Volume 48, Issue 3 p. 37-66

Prevalence of Psychological Risks Following Legal Abortion in the U.S.: Limits of the Evidence

Gregory H. Wilmoth

Corresponding Author

Gregory H. Wilmoth

U.S. General Accounting Office

GREGORY H. WILMOTH is Senior Social Science Analyst with the U.S. General Accounting Office. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Florida in 1980 and was the SPSSI Public Policy Fellow from 1987 to 1989. He has published in the areas of program evaluation, policy analysis, receptivity to change, and privacy.

U.S. General Accounting Office, GGD-DMTAG, 441 G St., NW, Washington, DC 20548Search for more papers by this author
Martin de Alteriis

Martin de Alteriis

U.S. General Accounting Office

MARTIN DE ALTERIIS received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York, Binghamton, and is currently Social Science Analyst with the U.S. General Accounting Office. He has published in the areas of public health and welfare service delivery.

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Danielle Bussell

Danielle Bussell

George Washington University

DANIELLE BUSSELL is a Senior Research Associate at the George Washington University, Center for Family Research. Her interests include childhood risk and vulnerability, mastery of life transitions, and public policy. Her recent work involves assessment of the nonshared environment of sibling pairs, children's coping with parental separation, and family adaptation to unemployment.

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First published: Fall 1992
Citations: 20

Abstract

The incidence of psychological problems following abortion is hotly debated. This article uses a methodological critique of the key research to argue that prevalence rates for psychological risks following legal abortions in the U.S. should be viewed with great caution. Knowledge of prevalence alone, however, is inadequate for policy decisions. Information is also needed about the risks associated with the policy options intended to replace abortion (relative risk). Studies that used a comparison group have shown that the psychological risks associated with abortion are similar to those associated with childbirth. Furthermore, past research cannot answer whether abortion causes psychological responses that sometimes occur. We conclude that, although the studies cited by pro-choice advocates are much more methodologically sound than those cited by pro-life advocates, decisions about what risks are acceptable are largely political decisions rather than scientific ones.