Friday, December 9, 2011

Abortion, Mental Health, and Human Nature

We are wired with moral sensitivities – rights and wrongs. Therefore, when we do what we believe is right, we feel right. When we act in opposition to our wiring, we suffer certain consequences. Perhaps this hard-wiring is able to explain recent findings of a strong correlation between having an abortion and mental health problems:

• The prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry (BJP) recently published “Abortion and Mental Health: Quantitative Synthesis and Analysis of Research Published 1995-2009.” The paper, a culmination of Dr. Priscilla Coleman’s extensive experience in the field of abortion and mental health, finds that women who have undergone abortion have an 81% increase in the risk of mental health problems, and an even greater risk for substance misuse and suicidal behaviour (230% and 155% respectively). Nearly 10% of the incidence of all mental health problems was shown to be directly attributable to abortion… The sample encompasses 22 studies, 36 measurements of mental health effects and 877,181 participants of whom 163,831 had experienced an abortion.

Because this is a highly charged topic, the responses have been heated:

• Within the academic community, ad hominem attacks questioned Dr. Coleman’s scholarly objectivity, calling her an “anti-abortion campaigner” with an “agenda-driven bias” and “obvious conflict of interest” undermining her ability to critically review the primary studies. The journal allegedly failed to detect “egregious scientific errors” and left the readers to “sort through the serious flaws” themselves. Several critics called on BJP to retract the article.

Unless Coleman’s findings based upon these 22 studies can be conclusively overturned – and generally, ad hominem attacks reflect the fact that even the attackers know that their case is weak – women considering abortions need to be advised of these risks.

Furthermore, these findings should promote questions about human flourishing. “Can a potential mother flourish psychologically after terminating the new life within her womb?” Many women have reported that they have suffered for years after submitting to this ill-advised action. For some, tormenting regrets remain.

This also begs the question, “In what other ways are we hard-wired? And in what circumstances do we violate this hard-wiring to our own detriment?”

Sadly, the study and practice of clinical psychology have largely bypassed this essential question about our human nature in favor of an emphasis on choice and immediate gratification. Questions of individual psychopathology have trumped those about who we are and what we need. Consequently, we know more about human differences than we do about our many human similarities.

In contrast, the Bible is written from the perspective that we are all related by a common origin and nature. Therefore, there are many commonalities – certain things bring benefit to humanity and certain things harm.

Clinical Psychology provides little instruction in morality. Since when have you ever heard a psychologist say that “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34) or “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) or “he who sows wickedness will reap trouble” (Proverbs 22:8)? Since when has modern psychology preached that you have a responsibility to care for your parents or the new life in your womb? Instead, it’s a matter of what feels right for you!

However, what might feel right, in the short run, becomes poison down the road. Steroids might take the 100-yard-dash, but might fail to take you across the final finish-line. The affair might fill you with excitement but leave you with years of regret. We need a moral roadmap, one that will enable us to avoid the dead-ends.

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