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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Doctor Slays Credibility of APA Statement that Abortion Doesn't Harm Women

The statement a couple of weeks ago by the American Psychological Association that abortion isn't a threat to women's mental health was hailed by pro-abortion forces as a victory for their contention that the procedure which ends a human life is harmless to women.

The ink on the statement wasn't dry, however, before the sloppy and disingenuous background of the statement started coming out.

A hundred medical and psychological professionals immediately came out with a statement refuting the APA conclusion.

Brenda Major, chair of the APA task force, admitted that many of the studies looked at had "serious methodological problems."

Dr. Rachel M. MacNair, an APA insider, called the statement a "politically-motivated exercise." She also said the statement was really only based on a single 1995 study, and even that one found more cases of drug overdose in women who had abortions compared to others who had not.

Now Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology and fellow for psychology and public policy at Grove City College's Center for Vision and Values, has a piece in the Washington Times today which says that pro-abortion scholar David Fergusson, who is executive director of the Health & Development Study at the Christchurch School of Medicine & Health Sciences in New Zealand, also questions the statement.

In 2005, Dr. Fergusson published a longitudinal study of young women, which found adverse mental health effects associated with abortion. What is striking about his work is that he began his study with the expectation that abortion would not prove harmful. What he found convinced him that the concerns about mental health effects were credible.

Throckmorton says that Fergusson corroborates MacNair's contention that the statement relied on only one study.

Throckmorton also says "mental health outcomes were not assessed by mental health professionals or standardized surveys but rather by reports to general practitioners" and that "well over half of the women dropped out of the study and were not available for follow up."

Throckmorton says Fergusson questions the rationale for setting this policy in the absence of more evidence:
"What the Committee has, in effect, said is that until there is compelling evidence to the contrary, people should act as though abortion has no harmful effects. This is not a defensible position in a situation in which there is evidence pointing in the direction of harmful effects. The moral of all of this is very simple: In science, drawing strong conclusions on the basis of weak evidence is bad practice. The APA report on abortion and mental health falls into this error."

Remember, this is a "pro-choice" scholar speaking who has no moral issues with abortion.

Throckmorton says the APA should start over and do a thorough study this time.
It would be a remarkable act of scientific integrity to acknowledge they were premature, but it would be the right thing to do.

He's right. Sloppy, agenda-driven medical policy is a tremendous health risk for the general public.

HT to the FRC blog.


cp said...

Dr. Rachel M. MacNair, an APA insider

according to who??

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology and fellow for psychology and public policy at Grove City College's Center for Vision and Values

Oh, well no THERE's someone that is right the center of current psychological expertise. They are like, bigger than Harvard, right?

in the Washington Times

Bob, can't you find sources that are credible outside your own echo chamber? I says something about your thesis that you have to reach waaay outside the mainstream of science and opinion to back up your premises.

Bob Ellis said...

Maligning sources because they undermine your agenda is easy, Curtis.

Do you dispute these statements? I'd like to hear you do that on a credible basis.

cp said...

Yes, I totally dispute these statements.

They are outside of American mainstream psychology and medicine. That's why you need to reach to Grove City College--you won't find these opinions at Baylor, Harvard, Univ. of Chicago... I think that's a credible statement.

Abortion is a tragic difficult choice for some, but the anti-choice extremists like you make it a living hell for these women. Anti-choice crusaders are the ones that are hurting women, not health care practitioners, parents, and families that are honestly trying to do the right thing in very difficult situations.

As John McCain would say: my friend, don't be fooled.

Bob Ellis said...

So, Curtis, please explain how you:

- Know that the hundred professionals who issued a statement refuting the APA statement are incorrect

- Know that Brenda Major, the APA task force chair, was incorrect when she said many of the studies they looked at "serious methodological problems."

- Know how Dr. Rachel M. MacNair isn't an APA member

- Know that Dr. MacNair's statement that the APA statement was a "politically-motivated exercise" was incorrect

- Know that the results of David Fergusson, a pro-abortion scholar, are inaccurate

- Know that the APA did not use only one study as the basis for their assessment

- Know that thse mental health outcomes actually were assessed by mental health professionals or standardized surveys rather than by reports to general practitioners

- Know that well over half of the women did not drop out of the study and were unavailable for follow up

- Know that it is a defensible position for the APA to state that people should act as though abortion has no harmful effects when, as Fergusson (who is pro-abortion) said, there is evidence pointing in the direction of harmful effects

You say you dispute these statements. I'd really like to know on what credible basis you do so.

Jen R said...

cp, Rachel MacNair was one of 20 researchers who were asked to review the report before it was released. She also has offered insight from an APA member's point of view into how the task force members were chosen, and how the process differed from the usual procedure for APA task forces. You can read her account here:


You can also read the APA's report yourself, and see that it does, in fact, rely on the results of a single study (Gilchrist et. al., 1995) for its conclusion that "the best scientific evidence indicates that the relative risk of mental health problems among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy is no greater if they have an elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy."


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