A Critique of “Abortion and Mental Health: Evaluating the Evidence”

Abstract

The article “Abortion and Mental Health: Evaluating the Evidence” looks at how women’s experiences during an abortion can have implications on their mental health. It is based on earlier research that has been conducted on the same subject, but it attempts to improve previous findings by identifying gaps of the earlier studies. According to the authors, mental problems that women suffer after an abortion are not entirely based on their experience with the abortion. They suggest that there are other factors that contribute to women’s mental health problems apart from their experiences with abortion. These factors include ethnicity, religion, culture, and women’s life cycle among others. This paper presents a critique of the article by looking at its methodology, conclusion, relevance, and applicability among other elements.

Introduction

The authors of the research article “Abortion and Mental Health: Evaluating the Evidence” show concern over faulty conclusions made by earlier researchers on this subject. In their opinion, researchers failed to present conclusions that could be generalized because they failed to adhere to the principles of a scientific research. In their analysis of some of the earlier research, the authors identify problems with the mode of selection of the sample used for data collection. In their view, conclusions made by earlier researchers cannot be generalized owing to the fact that a majority of studies had problems with sampling. Some of the criticized studies used specialized samples that could not sufficiently represent general women population (Major et al., 2009). It is in light of these problems that the authors indulge in conducting an extensive research to study this subject further.

The research problem is based on the uncertainty about the relationship between abortion and mental health of women. To solve this problem, the authors have improved a number of research questions used in other studies. They have identified some weaknesses relating to earlier research questions and have sought to improve on them. They want to get appropriate responses that would help them attain their main objective of examining mental health of women in the United States and other countries with the same sociopolitical contexts after undergoing an abortion. The researchers have omitted several questions used by other researchers in investigating this matter, but have chosen to use only two research questions. They want to find answers to such questions as “What predicts individual variation in women’s psychological experiences following abortion?” and “Why some women experience an abortion more or less favorably than others”.

Body

In line with the objectives of this research, the authors make evaluation of various empirical researches conducted to look at how induced abortion relates to women’s mental health. By doing this, they focus their attention on addressing two main aspects. First, they look at risks linked with undergoing abortion and compare such risks with challenges of going for available alternatives. Second, the authors are keen to look at what causes the difference in the manner in which women respond to an abortion.

The authors strive to confirm or dispute the hypothesis that the relationship between abortion and women’s mental health is solely caused by their experiences after an abortion without an input of other preexisting and co-occurring risk factors. This hypothesis reflects and improves on the report given by the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion. As mentioned earlier, there were several methodological problems with the research that the authors reviewed. It means that the hypothesis upon which this research work is based is not viable. This is confirmed by the fact that other researches conducted in the United States show that the risk that women who have had single legal first trimester abortion is hardly different from the risk among women who delivered unwanted pregnancies (Major et al., 2009).

After doing an in-depth literature review of a wide range of studies conducted by renowned academicians and organizations, the authors arrive at a conclusion that not all adult women who end their pregnancies through abortion suffer from mental health problems. They acknowledge the fact that some women suffer from such health problems. However, they go ahead to suggest that it is necessary to recognize different experiences that women go through and to understand and validate such experiences. As they make this conclusion, the authors suggest that mental health problems suffered by women after an abortion are not fully brought about by the abortion experience. Instead, they propose that there are several factors that contribute to such complications.

To support the idea that mental health complications from which women suffer do not entirely result from their abortion experience, the authors have mentioned a number of factors that they perceive to contribute to women’s responses to abortions. Firstly, they state that women’s experiences differ based on their ethnicity and culture. The authors justify this perception by making references to a report given by the Centers for Disease Control on abortion surveillance data. Based on the data, Major et al. (2009) have found out that the rate of abortion among black women is three times above the rate of abortion among white women. They have also realized that women of other races conduct abortions twice the rate of abortions conducted by white women. Basing their argument on these statistics, the authors conclude that women’s ethnicity and culture play a significant role in determining women’s experience after an abortion.

