Abortion and Suicide

Recent research in the US, Wales and Finland show increased rates of suicide or women following induced abortion than for women admitted for normal delivery.

  • Ignorance of this research may be due to the contentious issues surrounding abortion.
  • The 1997 Finnish study was government-funded, secular and based on medical records.
  • The primary reason for suicide after an abortion, is the long-term clinical depression suffered by a percentage of women.
  • Depression can lead to abusing drugs and alcohol, with a consequent risk of suicide.
  • Teens are generally at higher risk for both suicide and abortion.
"Abortion increases the likelihood of suicide," is the finding of research in the United States, Britain and Finland. After an abortion a woman has to deal with painful issues of grief and loss. Keeping the baby reduces the risks of suicide because the mother lives to care for her child.
  • The Finland study revealed a six-fold increased rate of deaths from suicide among aborting women. BMJ 1996;313:1431-1434
  • A study conducted in Wales on 408,000 women between 1991 and 1995, found that women who had induced abortions were 225 percent more likely to commit suicide, than women admitted for normal delivery. BMJ 1997; 314:902
  • A recent American study came up with similar results, examining the medical records of 173,279 low-income women who had abortions in 1989. Four years later the annual suicide rate was found to be 160 percent higher among the aborting women than those who delivered their babies. Study
Because abortion is such a controversial issue and is a legal remedy to an unwanted pregnancy, many professional organisations prefer to avoid reference to any negative consequences.

Medical and mental health websites, globally and in New Zealand, typically do not list or mention any link between abortion and suicide.

While the reason for this lack of mention and recognition could be due to the contentious issues surrounding abortion, possible "politicisation", it may just as well be simple ignorance of the overseas research.

The significance of the 1997 Finnish study was that it was government-funded, secular, and based on medical records.

By linking death certificates directly to payment records for births and abortions, the researchers were able to get an accurate picture of maternal deaths. However, the results have been widely ignored.

The primary reason given for suicide after an abortion, is the long-term clinical depression suffered by a percentage of women. This post-abortion grief or trauma can lead to abusing drugs and alcohol, with an added risk of suicide.

Link to postnatal depression (pregnancykeyissues2/) here

Anniversary reaction
There have been numerous publications describing individual cases of completed suicide following an abortion.1.

In many cases, the attempted or completed suicides have been intentionally or subconsciously timed to coincide with the anniversary date of the abortion, or the expected due date of the aborted child.

A study, performed by Dr. Carl L. Tishler, found that teenage girls in particular, who have had abortions, are more likely to commit suicide on or near the anniversary of their abortions than at any other time. 2.

Suicide attempts and successes among male partners following abortion have also been reported. 3

Teens are generally at higher risk for both suicide and abortion. In a survey of 3,500 teenage girls, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the rate of attempted suicide in the six months prior to the study increased ten fold -- from 0.4 percent for girls who had not aborted during that time period to 4 percent -- for teens who had aborted in the previous six months. 4.

Other studies also suggest that the risk of suicide after an abortion may be higher for women with a prior history of psychological disturbances or suicidal tendencies. 5.

Meta Uchtman, Regional Director of Cincinnati Suiciders Anonymous in the U.S., testified in the Court hearing Casey v. Planned Parenthood that, of the 4,000 women seen by her organisation, 40 percent were post-abortal, far more than the 22 percent of women in general who attempt suicide. 6.

References:
1. E. Joanne Angelo, Psychiatric Sequelae of Abortion: The Many Faces of Post-Abortion Grief," Linacre Quarterly 59:69-80, May 1992; David Grimes, "Second-Trimester Abortions in the United States, Family Planning Perspectives 16(6):260; Myre Sim and Robert Neisser, "Post-Abortive Psychoses," The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, ed. D. Mall and W.F. Watts, (Washington D.C.: University Publications of America, 1979). 

2. Carl Tischler, "Adolescent Suicide Attempts Following Elective Abortion," Pediatrics 68(5):670, 1981. 

3. "Psychopathological Effects of Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy on the Father Called Up for Military Service," Psychologie Medicale 14(8):1187-1189, June 1982; Angelo, op. cit. 

4. B. Garfinkle, H. Hoberman, J. Parsons and J. Walker, "Stress, Depression and Suicide: A Study of Adolescents in Minnesota" (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Extension Service, 1986) 

5. Esther R. Greenglass, "Therapeutic Abortion and Psychiatric Disturbance in Canadian Women," Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 21(7):453-460, 1976; Helen Houston & Lionel Jacobson, "Overdose and Termination of Pregnancy: An Important Association?" British Journal of General Practice, 46:737-738, 1996. 

6. Meta Uchtman, Regional Director of Cincinnati Suiciders Anonymous, in Sept. 1981 testimony considering parental notification before a minor's abortion, quoted in Suicide, Abortion and Parents, South Dakota Right to Life Newsletter 3 (Nov., 1981).