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Study Debunks Anti-Choice Claims of Link Between Abortion and Suicide

Teddy Wilson

Several states require that pregnant people seeking abortion care be provided with state-printed materials that make dubious claims about the psychological risks of abortion.

The alleged link between abortion and suicidal thoughts is not based on scientific evidence, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, spent five years tracking the mental health of nearly 1,000 women who sought to terminate a pregnancy. 

The study concluded there is no evidence that people who receive abortion care are at higher risk of developing suicidal ideation than women who were unable to obtain abortion services.

Researchers found that pregnant people with a history of mental health conditions and intimate partner violence have an increased risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts, and this increased risk is not associated with having an abortion.

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Previous research has shown that pregnant people who have abortions exhibit higher risk factors for suicidal thoughts than pregnant people who carry a pregnancy to term, said Dr. Antonia Biggs, a social psychologist researcher at ANSIRH and lead author of the study.

“By comparing two groups of women who sought abortions, this new study shows clearly that abortion does not cause or increase suicidal thoughts or feelings,” Biggs said in a statement.

Anti-choice activists have claimed abortion can independently lead to long-term psychological effects, despite a lack of medical evidence.

Thirty-five states require that pregnant people receive state-mandated counseling prior to receiving abortion care. Eight of those states require people be informed about the possible mental health risks associated with abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

This year, state lawmakers in 12 states have introduced bills relating to forced counseling. Legislators in Idaho and South Dakota have passed related measures.

In Texas, those seeking an abortion care are required to receive forced counseling and be provided with state printed materials. The Woman’s Right to Know pamphlet claims that pregnant people “with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have mental health problems following an abortion.”

Several other states require people seeking abortion care be provided with state-printed materials that make dubious claims about the psychological risks of abortion.

Kansas claims that the psychological risk of abortion includes “depression and even posttraumatic stress disorder.” Louisiana claims the psychological effects of an abortion may include “flashbacks and substance abuse,” and West Virginia claims possible psychological effects of abortion include “suicidal thoughts or acts.”

“Our research demonstrates that the warnings given to women are not based on quality scientific evidence and provide women with misinformation about abortion,” Dr. Diana Greene Foster, director of research at ANSIRH and study co-author, said in a statement.

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