DAILY / MAY 3, 2014, VOL. 4, NO. 18   Send Feedback l View Online
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2014 APA's Annual Meeting Special Edition

The Myth of Abortion Trauma

Nada Stotland, M.D.Psychiatrists who treat women see patients who have had, who are contemplating, or who will have abortions; one-third of the women in the United States have an induced abortion at some time in their lives. Psychosocial stresses, including psychiatric illnesses, often increase women's vulnerability to unplanned pregnancy and increase women's concerns about their capacity to parent. Thus, it would not be surprising to find that induced abortion was associated with an increased incidence of psychiatric symptoms. However, empirical evidence indicates that any such association is not causal, according to Nada Stotland, M.D., an expert in women’s reproductive health and a former APA president. The strongest predictor of a women's postabortion psychological state is her pre-abortion psychological state, she emphasized.

“Women have a range of emotions around their abortions, as with all life decisions; those feelings can change with time and circumstances. Feelings should not be confused with psychopathology. The predominant feeling post-abortion is relief,” Stotland said. “Therefore it is especially troubling that women's mental health is invoked as a rationale for laws and policies making abortion access difficult or impossible and in many cases increasing peri-abortion psychological stress by mandating misinformation or medically unnecessary ultrasound examinations or permitting demonstrators to block clinics and shout at women attending them.”

Assertions that there is an abortion trauma syndrome misuse psychiatry’s professional language, she continued. This is not to say that psychiatrists and patients have no religious or moral feelings about abortion, but to say that those attitudes are separate from scientific findings.

“It is science, and informed and autonomous choice, that we owe our patients,” she concluded.




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