Analysis of 22 Studies Confirms: Abortion Harms Women's Mental Health

By Susan E. Wills

September 2, 2011 

The largest, most definitive analysis of the mental health risks associated with abortion was published September 1 in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry. Conducted by Priscilla Coleman, PhD of Bowling Green State University, the meta-analysis examines twenty-two studies published between 1995 and 2009 involving 877,181 women, of whom 163,831 had abortions.

Taking into account all the mental health problems studied—anxiety, depression, alcohol use/misuse, marijuana use and all suicidal behaviors—here is what this rigorous analysis found:

  • Women who have had an abortion have an 81% higher risk of subsequent mental health problems compared to women who have not had an abortion.
  • Women who aborted have a 138% higher risk of mental health problems compared to women who have given birth.
  • Women who aborted have a 55% higher risk of mental health problems compared to women with an "unplanned" pregnancy who gave birth.
  • Women with a history of abortion have higher rates of anxiety (34% higher), depression (37%), alcohol use/misuse (110%), marijuana use (230%), and suicidal behavior (155%), compared to those who have not had an abortion.

Dr. Coleman notes that a 2010 study by Canadian researchers (Mota et al.), published after she completed her analysis of the twenty-two studies, arrived at "strikingly similar" conclusions regarding the increased risk of mental health problems associated with abortion.

The staff, priests and counselors in Project Rachel, the Church's post-abortion ministry, are well aware of the mental health problems women experience following an abortion. The national Project Rachel Ministry website, which lists offices to call for confidential help, receives countless letters from women and men expressing profound anguish, sometimes for decades after an abortion. Thousands of tragic personal stories are posted in chat rooms and on message boards like those at

And yet a handful of "pro-choice" academics continue to churn out papers attempting to show that "the few" women who have mental health problems after abortion are those who had mental health problems before their abortion. They claim that having an abortion is better for one's mental health than giving birth to an "unplanned" (and therefore to their mind "unwanted") child.

Dr. Coleman's meta-analysis disproves these contentions, weeding out weak and potentially biased studies by including only studies that (1) were published in a peer-reviewed journal, (2) had at least 100 participants in the sample, (3) used a comparison group (e.g., women who had given birth, women who had not had an abortion), (4) measured one or more outcomes, such as depression, substance abuse or suicidal behavior and (5) controlled for other variables, such as prior history of mental health problems or exposure to violence.

Health care professionals have a duty to advise patients of the benefits and risks of a procedure "in a manner that reflects the current scientific literature," so patients can make an informed choice. As former abortion clinic staff attest, and as undercover journalists in the U.S. and U.K. have discovered, counselors at abortion clinics conceal mental and physical health risks—as well as the fact that the procedure will violently end a child's life—in order to sell abortions.

Thanks to Dr. Coleman, the current scientific literature now proves that the increased risks to mental health from abortion outweigh any imagined "benefit" to women. Women considering abortion deserve to be told these facts—but they won't hear them once they're inside the clinic. It is up to us to get the word out.

Susan Wills is Assistant Director for Education & Outreach, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-life Activities. For more information on the Church's ministry to women and men after abortion, visit