That one study that claimed to find a link between abortion and mental health problems? Total bullshit.

If it seems like there was just a new study debunking the claim that abortion causes mental health problems, it’s because there was. Now, as Jos mentioned yesterday, the Guttmacher Institute has analyzed a 2009 study by Priscilla Coleman that purported to find such a link–and found it greatly suspect. Or, like, totally false.

A study purporting to show a causal link between abortion and subsequent mental health problems has fundamental analytical errors that render its conclusions invalid, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Guttmacher Institute. This conclusion has been confirmed by the editor of the journal in which the study appeared. Most egregiously, the study, by Priscilla Coleman and colleagues, did not distinguish between mental health outcomes that occurred before abortions and those that occurred afterward, but still claimed to show a causal link between abortion and mental disorders.

I only took basic stats in college, but I’m pretty sure that distinguishing “between mental health outcomes that occurred before abortions and those that occurred afterward” is pretty much the crux of what you’d need to do in a study like this. As one of the researchers wrote, “This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Coleman’s work has been used to support laws requiring that women be counseled lied to regarding the negative psychological risks before getting an abortion in Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Since we now know that these laws are premised on a load of crap, think we can get the repealed?

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard. Before become a full-time writer, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation