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Abortion Myth About Depression Falls Before Science

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

First, there was the widely discredited claim that abortion raised breast cancer rates. Then, so-called pro-lifers avowed that women who had abortions became profoundly depressed afterwards. The list of myths propagated by right-wing abortion foes goes on and on. Today, yet another claim fell prey to scientific accuracy:

The researchers reviewed all English-language, peer-reviewed publications between 1989 and 2008 that studied relationships between abortion and long-term mental health.

They analyzed those that included valid mental health measures and factored in pre-existing mental health status and potentially confusing factors.

"The best quality studies indicate no significant differences in long-term mental health between women in the United States who choose to terminate a pregnancy and those who do not," they wrote.

"...studies with the most flawed methodology consistently found negative mental health consequences of abortion," they added. "Scientists are still conducting research to answer politically motivated questions."

And the fight to deny women the right to control their own fertility is still going on, even though the nation has elected a president with a deep commitment to abortion rights. On his way out the door, President Bush is trying to pay off debts to the Christian right by changing federal medical rules:

For more than 30 years, federal law has protected the rights of doctors and nurses to refuse to perform abortions. Now, in his last weeks in office, President Bush is expected to announce a "right of conscience rule" that would clarify and possibly extend what healthcare workers may refuse to provide based on moral convictions.

The rule, supported by the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, would (1) clarify that healthcare workers not only may refuse to perform abortions, but may also refuse to provide information or advice regarding them; (2) protect more medical employees, such as operating-room technicians involved in but not central to abortion procedures; and (3) possibly include artificial insemination and birth control as things workers could refuse to provide or give advice on.

I remember in 2001 watching President Bush undo so many of the gains women's rights advocates made under President Clinton. And as a member of the Bush cabinet told me, "Elections have consequences." They sure do. But this time the pendulum is swinging in the direction of the future, not the past.

--Read more by Bonnie Erbe

--Read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog

--Read more about abortion

By Bonnie Erbe

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