Women who have abortions risk mental health, says Royal College of Psychiatrists

London, Mar 18, 2008 / 01:02 am (CNA).- A British medical organization has warned that women who have abortions may be at risk for mental health breakdowns, the Times reports.

In a statement released on March 14, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said that women should not be allowed to have abortions until they are counseled on the procedure’s possible risks to their mental health. Several recent studies have concluded that abortion in young women might be associated with mental health risks.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ statement recommended adding details about the risks of depression to abortion information leaflets. “Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information,” it said.

Nadine Dorries, a Conservative MP campaigning for a waiting period for women considering abortion, welcomed the college’s revised stance. “For doctors to process a woman’s request for an abortion without providing the support, information and help women need at this time of crisis I regard almost as a form of abuse,” she said, according to the Times.

The statement overturns the British medical establishment’s decades-old consensus that claimed the mental health risks of continuing with an unwanted pregnancy outweighs the risks of possibly living with regrets of having an abortion. More than 90 percent of the 200,000 annual abortions in Britain are believed to be performed because doctors think that continuing the pregnancy would cause greater mental strain.

Dr. Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said in response to the study: “How can a doctor now justify an abortion [on mental health grounds] if psychiatrists are questioning whether there is any clear evidence that continuing with the pregnancy leads to mental health problems.”

The British Parliament will soon vote on a proposal to reduce the upper time limit for abortions “for social reasons” from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. A Sunday Times poll reports that 59 percent of women support the reduction, while 48 percent of the population as a whole supports the proposal.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ statement has added to the abortion controversy, already heightened in Britain by the recent suicide of a 30-year-old woman who said she was overcome with grief for having aborted her twins.

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