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The effects of induced abortion on women's mental health: a review of the literature

14 April 2000


Over the past decades, the psychological effects of abortion have been the focus
of significant attention in psychological research. This paper describes and critically evaluates the research literature on the psychological effects of abortion. According to the literature, the relationship between medically induced abortion and the experience of psychological sequelae appears to be complex and not well understood. One question raised in the research literature was whether women experience psychological distress (grief, depression, anger, anxiety, and/or guilt) after an abortion procedure. The research literature shows two answers to this question. One side of research indicates that women suffer few if any negative psychological effects after an abortion. The other side of research indicates that the abortion experience is traumatic and that a negative, immediate
or delayed post-abortion response is common and under-detected. Discrepancies in this body of research are due to: (a) abortion being imbued with significant psychological meanings and implications; (b) methodological problems with abortion research; and (c) the controversial political debate surrounding the topic of induced abortion. Overall, there needs to be more research on the psychological sequelae of abortion (both positive and negative). Future research should examine: (a) the characteristics of women who are most likely to have a negative response; (b) the long-term effects of abortion; (c) the
separation of compounding variables involved in abortion; (d) effective treatment and clinical interventions; and (e) the reevaluation of past research.


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