Thursday, 1 September 2011

No, Priscilla, Abortion Does NOT Cause Insanity

Well, isn't this an amazing case of synchronicity? Or -- donning tin-foil hat -- a case of extremely well-planned coordination?

Just as UK MPs are preparing to vote on letting religious nutbars 'counsel' women seeking abortions, yet another pseudo-scientific study is released on the causal connection between abortion and mental health.

Recalibrate your SHRIIEEEEK-o-meters! Abortion increases your risk of insanity by 81% !!!!!!11! Or even by 230%!!!1!!!1

At least this source puts quotation marks around 'linked' and bothers to refer to real scientists.
Abortion and mental health 'linked'
Having an abortion increases the risk of mental health problems by 81%, according to a new study.

Compared to women who have not undergone a termination, those having one are significantly more likely to suffer issues, it found.

Furthermore, around one in 10 cases of mental health problems among women may be due to abortion.

Experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said their own research had found women were not at higher risk of mental health problems compared to those who fell pregnant accidentally and went on to have a baby.

The latest review of studies, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, is cited as the largest ever estimate of the mental health risks from abortion. It included 22 studies from 1995 to 2009 involving more than 877,000 women, of which almost 164,000 had had an abortion.

The research was carried out by Priscilla Coleman, professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

She found that while the overall increased risk of mental health problems was 81%, the results "indicate that the level of increased risk associated with abortion varies from 34% to 230% depending on the nature of the outcome (whether women abused drugs, alcohol, or suffered depression, and so on)".

Prof Coleman concluded: "The strongest effects were observed when women who had had an abortion were compared with women who had carried to term and when the outcomes measured related to substance use and suicidal behaviour."

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is currently carrying out a systematic review of the impact of abortion on women's mental health. Results will be published this autumn.

A spokesman for the RCOG said: "What this research does not fully examine is if these women had pre-existing mental health complications such as dependency issues and mood disorders before the abortion."

Dear Priscilla has been spanked for her methodology and ideology more than once and by very prestigious sciencey-facty types, but for unfathomable reasons, her crap keeps on getting published.

Hell, I am not a trained scientist and even I know that correlation does NOT equal causation. And so should everyone who graduated high school.

But the media can't resist the headlines and many, like this one don't arse themselves to find a reputable person to counter the bullshit.

And, of course, the fetus fetishist bloggers are all over it.


From the wiki link:
Some other researchers have been unable to reproduce Coleman's results on abortion and mental health despite using the same dataset, and have described her findings as "logically inconsistent" and potentially "substantially inflated" by faulty methodology. The American Psychological Association (APA) and other major medical bodies have concluded that the evidence does not support a link between abortion and mental health problems, and APA panelists charged with reviewing the evidence were similarly critical of the methodology of Coleman's studies.

Science IS hard, Priscilla. To get the real, grown-up sciencey people to take your work seriously, such studies have to be well-designed and bear up under scrutiny.

When the facts do not support her desired conclusion, instead of going back to the lab bench and trying to improve the design, Priscilla just rejigs the numbers. She's been at this game for nearly a decade.

Really, isn't it time for 'peers' on peer-review committees to politely decline to participate in this charade?

I'm looking at you, Canadian Medical Association Journal, as well as the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Just. Don't. Publish. This. Crap.

ADDED: Someone with a head for stats might be interested in this (seemingly) thorough explanation of Priscilla's lying with numbers.


Beijing York said...

So is "former abortion worker" code aka another dog whistle for the anti-abortion religious zealots. Seems the good Dr. of Human [Embryonic] Development and Family [Values] Studies was once an "abortion worker". Who describes themselves as such? Google it and you get 10 pages of pro-life dirge.

Anonymous said...

If this flies in the UK, it won't be long before they try it here.

fern hill said...

I was just telling sweetie that I think we in Canada have an advantage over our Murrican and Brit sisters. The Brits thought they had this settled in the 60s, Murricans soon after in 1973. In Canada, we were fighting on for more than a decade, until 1988, until we got it settled. (And of course it never is settled.)

Murricans and Brits let their guard down, while the fetus fetishists continued to scheme.

Read the tone of some of the pro-choicers' reactions from Britain. They're shocked this moved along so fast. Murricans are shocked at the number and range of new rules and legislation the fetishists have rammed through lately. They are just now getting their shit together to fight back.

While we're a little more alert here in Canada, we were shocked too when Ken Epp's anti-abortion C-484 (fetal harm) got to second reading with hardly anybody paying attention.

That's how they work. And that's why we have to be vigilant.

And that's why, boring as it is to everyone concerned -- not least me -- this crap has to be called out. Every. Time.

They are unscrupulous liars. And they're fucking sneaky.

We can't let them get away with anything.

fern hill said...

@BY: Yeah, there was one a few months ago that the ff's were feting and now there's another. Big feckin' whoop.

