Thursday, December 15, 2011

When doctors disagree

The medical profession seems to have shot itself in the foot. Part of it, at least.

There has long been argument about damage caused to women by abortion. The abortion industry refused to accept there was such a thing as post-abortion syndrome. A few women might get a little upset at first after abortion; most were relieved to be free from an unwanted pregnancy. If there were mental health problems after abortion, they would be problems that were there beforehand.

That was not the experience of counsellors who worked sometimes for months with women with lives torn apart by problems after abortion, usually caused by feelings of anger, guilt and remorse.

Research into abortion and mental health problems by academic Priscilla Coleman was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in September. It was based on an analysis of 22 separate projects which analysed the experience of 877,000 women, 163,831 of whom had had an abortion.

It showed that women who had had an abortion had an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems, a 34 per cent increased risk of anxiety disorders, 37 per cent higher risk of depression, 110 per cent higher risk of alcohol abuse, 220 per cent higher risk of cannabis use and a 155 per cent increased risk of trying to commit suicide.

Nearly 10 per cent of mental health problems could be directly attributed to abortion.

Which brings us up to recent events.

Now research undertaken by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, commissioned by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and funded by the Department of Health, says that an unwanted pregnancy does involve up to three times higher risk of mental health problems, but that the risk is no different whether the woman with the unwanted pregnancy has an abortion or gives birth.

According to the law, abortion is still illegal, but a person will not be guilty of an offence under the law if abortion is carried out on certain grounds. One of the grounds is that two doctors are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the pregnancy has not exceeded its 24th week and that continuing the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to physical or mental health than if the pregnancy were terminated. Ninety-eight per cent of abortions are carried out on this ground.

Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, points out that if there is no greater risk to health caused by continuing the pregnancy than by aborting the child, then 98 per cent of abortions carried out in Britain are illegal and doctors signing forms permitting them are likely to be committing an offence.

So will 98 per cent of abortions in Britain be no longer allowed to take place? I think not.

Doctors signing forms will still be allowed to claim, despite all the evidence, that there will be greater risk of damage to health by allowing the pregnancy to continue than by abortion, and doctors supporting the research will still be able to claim there is no greater danger to health caused by continuing pregnancy, and both will probably convince their respective audiences.

So long as they don't try to bring the two arguments together.