentation that aims to influence psychiatrists from many countries.’
In fact, the organisers would not even have to invite a ‘pro-life’ speaker to present alternative conclusions, they could have invited ‘pro-choice’ Professor David Fergusson to present his research reported in 2008 in the British Journal of Psychiatry (BJP). He found that women who have abortions are twice as likely to suffer mental health issues and three times more likely to suffer specifically from depression than women who have either given birth or never been pregnant. And if he were unable to make the congress, there are several other academics or psychiatrists who could present alternative findings – not least Coleman – and who could effectively debate the authors.
This ideological drive to shut down any real debate, and to state that there are no psychological consequences to having an abortion, will reach an influential audience of Psychiatrists. Yet if it were accepted that, at the very least, ‘abortion may be associated with a small increase in risk of mental disorders’ (Fergusson 2008), then the Congress could focus more helpfully on how best to develop care pathways for those women at risk of psychiatric morbidity post-abortion and on the provision of specialist training for psychiatrists to observe the possible onset of adverse reactions post-abortion. Counselling and informed consent prior to abortion could likewise be improved. Unless this happens, many women will fail to receive the information and support they may need both before and after abortion.
For Psychiatrists planning on attending the Congress, following is the relevant session and line-up of speakers:
S44 Pregnancy, childbirth, abortion and mental health – what are the implications for Psychiatry?
Chair: Dr Ian Jones, Cardiff University
What do we know about the link between abortion and mental health?
Dr Trine Munk-Olsen, Aarhus University, Denmark
What do we know about the link between pregnancy, childbirth and mental health?
Dr Ian Jones, Cardiff University
Childbirth, abortion and mental health – what are the implications for psychiatry?
Dr Roch Cantwell, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde