Study Led by a University of Maryland Psychologist Finds Abortion Does Not Increase Depression in Women

A new study led by Julia R. Steinberg, an assistant professor of family science at the University of Maryland, College Park, finds that having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of depression.

The research examined the health histories of 400,000 women born between 1980 and 1994. These histories included the occurrence of an abortion, childbirth, and the use of antidepressant drugs.

The data show that women who have had an abortion are indeed more likely to be depressed that women who have not had an abortion. However, the data showed that the higher risk for depression among these women existed for as much as a year before they had an abortion and did not increase after they had an abortion. Thus, the study concluded that the higher rate of depression is not due to the abortion but to other factors such as preexisting mental health problems and other adverse experiences.

Despite this evidence, at least eight states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, mandate that women considering an abortion receive information that emphasizes the purported negative psychological effects of having an abortion.

“The purported mental health effects of abortion have been used to justify state policies limiting access to abortion in the United States,” said Dr. Steinberg. “However, our findings show that abortion is not causing depression. Policies based on the notion that abortion harms women’s mental health are misinformed.”

Dr. Steinberg joined the faculty at the University of Maryland in 2015 after teaching at the University of California, San Francisco. She is a graduate of the University of Toledo, where she majored in psychology. Dr. Steinberg holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Arizona.

The study, “Examining the Association of Antidepressant Prescriptions With First Abortion and First Childbirth,” was published on the website of the journal JAMA Psychiatry. It may be accessed here.

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