Russell and Duenes

The Problem is that You Already Had Suicidal Thoughts

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Some positive and hopeful things are afoot these days regarding abortion. According to a May 2012 Gallup report, 50% of Americans now say they are pro-life, while only 41% consider themselves pro-choice. Of course, this has to be tempered by the fact that, according to the same Gallup report: “Since 2001, at least half of Americans have consistently chosen [the view that says that] abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, and the 52% saying this today is similar to the 50% in May 2011. The 25% currently wanting abortion to be legal in all cases and the 20% in favor of making it illegal in all cases are also similar to last year’s findings.” We rejoice in any change of heart, and we are seeing some.

We are also seeing a change of heart and mind when it comes to understanding the effects of abortion on the mothers who undergo them. One crucial example of this – an example which pro-life people should be talking about hither and yon – comes in the form of a federal appeals court decision this last July. The decision upholds South Dakota’s law requiring doctors to inform women who are considering abortion that having the abortion would be subject them to a higher risk of depression and suicide. According to the South Dakota informed consent law, a doctor who intends to perform an abortion must provide the woman with the following:

“(1) A statement in writing providing the following information:
(e) A description of all known medical risks of the procedure and statistically significant risk factors to which the pregnant woman would be subjected, including:
(i) Depression and related psychological distress;
(ii) Increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide”

This is a bold law, for it challenges the pro-abortion mantra that women suffer no ill emotional or psychological effects from having an abortion. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds, found that this warning was “truthful” and “non-misleading and relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion.” We should certainly pray that such a wise and truthful ruling will hold up to further scrutiny, for the legions are active and powerful who want to spike any thought that women are adversely affected by their abortions.Several points are worth developing with respect to this case, only one of which I’ll develop here. The court demonstrates that there is a significant correlation between having an abortion and subsequently having an increased risk for thoughts of suicide or committing suicide. The court is rightly careful not to say that having an abortion is a direct cause of having suicidal thoughts or of committing suicide. For the court notes that “[w]hen examining complex human psychological and physical health outcomes, such as depression and suicidal behavior, identification of a single, precise causal mechanism applicable to all situations is not possible….”. Yet the court is right to hold that “conclusive proof of causation is not required in order for the identification of a medical risk.” Indeed, the court states that “[i]t would be nonsensical for those in the field to distinguish a relationship of ‘increased risk’ from one of causation if the term ‘risk’ itself was equivalent to causation.” In other words, it’s not a “risk,” but rather a certainty, if we can say without any doubt at all that having an abortion is the direct cause of suicidal ideation or suicide itself. The court is simply making the modest claim, borne out by credible studies, that “the risk of suicide and suicide ideation is higher among women who abort compared to women in other relevant groups, such as women who give birth or do not become pregnant.”

Of course, Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion folks are not happy with this decision at all. They want studies to be required to show causal “proof” that abortion causes suicidal thoughts and actual suicides because they know that it is virtually impossible, if not entirely impossible, to show such a thing. And if they can say that there’s been no “proof” of a direct link, they can go on claiming that abortion has no negative psychological or emotional effects on women at all. The sophists within the pro-abortion camp want to trot out the old canard that “correlation does not imply causation.” Of course it doesn’t, in every instance. It may be true that each time I get the stomach flu, I’m also wearing blue jeans, and in that case, it is indeed true that “correlation does not imply causation.” But the studies showing a correlation between suicidal thoughts and suicide are not just casting about for vacuous correlations with abortion. Indeed, according to the court, “Planned Parenthood’s own expert, Dr. Nada Stotland, admitted that one of the studies, which determined that a suicide rate after abortion of 31.9 per 100,000 as compared to a suicide rate after live birth of 5.0 per 100,000, ‘indicates an association; not causation, but an association.’ When asked if she had ‘any quarrel with the validity of that association,’ Dr. Stotland replied that she did not.”

The fact of the matter is that the studies control for various factors so that the correlation between having abortions and having higher risks for certain mental and emotional illnesses is a valid correlation. I find it interesting that we don’t use the “correlation doesn’t imply causation” line when it comes to things like bullying kids in school. Have we definitively and absolutely proven that bullying in school leads to emotional and psychological distress, even later suicide? Might it not just be that the person bullied was already suffering from mental distress from other factors? Might there not be a million other environmental factors that lead certain bullied people to get depression or to think about suicide? Yet do we hear any of this from “the experts” on the bullying scene? About how many things can we say: “If you do A, it will lead directly and unequivocally to B?” or “If you do A, B will happen to you with 100% certainty?” This is what the pro-abortion side would require a study to say before they give it any credence at all. And frankly, they’ve been rather successful at it, spiking and marginalizing every study that comes out with any hint that having an abortion might take a negative toll on women’s emotional and psychological well-being.

The dissent in this case is a perfect example of such an attitude. The dissenters tell us that “[t]he record clearly demonstrates…that suicide is not a known medical risk of abortion and that suicide is caused instead by factors preexisting an abortion such as a history of mental illness, domestic violence, and young age at the time of pregnancy.” Clearly? The only thing that’s clear, which they teach us in law school, is that if a court is using the word “clearly,” you can bet it’s not clear. The dissent goes on: “The majority concedes that there is no proof in the medical literature that abortion causes suicide.” Proof? There’s little, if any, “proof” that anything causes anything. There’s evidence, but demanding “proof” is rather arrogant. The dissent also says that the studies it has chosen to highlight “establish that post abortion suicide rates are linked to preexisting mental illness and domestic violence, not to the decision to undergo an abortion,” and that there’s an “emerging consensus based on scientific research in the record,” and that “the vast majority of the researchers” have shown no causal link.

The studies “establish” it, eh? Well, I guess that does it. The “science is settled;” the “emerging consensus” is in, the “vast majority” of scientists say it, so any disbelievers should just pack it in. No more research grants from the National Academy of Sciences for you people. Where have I heard this before?

And if one thinks about it, the dissent’s position implies that, if you’re a healthy and strong woman, you have no emotional or psychological problems at all with ending your baby’s life. It’s only if you’ve already gone mental, or if you’ve been beaten up, or if you’re a teenager, that you’ll have any problem with it. It makes me wonder about all the women who are emotionally broken when they miscarry, or when they find that they’re infertile. If having a baby, or keeping a baby, means so much to so many “normal” women, why would we assume that these “normal” woman could turn around and kill their babies in droves and suffer no – zero – psychological or emotional effects from it? It is truly saddening to see people dig in their heels and ignore the pain and anguish that so many women – though not all – go through by having an abortion. So much reality must be forced away from our eyes. We must turn on ourselves. We must not truly liberate women, but enslave them to parroting a lie, lest they lose their hard-won “rights.” It is a sign, yet again, that these issues are not merely intellectual and “scientific,” but spiritual. Lord have mercy.



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