Catholic bishops call on government to address links between abortion and mental health

4 Nov 2009 | BIOETHICS

New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops are calling on the government to address questions raised in a study on the links between abortion and mental health.

A University of Otago study of more than 500 women found that abortion can increase the risk of developing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It also found that the risk of mental illness was proportional to the degree of distress associated with the abortion procedure.

In New Zealand the Abortion Supervisory Committee reports that more than 90 per cent of abortions are carried out to reduce mental health risk to the mother.

The Otago University study raises important questions about the practice of justifying termination of pregnancy on the grounds that this procedure will reduce risks of mental health problems in women having unwanted pregnancy. The researchers concluded that there is currently no evidence to support the assumptions underlying this practice, and the findings of the study suggest that abortion may, in fact, increase mental health risks among those women who find seeking and obtaining an abortion a distressing experience.

Archbishop John Dew of Wellington says the effects of an abortion on mental health are a concern for the Catholic Church.

“The Church has a real concern for those who might suffer depression or anxiety and develop mental health problems as a result of having an abortion. It has always tried to show care and compassion, and has an organisation called Project Rachel which assists people who have been affected by the abortion process.”