Springfield, IL (Feb. 15, 2006) -- According to a spokesperson for the American
Psychological Association, the APA's pro-choice position, first adopted in 1969,
is based on a civil rights view, not on scientific proof of any mental health
benefits arising from abortion.
The admission that ideology, not science, governs the APA's support for abortion
came in response to a request by a Washington Times columnist for the
organization's reaction to a new study linking abortion to mental illness. The
study tracked 25 years of worth of data on women born in Christchurch, New
The researchers had expected that their data, drawn from one of the largest and most
comprehensive longitudinal studies in the world, would definitively refute a
recent series of studies linking abortion to higher rates of mental health
problems. The Christchurch team, led by a self-professed "pro-choice atheist,"
Prof. David M. Fergusson, expected to find that any mental health problems occurring after
abortion would be fully explainable by prior mental health problems, which some
believe are more common among women who have abortions. Instead, the New Zealand
research team found the opposite. Even after the researchers controlled for this
and numerous other alternative explanations, abortion was clearly linked to
elevated rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.
The findings so surprised Fergusson's research team that they began reviewing
the studies cited by the APA in its claims that abortion is beneficial, or at
least non-harmful, to women's mental health. The researchers concluded (1) that
the APA's publications defending abortion are based on a small number of studies
that had major methodological shortcomings (a view that echoes former Surgeon
General C. Everett Koop's complaint in 1987 that the research on abortion was
too inadequate to draw any definitive conclusions), and (2) that the APA
appeared to be consistently ignoring a body of studies published in the last
seven years that have shown negative effects from abortion.
The Christchurch team's criticism of the APA's selective and strong assurances
of the mental health benefits of abortion prompted Warren Throckmorton, a
psychologist and newspaper columnist, to call the APA for comment on Fergusson's
criticisms. He was referred to an APA expert and spokesperson on abortion and
women's issues, Dr. Nancy Felipe Russo. Russo was among the leaders within the
APA who, in 1969, led the organization to adopt an official position in favor of
abortion as a civil right. She has subsequently been active in research and
advocacy efforts opposing parental notification and mandatory informed consent
statutes related to abortion.
APA Is Not Neutral On Abortion Science
When asked to comment on the New Zealand study and the pro-choice authors'
criticisms of the APA, Russo told Throckmorton that the APA's position on
abortion was established on the view that abortion is a civil right. As quoted
in Throckmorton's Washington Times column, Russo explained that the Christchurch
study would have no effect on the APA's position because "To pro-choice
advocates, mental health effects are not relevant to the legal context of
arguments to restrict access to abortion."
In the first draft of Throckmorton's column, which he sent for comment to
another expert on abortion research, Dr. David Reardon of the Springfield,
IL-based Elliot Institute, Russo was quoted more bluntly, saying, "it doesn't
matter what the evidence says." Throckmorton and Russo subsequently agreed to
clarification of her statement as it appeared in the Washington Times.
According to Reardon, an author of several of the studies on abortion that have
been ignored by the APA, Russo's statements "confirm the complaint of critics
that the APA's briefs to the Supreme Court and state legislatures are really
about promoting a view about civil rights, not science. Toward this end, the APA
has set up task forces and divisions that include only psychologists who share
the same bias in favor of abortion."
Reardon believes the APA's task forces on abortion have actually served to
stifle rather than encourage research. "When researchers like Fergusson or
myself publish data showing abortion is linked to mental health problems,
members of the APA's abortion policy police rush forward to tell the public to
ignore our findings because they are completely out of line with their own
'consensus' statements which are positioned as the APA's official interpretation
of the meaningful research on abortion."
When is Relief Not Relief?
Reardon is especially disturbed by what he decries as the "one note" optimism
found in position papers by the APA, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations
Among the studies most frequently cited by abortion supporters are those that
have asked women to check off a list of feelings they have after their
abortions, often within just a few hours, a week, or a month of the procedure.
The list may include words like "relief," "regret," "guilt," and "happiness," .
These studies have found that the most commonly reported reaction after abortion
is relief. Indeed, the phrase, "the most commonly reported reaction is relief,"
frequently shows up in information and consent forms for abortion.
"All the emphasis on women experiencing relief is misleading because most women
reporting relief also report negative reactions," Reardon said. "Indeed, when
you add up the number of women reporting negative reactions, it regularly
exceeds the number of women reporting relief."
The problem, Reardon says, is that while statistics on "relief" may have value
in marketing or lobbying for abortion, they have little or no value as a
"Women are simply presented with this single word," he said. "So women who feel
relief that they survived an unpleasant surgery, relief that they will no longer
face their boyfriend's badgering to have an abortion, relief that they are no
longer having morning sickness, or relief from any number of other stresses, are
all lumped into the same category, even though their experiences are
different. Lumping all forms of relief together helps to makes it sound like most women are reporting that abortion
has fundamentally improved their lives, but it's a sloppy and misleading data
variable. In fact, when you really look at the
data, most of the very same women who are reporting 'relief' are also reporting
grief, shame, traumatic reactions, or other negative feelings."
"Thirty-five years ago, when the APA joined in the effort to legalize abortion,
they were promising more than just 'relief,'" he added. "They were insisting
that abortion would fundamentally improve women's mental and physical health by
sparing them the burden of unwanted children. But 38 million abortions later,
there is still not a single statistically-validated study that has shown how
abortion has actually improved the lives of women who abort compared to those
who carry to term."
"Instead, if you look at the data instead of consensus opinions, depression
rates are up, not down, among women who have had abortions. Suicide and
substance abuse are up, not down. Premature deliveries are up, not down," said
Reardon. "But instead of including this data in their statements on abortion,
the APA's self-selected panels of abortion advocates continue to distract the
media from the all hard evidence linking abortion to higher rates of suicide,
substance abuse, depression and anxiety by promoting meaningless statistics
Reardon says he is thankful that Russo has finally helped to call attention to
the fact that the APA's position on abortion is principally based on a
commitment to defend abortion as a civil right.
But this admission, he says, should be weighed in light of criticisms
against the trend toward "consensus science" as a means of influencing
politics. As one critic, best selling author Dr. Michael Crichton, creator of
Jurassic Park and ER, has succinctly observed: "'The work of science has nothing whatever
to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics.'"
CONSENSUS SCIENCE IS NOT SCIENCE
Outside the context of the abortion debate, best selling author Michael
Crichton, M.D., a 1969 graduate of the Harvard Medical School, described the
disturbing trend of "consensus science" at a Caltech lecture in 2004, a brief
portion of which is excerpted below:
I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to
be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the
first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the
matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees
on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus.
Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only
one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results
that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is
irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in
history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't
science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
Excerpted from Michael Crichton, "Aliens Cause Global Warming" Caltech Michelin
Lecture, Jan. 17, 2003.
# # #
David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, and Elizabeth M. Ridder, "Abortion in young
subsequent mental health," Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(1):
and mental health. Washington Times. January 21, 2005.
David, H. "Retrospectives" From APA Task Force to Division 34" Population &
Environmental Psychology Bulletin 1999, 25(3):2-3.