Reducing access to abortion may increase suicide rates among young women, study finds

It’s no secret that cutting access to abortion leads to increased death rates among pregnant women and babies – it’s not even surprising, really, since by definition it involves to cut off access to vital health care for those who need it.

But a new study has shown another deadly aspect of draconian anti-abortion laws: They could drive up suicide rates among women of childbearing age.

“This association is strong — and it has nothing to do with politics,” Ran Barzilay, a psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said in a statement. . “It’s all backed up by data.”

Building on previous research that had shown a strong negative association between restricted access to reproductive health care and women’s career aspirations and earning potential, the team decided to analyze suicide rates among women of childbearing age over a period of more than 40 years.

“We constructed three indices that measure access to reproductive care by looking at state-level enforcement of legislation,” said finance lecturer Jonathan Zandberg. “Whenever a state enforced a law related to reproductive care, we incorporated it into the index.”

The results are clear: the more access to abortion is strictly controlled, the greater the risk of suicide. The pattern remained even when the team controlled for variables like economic or political climate, and was not seen in other populations. Nor was it explained by higher risks of death in general: the team performed the same analysis for motor vehicle death rates, another common cause of death, and found no effect of this type.

Although the usual caveat applies – this correlation is not causation, and this study cannot prove that restricted access to abortion causes a slight increase in suicide rates – the researchers say their approach is one of the most rigorous methods for enabling causal inference.

“We’re looking at the link between summary state-level cause-of-death data and policy and politics over several decades,” said Rebecca Waller, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Yet each death represents an individual moment of tragedy,” she continued. “So there’s clearly a lot more we need to understand about what these results mean for individual suicide risk.”

Although the project cannot take into account the mental health or individual circumstances of women, its findings have far-reaching implications for healthcare providers. “Stress is a key contributor to mental health burden and a major factor in increasing suicide risk,” Barzilay pointed out. “We found that this particular stressor – abortion restriction – affects women of a specific age in a specific cause of death, which is suicide. That’s the view from 10,000 feet.

As the United States continues to grapple with its moral panic over abortion rights, overview snapshots like this are invaluable for informing clinical and ethical policy — as well as planning for even more future scenarios. dystopian.

“Whatever your opinion on all of this, it’s all over the news. It’s everywhere,” Waller concluded. “The women internalizing the stories they hear are the ones these restrictions will affect the most.”

The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *