Terminating pregnancy does not ‘damage mental health’

Psychologists body enters amendment debate to focus ‘on evidence-based facts’

Terminating a pregnancy does not appear to damage a woman’s mental health, according to research from the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), the professional body for psychologists.

The society, which said psychological health was as important as physical health, said it was releasing the research in an effort “to draw attention to evidence-based facts” on terminations, and to counter “false facts” that are not based on scientific research.

The society, which said it supports repeal of the Eighth Amendment, published two papers commenting on the psychology of referendums and on the Eighth Amendment and mental health.

In a paper, Referendums: On the Relevance of Psychology, the PSI highlighted that psychological health was as important as physical health and how, according to the research overall, "terminating a pregnancy does not appear to damage a woman's mental health".


The second paper, entitled Five Facts on the Eighth Amendment and Mental Health, was researched by a number of PSI members specialising in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health. It outlines what are said to be five facts.

Women who choose abortion do so because of the negative effects of continuing the pregnancy on their mental health and that of their existing children and significant others;

The overwhelming majority of women report feelings of relief after an abortion. Those who maintain feelings of regret over time are affected mostly by societal stigma and the lack of social support;

Those who have a history of mental health difficulties are the most likely to experience these same difficulties following an abortion;

Robust, high-quality scientific research by organisations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) has concluded that abortion does not harm women’s mental health; and

Women are at their most vulnerable during the perinatal period (the time immediately before and soon after birth) compared with any other point of time in their lives and rates of mortality during this time are highest with regard to mental health difficulties.

PSI president Brendan O’Connell said there had been “many arguments made over several decades on the legal, physical and moral aspects of abortion and the Eighth Amendment in Ireland, but analyses and empirical research of the mental health aspects of abortion have been rare”.

The PSI said it was “committed to ensuring that scientific research on relevant social issues is clearly understood by the public, so that they can make truly informed decisions when deciding how to vote.”

Prof Brian Hughes, of the PSI Science and Public Policy Committee, said: “We are convinced that the scientific research literature shows clearly that women would be best served if the Eighth Amendment was repealed and its prohibition on abortion removed from the Constitution.”

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist