For my first post I’m going to take on the issue of abortion. For many, abortion is a very touchy issue mostly because there are so many religious and moral issues attached. When does an embryo become a human being ripe for the killing? Does a heartbeat indicate that a “baby” is untouchable? The existence of arms and legs? When they wave to you in utero? If Florida billboards are any indication, you could be okay until 18 days after conception, or your options have dried up when you figure out that God knows you’re going to have a baby…someday.

This post will not address the following issues: whether or not abortion should be legal (it is, I dare you to try to overturn it (you can’t)), under which conditions it should be allowed, whether God sends people who get abortions to a special kind of hell (this could be covered on a Theological Thursday though!), or other morally or religiously focused arguments. These arguments can’t be won when legally I can get an abortion under many different conditions. As long as I follow the law and abortion is possible for me.

I digress. In searching for a solid abortion topic to write on I unearthed this story from the Associated Press which explains that instances of mental illness do not increase as a result of having an abortion. Time Magazine, The New York Times, and Health.com all described the study. I encourage you to read each publisher’s description of the study because each elaborates on different aspects which, when combined, paint a very clear picture. Here is a quick rundown of the facts:

1. The study was completed by Danish scientists and included 365,550 Danish women who had an abortion or gave birth for the first time between 1995 and 2007. The breakdown? 84,620 of the women terminated and 280,930 gave birth.

2. Women who terminated saw a .6 increase per 1,000 people in the number of women seeking psychiatric help, while first-time mothers saw an increase of 2.8 people per 1,000. It should be noted that when the women were monitored before birth/abortion and those women who had abortions had a higher rate of mental illness before the abortion than those who gave birth, however the focus of the study was not whether more mentally ill people had abortions than gave birth, but whether having an abortion really increases the likelihood that a woman will require increased psychiatric care as compared to her pre-abortion mental state.

3. Health.com was the only reliable source to fully outline the limitations of the study. It doesn’t account for age, family history of mental illness, socio-economic status, whether or not the pregnancy was planned (i.e. desired or not), or whether the participants had untreated mental illnesses going into the study.

These facts weigh strongly on my own decision to have children. Goodness knows that I love the sexy time, but in our current financial, employment, and educational situation a baby would not be a miracle from god or a bundle of joy or anything good. It would be a marriage ripping, bank account destroying terror bundle (over-exaggeration intended) not to mention the toll any fetus/baby takes on the body of its host. I don’t want the baby, but I still want the sexy time, so what’s a girl to do? I would have no choice but to get an abortion if my 99.999999% fullproof birth control should fail. This study says that my mental health will probably be similar after the abortion to what it was before.

But what of the rumors that state that an abortion brings on depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, panic attacks, etc.? Anti-abortion blogger Theresa at Lumina states that

“..what I do know is that all the supposed ‘studies’ in the world cannot change the experience of millions of women who regret their abortions and suffer with anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, panic attacks and a host of other things…”

Now I will admit to what I assume is my one reader out there at this point that I am not a religious woman. I do not fear any god or goddess and they have no reason to fear me. Despite these facts I know quite a bit about the Christian side of things no matter what the denomination. Do you know why these women feel guilt? Why they regret their abortions? Why they feel shame or have panic attacks? I would posit that (and keep in mind, this is just me taking a wild guess) the mental state of these women that our friendly neighborhood religious blogger is describing is fueled less by the abortion that they decided to receive and more by the strict, excluding, guilt tripping religion that they adhere to. OMG I KILLED MY BABY AND GOD IS GOING TO HATE ME FOREVER!!! Then battling with that loud thought: but I had to or my family would have gone broke because we can’t afford another child, or any child at all. For some the answer to this is simply: “If you don’t want kids or can’t afford kids, don’t have sex.” To these people I suggest that they become more familiar with the human condition and stop viewing any kind of sexual conduct as something dirty that “God” will find displeasing.

Here is the basic gist of this issue: people are going to have sex, some will use protection and birth control, some will not based on many factors which I will not go into here. Some of these people will become pregnant when they do not want to or cannot afford (emotionally, financially, etc) to. In our country under current law it is legal for a woman to decide to terminate this pregnancy under certain guidelines. This study shows that in a fairly large sample of women abortion does not significantly increase the number of women who seek psychological help, but having the baby does. This study has its limitations, but it is not a “supposed” study, it is a real academic study accepted by the New England Journal of Medicine. This study is just one in what will hopefully be a group of studies which will disprove all of the rhetoric (gasp! Politics!) that religious groups and pro-life advocates have been screaming for years to convince women that they cannot manage their own reproductive health. Just because you call something fake doesn’t make it so. Just because you say “millions of women” feel something doesn’t mean that the numbers are accurate or that it’s even true. You’re simply listing what you believe without proving anything about what you claim. It makes it sound impressive to people that probably won’t think to check the stats, but to the women who are feminists and intelligent, you are insulting what women have fought for over the last century and a half by disregarding the scientific facts surrounding this volatile issue. Abortions don’t necessarily make you crazier, sadder, or more anxious than you were beforehand, and that’s all this study is meant to illustrate.

Am I saying abortion is right for everyone? No. Am I saying you won’t experience depression or anxiety after having an abortion? No, and the study isn’t either. But if you are thinking about an abortion, you shouldn’t go in with the preconceived notion that the sky will fall on you for ending a pregnancy. You’re going to be okay. Make the decision that is right for you and your own reproductive health and thank whatever god you believe in that we have the freedom to do so in this country.

Go forth, bring joy to others, and I’ll see you next time.

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