Secondly, the authors state that experiences that women undergo after an abortion differ based on their life cycle phases. To justify this reasoning, the authors suggest that it is common for a teenager to be psychologically affected after undergoing an abortion. They also note that experiences are different from those that an adult undergoes after terminating pregnancy. Additionally, the authors support their conclusion on this subject with suggesting that women undergo different experiences after abortion depending on their religious, moral, and spiritual beliefs. According to the authors, religion has a great impact on choices that women make regarding termination of their pregnancies. They confirm this by making reference to women belonging to religious groups that are opposed to abortion. Such women are likely to undergo severe mental health problems if they undertake an abortion. They further suggest that abortion does not completely relate to women’s mental health by suggesting that if there was a relation between abortion and mental health, limiting cases of abortion would help to reduce the level of prevalence of the health problem. For them, this is an interventionist fallacy that cannot work (Major et al., 2009).

Based on these findings, the authors reach a conclusion that women’s psychological experiences are different based on their individual characteristics, events before the pregnancy, situations in which they live, and timing of the abortion among other factors.

The research is experimental because the authors make reference to practical and experimental situations in the process of investigating the subject matter. For example, with the independent variable being mental health complications, the authors seek to look at circumstances that result into women’s mental health problems. To achieve this objective, practical examples are used to confirm that there are intervening variables like women’s life cycle, religious alignment, ethnicity, and culture that contribute to women’s post-abortion experiences.

The authors have made an extensive literature review as they evaluated several empirical literature sources on induced abortion and mental health publications made between 1989 and 2008. Due to the volume of literature available on this topic, the authors decide to impose some limitations on their literature review. For example, they choose to review studies looking at outcomes of women’s mental health. They feel that other aspects like the level of education, occupation, and marital status among other issues would complicate the study. The authors give a broad conceptualization of mental health based on the definition given by World Health Organization. They also focus on reviewing literature relating to studies examining mental health consequences of induced abortion. Studies chosen for the literature review in this research are subject to inclusion criteria. They must have been published in English, must have been based on empirical research, and must have been published in peer-reviewed journals between 1989 and 2008. Besides, these are studies that use a comparison group of women.

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The study is current and looks at a subject that is relevant to today’s health issues. Abortion is a topic that has prompted serious debates as people give their varied opinions about the legality of the act. In such debates, proponents and opponents of abortion base their arguments on implications of abortion and circumstances that necessitate abortions. Therefore, looking at abortion and its relation to mental health is a practical study that provides solutions to practical problems in the current society. The researchers suggest that their findings should be applied to understanding emotional reactions of women after undergoing abortions. For example, they suggest that it is wrong to imagine that women suffer from mental complications due to abortion without looking at other conditions to which women are exposed. The conclusion that several factors contribute to women’s mental status after an abortion can be applied in providing psychological counseling to women who appear to be traumatized after undergoing an abortion. It is because information provided in the study helps to understand women better.

The study is written in a clear and straightforward manner. It is because the authors’ findings are clearly communicated by the use of a straightforward language that is easily understood. However, the research work could have been better if the authors mainly used primary data. They over-rely on secondary data by doing an extensive literature review. The authors have noted the problem with the population used by other researchers. In an attempt to solve the identified problem, they have opted to use a sample population that is constituted of women in countries with restrictive abortion laws and those from countries that have laws supporting abortion. They have also used a larger sample population that would be representative of the women population as opposed to the earlier research that used a sample size of only 100 respondents. Further research should be conducted on the subject to study circumstances that result in unwanted pregnancies and abortion and to find out conditions that determine the nature of women’s response to life events.

Conclusion

Generally, the authors of this article have based their study on a viable subject that has a wide public interest. Every study conducted on the aspect of abortion attracts attention of many scholars. The authors’ work has made a significant contribution to correct the perception that mental problems suffered by women after an abortion are solely related to their experiences with the abortion. The authors have shown that other factors like ethnicity, religion, lifecycle, and culture also play part in determining how women respond to an abortion. In light of the conclusion made by the study and supported by valid justifications, I wish to suggest that the authors have conducted a valuable study.

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