LEGISLATING FOR ABORTION
Madam, - Dr Berry Kiely (Head 2 Head, July 9th) cites a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry which showed that women who had an abortion had elevated rates of subsequent mental health problems.Among the limitations of this study is the fact that the research did not allow for existing psychiatric illness.
Moreover, the research was conducted in New Zealand where, in order to obtain an abortion, it must be established that the pregnancy would seriously harm the life or the physical or mental health of the woman or baby, or is the result of incest or rape; or that the woman is severely mentally handicapped. An abortion will also be considered on the basis of age. Given the implications of these criteria, it is hardly surprising that the study should find some association between women with mental health problems and abortion.
These research findings are also inconsistent with the current consensus on the psychological effects of abortion which is, as the American Psychological Association statement outlined in 2005, that there is no causal link between clinically relevant distress in women and abortion.
What is extremely traumatic for women in Ireland is facing a crisis pregnancy. Moreover, as the abortion rates for Ireland show, forcing women abroad does not lower the rate of abortion; it merely compounds the distress women face in crisis pregnancy. If we want to lower the rate of abortion and avoid compounding the distress of a crisis pregnancy, the only conclusion is that abortion must be available in Ireland for those who choose it.
Legalisation must be accompanied by other policies: the introduction of adequate sex education programmes; an end to the stigma surrounding sex and abortion; free and accessible contraception; and the introduction of real supports for women who choose to go through with their pregnancies.
Most importantly, real and honest debate must take place on this issue - debate that is based on fact.
- Yours, etc,