Opinion

Media Matters hypes amicus briefs that fail to disprove abortion regret

woman-sad

mediamatters-square“Never let facts get in the way of a good narrative” is the opposite of how things should work at a real media watchdog organization, but that’s exactly how they see it at Media Matters, where Sharon Kann declares the specter of abortion regret “debunked” by amicus briefs filed in the Supreme Court’s consideration of Texas’s abortion regulations:

In a January 5 article, MSNBC noted that the personal stories in many of the amicus briefs were meant to combat the generalization that women systemically regret their choice of abortion and suffer “severe depression.” Beyond influencing Kennedy, the article also said that the briefs challenged the stigma and backlash surrounding abortion that “persist in society and in state legislatures.

She goes on to quote MSNBC as reporting that “a task force by the American Psychological Association reviewing the actual research found that adult women who have abortions are at no greater risk of mental health problems than if they chose to give birth,” and argues that the “sheer volume of women” relaying positive abortion stories in the briefs proves that “post-abortion syndrome” is a sham.

However, none of this makes her case. First, Kann was helpful enough to quote one of the objects of her scorn, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recognition of abortion regret in 2007’s Gonzales v. Carhart, the partial-birth abortion ban case:

While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.

“Some women.” “Can follow.” So Kennedy didn’t even make any sweeping generalizations about the percentage of women who suffer psychologically from abortions. All he did was recognize the possibility—which is obviously true. Even a handful of regretful abortion experiences is enough to fully vindicate him here.

Second, these briefs are personal stories from individual women—in other words, purely anecdotal. They’re not data that tells us anything conclusive about the majority of abortion experiences. I don’t doubt there are a great many women who feel positively about their abortions and never have a single twinge of regret about them.

But we know there are also a great many women with the opposite reaction, with scores of their stories collected by groups like Silent No More, Rachel’s Vineyard, After Abortion, Abortion Recovery International, and Abortion Changes You. No amount of feel-good abortion tales can somehow prove that the negative ones don’t exist or don’t matter.

Third, what of the overall picture? Kann invokes the American Psychological Association in her corner, but Live Action explained way back in 2011 that the APA’s work on the subject was teeming with methodological shortcomings that made it far from authoritative. For instance:

The samples of studies introduced to the reviews were either overly broad, “resulting in incorporation of results from numerous weaker studies,” or the studies were too specific, resulting in unjustified elimination of sound studies.” The review from the American Psychological Association, the largest literary review, illustrates both of these problems: the criterion that was chosen for the study with a comparison group was only a report based on provisional research on induced abortion “with at least one mental health measure in peer-reviewed journals in English on US and non-US samples.” However, non-US samples were completely evaded for another type of study (which lacked a comparison group) without any sufficient reasoning, so dozens of relevant international studies were disregarded.

We have also identified similar shortcomings in other studies purportedly proving abortion’s mental harmlessness, such as a much-hyped one out of UC-San Francisco. Cassy Fiano exposed this one as focusing on three-year windows before which longer-term fallout would have manifested, and having a sample group disproportionately consisting of people favorably disposed to abortion.

In that post, Cassy also looked at another study, from the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences in July 2013, which “analyzed all scientific trials published since 1995, that evaluated the psychological and psychiatric health of women who had had an abortion, compared with those who had either given birth to a baby or those who had had a miscarriage,” and concluded “it seems difficult to argue that abortion has no psychological or psychiatric consequences.”

What are some of those consequences? Glad you asked. ClinicQuotes.com owner and Live Action contributor Sarah Terzo compiled here and here quite a few of them, from mainstream peer-reviewed academic sources not affiliated with the grand patriarchal conspiracy Media Matters pretends is responsible for all information contradicting their agenda:

  • A 154% increased risk of suicide (Southern Medical Journal, 2002)
  • Ten times more suicide attempts among post-abortive teenage girls (University of Minnesota: Minnesota Extension Service, 1986)
  • 65% higher risk of long-term clinical depression (Medical Science Monitor, 2003)
  • Twice the likelihood of hospitalization for psychiatric illness (Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2003)
  • Five times more drug and alcohol abuse (American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2000)

So no, Media Matters, neither you nor these amicus briefs have discredited our concern for what abortion does to women’s psyches. Its effects are very real and statistically significant.

However, the fact that we’re having this discussion at all shows how far the abortion lobby has fallen from its professed feminist ideals. In a sense, it shouldn’t matter how few women suffer emotionally from their abortions. If these people were really feminists in any historic sense of the word, wouldn’t the possibility of even one woman being mentally or emotionally tortured be enough reason for our abortion regulations to at the very least ensure they are fully informed before making that choice?

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