Guttmacher points out fraudulent abortion reseach

March 6, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More

Guttmacher Institute recently sent me a mass email sternly criticizing false research suggesting that women who have had abortions are more likely to have mental illness. It turns out that this is not true. What is stunning is the abysmal methodology of the criticized research. Here is an excerpt from Guttmacher’s site:

A study purporting to show a causal link between abortion and subsequent mental health problems has fundamental analytical errors that render its conclusions invalid, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Guttmacher Institute. This conclusion has been confirmed by the editor of the journal in which the study appeared. Most egregiously, the study, by Priscilla Coleman and colleagues, did not distinguish between mental health outcomes that occurred before abortions and those that occurred afterward, but still claimed to show a causal link between abortion and mental disorders. The study by Coleman and colleagues was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2009 . . . .

“This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data,” says Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor in UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry. “The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors.”

The errors are especially problematic because Coleman later cited her own study in a meta-analysis of studies looking at abortion and mental health. The meta-analysis, which was populated primarily by Coleman’s own work, has been sharply criticized by the scientific community for not evaluating the quality of the included studies and for violating well-established guidelines for conducting such analyses.

“Studies claiming to find a causal association between abortion and subsequent mental health problems often suffer from serious methodological limitations that invalidate their conclusions,” says Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. “In thorough reviews, the highest-quality studies have found no causal link between abortion and subsequent mental health problems.”

Even when identified, spurious research can have far-reaching consequences. Mandatory counseling laws in a number of states require women seeking an abortion to receive information, purportedly medically accurate, that has no basis in fact. Among other things, mandatory counseling can require that a woman be told that having an abortion increases her risk of breast cancer, infertility and mental illness. In reality, none of these claims are medically accurate. These laws not only represent a gross intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship, they serve to propagate misinformation, intentionally misinforming the patient on important medical matters.


Category: Fraud, Reproductive Rights, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    And from this research from Washington University, an effective way to reduce the number of abortions is to make birth control accessible. Common sense and undeniable:

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    One would think that the right-to-life folks would be all in favor of effective and affordable family planning, including both contraceptives and public school sex education, because they are important ways to reduce unintended pregnancies, but often the same folks are against all of it.

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