March, 2008 The Sunday Times
the Government Response to the Report from the House
of Commons Science and Technology Committee on the
Scientific Developments Relating to the Abortion
Act 1967, the following request was made:
view of the controversy on the risk to mental health
of induced abortion we recommend that the Royal
College of Psychiatrists update their 1994 report
on this issue"
College has undertaken a literature review to inform
the following position statement, which includes
the recommendation that a full systematic review
around abortion and mental health is required.
Royal College of Psychiatrists is concerned to ensure
that women’s mental health is protected whether
they seek abortion or continue with a pregnancy.
disorders can occur for some women during pregnancy
and after birth.
specific issue of whether or not induced abortion
has harmful effects on women’s mental health
remains to be fully resolved. The current research
evidence base is inconclusive – some studies
indicate no evidence of harm, whilst other studies
identify a range of mental disorders following abortion.
with pre-existing psychiatric disorders who continue
with their pregnancy, as well as those with psychiatric
disorders who undergo abortion, will need appropriate
support and care. Liaison between services, and,
where relevant, with carers and advocates, is advisable.
professionals who assess or refer women who are
requesting an abortion should assess for mental
disorder and for risk factors that may be associated
with its subsequent development. If a mental disorder
or risk factors are identified, there should be
a clearly identified care pathway whereby the mental
health needs of the woman and her significant others
may be met.
Royal College of Psychiatrists recognises that good
practice in relation to abortion will include informed
consent. Consent cannot be informed without the
provision of adequate and appropriate information
regarding the possible risks and benefits to physical
and mental health. This may require the updating
of patient information leaflets approved by the
relevant Royal Colleges, and education and training
to relevant health care professionals, in order
to develop a good practice pathway.
These difficult and complex issues should be addressed
through additional systematic reviews led by the
Royal College of Psychiatrists into the relationship
between abortion and mental health. These reviews
should consider whether there is evidence for psychiatric
indications for abortion