Academic Research Shows Abortion’s Negative Mental Health Impact on Women

Susan Michelle Tyrell | July 29, 2013

A common criticism of pro-lifers is that their arguments are steeped in emotionalism, not facts. Women have abortions all the time, they insist, and they aren’t depressed or traumatized. However, solid academic research proves this isn’t true. The findings show that “fetal loss is traumatic” and that this may have serious impact on our national health care system.

In a review of scientific studies on post-abortive women, published on July 16 in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, entitled “Abortion and subsequent mental health: Review of the literature,”  Carlo V. Bellieni MD and  Giuseppe Buonocore MD, PhD (Department of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Reproduction Medicine, University of Siena, Siena, Italy) show objectively that the likelihood of women who have abortions suffering from mental illness as a result is significantly increased.

The physicians reviewed all of the research between 1995-2011 that related to abortion and its correlation to mental problems in order to asses the connection. Of the 36 scientific studies that exist in that period, 30 were used; the eliminated studies were primarily due to “methodological bias,” such as invalid questionnaires or control groups.

Ultimately, the researchers discovered that in “Abortion versus childbirth: 13 studies showed a clear risk for at least one of the reported mental problems [Depression, anxiety disorders (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder) and substance abuse disorders] in the abortion group versus childbirth,… and only one paper reported a worse mental outcome for childbearing” (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013).

The researchers examined the differences reported between abortion, childbearing and also miscarriage because it is known as “fetal loss.” The results are statistically significant. 

Some results:

Abortion versus childbirth

Researchers noted that “Thirteen studies supported the presence of a risk of mental disorder in the groups of women who had had an abortion versus those who gave birth. Only five papers showed no risk in the abortion group.” This is an important finding to note. Scientific unbiased research found there was a presence of mental disorder resulting from abortion. Most often, abortion advocates insist that it’s in a woman’s best interest to have an abortion if she feels unprepared to parent; it is presented as a positive mental health decision; however, almost 20 years of research proves that assertion incorrect.

Abortion versus unplanned pregnancy

Researchers found, “When comparing abortion and unplanned pregnancies that ended in delivery, four studies found a higher risk for loss of self-esteem, anxiety disorders, depression, suicide ideation, and substance abuse disorder or substance abuse rate in the abortion groups” (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013). This finding was the majority of this category, further showing abortion affects mental health, and for most in a negative way–more negative than if the woman has an unplanned birth. 

 Some other findings from the research review, all from (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013):

Clinical depression– present in 17% of women who give birth to a living baby and in 26% of those who abort. 

Depression and bipolar disorder– present in 43.2% of women who miscarried, in 45.5% of those who had an abortion, in 28.7% of those who gave birth and in 25.1% of never pregnant women. 

Anxiety– One study showed that 10 days after the event, 47.5% of the women who had a miscarriage had high Impact of Event Scale [self-report measure that assesses subjective distress caused by traumatic events] scores, compared with 30% for women who had an induced abortion. After two years this became “2.6% and 18.1%, respectively. [And] Another study that compared term childbirth and abortion found that after 14 months, relevant psychiatric diagnoses were present in 0% and in 16.7% of women, respectively.” 

These findings fly in the face of what abortion advocates say is truth. And it would be beneficial for them to review these findings regardless of their view on abortion—assuming they actually care about women and not a cause. The final discussion of the article notes two important implications of the fact that these articles support that “abortion is a risk factor for subsequent mental illness when compared with childbirth” (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013). The authors note:

“The first is that fetal loss is traumatic. It is a risk factor for mental illness – both in the case of abortion and in miscarriage – and its impact on a woman’s life can erroneously be underestimated. Most studies show that abortion has a greater impact on women’s mental health than childbearing; all remaining studies show similar mental consequences and only one seems to have noted a worse outcome for childbearing. Even the birth of an unplanned child is often traumatic, but abortion seems to be even more traumatic, or similar with regard to the psychological outcomes; this should be taken into account when counseling women scared by a non-desired pregnancy. Making their choices, women should be clearly informed.” (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013)

There is no pro or anti to this statement. The facts are the facts. In every objective study for almost 20 years, which followed internationally accepted research guidelines, abortion is shown as a risk factor for mental illness. To ignore this fact in the name of “choice” is evidence that the abortion advocates actually care more about the issue than the women they claim to defend. Academically and scientifically speaking, there isn’t a much better standard by which all sides can agree than solid academic research. The pro-life community has asserted this for years and one of the reasons abortion is so bad for women. Countless post-abortive women tell stories of the trauma they endured. Now we see that scientific research also upholds their cause. It is time for abortion advocates to listen to what the facts say. 

And finally, it is time for our action to listen to the last conclusion the authors make:

“These data show that a greater involvement of the national health system in clinical follow up of women who have had a fetal loss is desirable…. In particular, elective abortion is one of the most common medical interventions in the world: 1.29 million were performed in the USA in 2008. Thus it is important to monitor mothers who have undergone abortion, to prevent negative mental consequences: although the discussion in this field is limited to ethics and morality, we emphasize that there is also a serious public health problem. The discussion in this field does not currently trespass on the moral boundaries; now, it is important to consider the hypothesis that abortion is an independent risk factor for mental health, and carry out more research accordingly.” (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013) 

This news should be a startling wake-up call for our nation and our health care system which will have mandated abortive birth control coverage and even has an “abortion surcharge.” We continue to fund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, and while that money is technically not allowed to cover abortion, it is fungible money that frees up the clinics to provide abortions with money coded otherwise. 

Virtually all that abortion advocates argue for—women’s rights, women’s health, women’s access to abortion, women’s funding of abortion—is shown, factually, to be bad for those same women. This research wasn’t from a couple of pro-life guys plugging out a blog. It was conducted the same way all academic research must be conducted and met the same standards. 

When will the abortion industry listen to what’s actually best for women? Perhaps when they are mandated to pay for the counseling of the damaged women who were lied to about how abortion was no big deal psychologically. Only the ignorant could argue abortion is harmless to women.


Bellieni , C., & Buonocore, G. (2013). Abortion and subsequent mental health: Review of the literature. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 67(5), 301–310. Retrieved from