Mental Health and Abortion (American Psychological Association)

Mental Health and Abortion (American Psychological Association)

Executive Summary of the Task Force Report

The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association charged the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion (TFMHA) with “collecting, examining, and summarizing the scientific research addressing the mental health factors associated with abortion, including the psychological responses following abortion, and producing a report based upon a review of the most current research.” In considering the psychological implications of abortion, the TFMHA recognized that abortion encompasses a diversity of experiences. Women obtain abortions for different reasons; at different times of gestation; via differing medical procedures; and within different personal, social, economic, and cultural contexts. All of these may lead to variability in women’s psychological reactions following abortion. Consequently, global statements about the psychological impact of abortion on women can be misleading.

The TFMHA evaluated all empirical studies published in English in peer-reviewed journals post-1989 that compared the mental health of women who had an induced abortion to the mental health of comparison groups of women (N=50) or that examined factors that predict mental health among women who have had an elective abortion in the United States (N=23). This literature was reviewed and evaluated with respect to its ability to address four primary questions:

  1. Does abortion cause harm to women’s mental health?

  2. How prevalent are mental health problems among women in the United States who have had an abortion?

  3. What is the relative risk of mental health problems associated with abortion compared to its alternatives (other courses of action that might be taken by a pregnant woman in similar circumstances)? And,

  4. What predicts individual variation in women’s psychological experiences following abortion?