A long-awaited report released Thursday by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop reiterated his stand that current research on the psychological impact of abortion on women is inadequate and that no conclusions on the effects can be drawn. Testifying before a House subcommittee, Koop said that more research is needed to “increase the level and quality of information about the reproductive health of women.”
The draft report by the leading government health official reviews the abortion issue and concludes that “the limited nature of this information has pointed out a need to increase the level and quality of information about the reproductive health of women.” Koop first stated his views in a controversial Jan. 9 letter to then-President Ronald Reagan.
Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) of the House Government Operations Committee’s human resources subcommittee, said that he called the hearing on the issue because “advocates on all sides were disappointed” by Koop’s earlier decision not to release his report on abortion’s psychological effect on women. He said that he hopes Koop will shed light on the current level of knowledge on the issue.
Witnesses for both the pro- and anti-abortion movements told the House panel that they believe there is enough data to support their conclusions about the psychological effects of abortion.
Pro-abortion psychologist Nancy Adler said studies show that “legal abortion as a resolution to an unwanted pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, does not create psychological hazards for most women.”
Wanda Franz, vice president for the anti-abortion National Right to Life Organization, said that data proves there is a negative psychological effect from abortion and likened it to the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by some Vietnam War veterans.
“The conclusion that abortions are safe is inaccurate and is not supported by the data,” she said. “There is no need to prove that abortions affect women.”
Weiss said in his opening statement that “virtually all Americans agree that more should be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” but that more must be learned about “the impact of abortion on the physical health and the mental well-being of the 1 1/2 million American women who have abortions every year.”
Weiss said that he is particularly concerned by indications that Koop may not have adequately reviewed all of the available studies before coming to his conclusion.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Koop should have concluded that the potential for negative psychological reactions to having an abortion is not a widespread problem in the United States.