If someone were to do a facty-sciencey study, I'd bet there are waaaay more anti-choicers who see the light. Like, when they find themselves, their daughter, their partner unexpectedly pregnant at an inconvenient time.

Anonymous said...

Read the article..she never mentions causality. Her methodology is airtight..if not there would be no way she could publish in one of the top psychiatry journals in the world. What she is suggesting is far from radical..some women may have negative emotions after abortion and struggle with it..hence an increased general risk detected. Can't you be a little respectful to the thousands of women who may have regretted their decision and are now suffering? Dr. Coleman is not saying all women suffer.

fern hill said...

@Anonymous: Have you read it? Because I'd appreciate a link. All I can find online without a subscription is the abstract.

I am not a statistician, but I do speak English. Saying 'having an abortion increases risk of mental health problems' is clearly more than mentioning casuality. She's claiming it.

As for publication, it's not the 'top journals' that count, it's the peer review. And there can certainly be problems with that. I'm going with the mega studies done over and over and over by reputable people which show NO link.

Coleman is a known fetus fetishist with a very dodgy rep and an agenda.

I'll be interested to see what her colleagues think, and in particular what the Royal College of Psychiatrists has to say this autumn.

Respect? I have all the respect in the world for women who make their own choices and live with the consequences.

I have no respect for those who use fraudulent scare tactics on us. Like Coleman et al.

Anonymous said...

Email her..she'll send you a copy. Increased risk is not synonymous with causality. Top journals have rigorous peer review. Quit attacking the messenger..look at the data!

fern hill said...

As I said, I am not a statistician, so there'd be little point in my reading it for methodological errors.

Are you a statistician?

Because lots of real statisticians have trouble with her work.

As I say, being published in a 'top' journal is no guarantee of accuracy or non-bias. Have you never heard of Andrew Wakefield? His work was published in The Lancet. Boy, did they have egg on their faces when the fraud was revealed. But the fraud wasn't revealed until millions of parents went batshit insane with worry.

Please answer the question: Are you qualified to judge her methodology? Because unless you are or can point me to someone who is, I'll continue to suspect her conclusions.

John Cross said...

Anonymous: I know next to nothing about this issue, but publication in peer-review is not some gold standard. What publication in peer review means is that the topic is worthy of being placed before the scientific community where the real review begins.

fern hill said...

Exactamundo, John. But these people have been repeatedly spanked. And 'prestigious' means almost nothing too. See next post on this.

Anonymous said...

Yes I am trained in statistics, currently serve on the editorial boards of 5 international journals, have reviewed countless peer-reviewed journal articles, am a professor, and I have personally published 50 journal articles. I believe in the peer-review process. I've also read her paper. She provided a copy when I emailed her ( and I found the paper to be very solid. I'm quite annoyed by people slinging mud at her when they really don't understand methodology and are relying on others who have biases and agendas. So there you have it.

fern hill said...

Well, since you are still Anonymous, I guess we'll just have to take your word on your qualifications and thus judgement.

But speaking of others' biases and agendas is a bit rich considering Ms Coleman's own. Did you catch my follow-up to this post with interesting links from commenter Beijing York?

Funny that Ms Coleman seems fixated on 'post-abortion emotional sequelae'. And that she is very cozy with the bogus 'Dr' Reardon.

Thank you for your interest, Anon, but I'm going to continue to rely on mainstream organizations like the American Pyschological Association for critiques of Coleman et al's methodology.

And you might note what commenter John Cross said above: this is the real peer review. Peer review doesn't end with publication.

Anonymous said...

You ought to use your knack for skepticism on some of these mainstream organizations..rather than passively trusting...they have agendas that often depart significantly from science and are doing society a grave disservice when it comes to the topic of abortion. I did look at your other post and I really believe all the angst here is misplaced.

fern hill said...

Angst, is it?

Dingdingding, DJers! We haz ourselves a Concern Troll!

OK, I'll bite: what is the APA's agenda on abortion?

Please enlighten us benighted, passive trusters.

Anonymous said...

Well the problem is that the organization declared abortion a civil right decades ago and they have an open pro-choice agenda..this precludes the objectivity necessary to conduct credible science...very simple. If they had a pro-life agenda it would be just as bad obviously. We need good science to inform aren't going to get it from the APA..but there is hope from people like Coleman, Broen, Pedersen, and Fergusson who do not have agendas and know how to conduct the studies. I really encourage you to get the paper from Coleman. You will be impressed and you'll feel foolish for having trashed her...even her face..come on.

fern hill said...

Hahahaha. You can actually type with a straight face 'people like Coleman. . . who do not have agendas and know how to conduct the studies'?

Check back here later today or tomorrow. I'm going to do some research on APA's 'bias' -- not to mention a lot more on the bias and interests of Coleman et al. -- and report my findings.

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