Questions Dubious Abortion/Suicide Link

RECEIVED Fri., Dec. 26, 2003

Hello again, Editors,
   Alanda Ledbetter's letter claiming an increased risk of suicide among women who have had abortions should be viewed with much skepticism ["Postmarks," Dec. 26]. I myself Googled the subject and found that the only articles online alleging a causal link between abortion and suicide were from "pro-life" and fundamentalist Christian Web sites, many of which also promoted the refuted claim of a link between abortions and breast cancer. I had no success finding anything resembling an unbiased scientific article from a neutral source, such as a peer-reviewed medical or psychological journal, to back up the claim.
   Even if a woman were more likely to commit suicide after having an abortion, the causes could be – and most likely are – multifaceted. Guilt over an unwanted pregnancy in the first place, becoming a social pariah among her family, friends, and (especially) church, being made to feel a worthless sinner. "You're not my daughter!" Etc., etc. The abortion could be but one ingredient in a vile stew of guilt that ultimately drives a woman to take her own life. Then again, loads of women have abortions and don't kill themselves. So to draw a causal link between abortion and suicide is just an example of the post hoc fallacy, no more sensible than claiming that being Catholic makes you a pedophile.
   Comprehensive sex education warning young people of the health consequences of sexual activity is a far more effective way to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions than cheap scare tactics.
Martin Wagner
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