Priscilla Coleman

Priscilla Coleman

November 25, 2013

Priscilla Coleman strongly believes that having an abortion can lead to developing a mental illness.

For much of her career, Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has conducted research on the effects of abortions. On Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 she presented her findings at the University of Toronto.

"Overall we know pretty systematically that women who have an abortion compared to birth are at an increased risk for various mental health problems," Coleman said.

"There is this effect and it is information that women are denied. There is systematic denial that women are impacted this way and women are making unhealthy decisions every day because they are not given the same level of information that they would get with any other procedure."

The potential effects include depression, anxiety and, in extreme cases, suicide. It is not rare, she said, for women to mask the impacts of an abortion with shopping and gambling addictions or substance abuse, all of which function as a means of passive denial to keep the woman's mind off of her abortion.

Coleman has concluded that women with these problems, combined with those who are openly suffering mental illness post-abortion, show that "a minimum of 20 per cent of women who abort suffer serious prolonged negative psychological consequences."


Although critical of those who ignore these findings, Coleman is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they are just ignorant of the facts rather than deliberately misleading.

That's why she partnered with the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research to produce one chapter of the third edition of the book Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women using the findings from her metadata analysis.

"This book contains the most up-to-date research on abortion from around the world," said Ian Gentles, one of the book's three authors.

"It provides the medical community with the evidence it needs to begin telling women that abortion can indeed hurt them, whether it is an increased chance of breast cancer or the serious psychological strain (an) abortion causes for some women."

But it is not just the medical community which the 433-page book is targetting, said Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy, another author of the book along with Angela Lanfranchi.

"This is for the educated lay person who is interested in the area but who just doesn't have the time or the capacity for some reason to take on looking at all of this research themselves," she said. "(So) we are putting it together for them."

While Coleman is pleased to have been able to contribute to Complications, she admitted that the research in her analysis is only the tip of the iceberg.

"I don't think we have any clear picture in terms of the profound implications of not only the woman but her partner and families that are devastated," she said. "It is not just the woman and loss of that child, it affects everyone around her and when there are so many people hurting in society it impacts us all."


She also acknowledged that while it is to some degree impossible to definitively determine if an abortion caused a mental illness or if it rather simply caused it to surface, the existence of that ailment post-abortion is undeniable.

"Maybe it wasn't just the abortion that caused the depression, but if the woman believes it was and feels that it was, that is her voice and that is valid," said Coleman.

"There could have been contributing factors in childhood or whatever that may have made her more prone to reacting negatively to an abortion experience but I don't think you can deny what they are saying. If that is what they believe caused the problems then we have to respect that and help them to deal with that."