Not a day goes by without hearing about a new proposed abortion-related bill or another law restricting abortions going into effect. However, an issue not brought up often is how abortion restrictions, the inability to get abortions in some cases, and unwanted childbirth can negatively affect mental health.
Unwanted pregnancy is not uncommon, and women who wait too long to get an abortion and are forced to give birth, or who are pressured to give birth to an unwanted child by laws, society or friends, spouses and family, may have to deal with mental health issues as a result.
Brenda Major, a professor of psychology at University of California Santa Barbara, said in an email that women could have mental health issues if they are forced to give birth.
“I do think that forced childbirth will have negative consequences for women, both psychologically and socially,” Major said. “I suspect that more restrictive abortion laws may increase problems women experience to the extent that such laws further stigmatize women who decide to abort a pregnancy.”
Susie Baldwin, medical director for clinical and community programs at the California Family Health Council, and a member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, said in an email that women with unintended pregnancies were shown in studies to have depression more often and to be victims of domestic violence more often than women with intended pregnancies.
Although not a lot of research has been done in the area of unwanted child birth and the effects of restricted abortion access, she said the effects of both can be detrimental to mental health.
“When considering the mental health of women who opt to terminate their pregnancies but are barred from doing so, the mental health effects are probably going to be more extreme than what we see with ‘just’ unintended pregnancies,” Baldwin said.
She said that researchers at University of California San Francisco are working on a study “that will provide more information about what happens to women who are denied abortion services.”