16 March 2008

ARGH! Bad journalism = dangerous stereotypes

Headline: Royal college warns abortions can lead to mental illness

That's a pretty controversial headline if you ask me. According to the The Times:

"The Royal College of Psychiatrists says women should not be allowed to have an abortion until they are counselled on the possible risk to their mental health".

Just as I was on the verge of becoming completely incensed with another example of biomedicine and the State intervening in women's reproductive choices with ridiculous scare tactics (kind of like how pregnant women are told if they even look at coffee, they could potentially harm their unborn), I then noticed a link to the actual statement put out by the Royal College.

Whilst the journalist has essentially written that without a doubt, women who have abortions are at risk of mental illness with no indication of which women she refers to, the statement from the Royal College paints a very different picture.

In fact, the Royal College writes that women who have a pre-existing psychiatric condition during pregnancy may be a greater risk for mental health issues following a termination which makes alot more sense than saying any woman who has an abortion is on the road to a mental breakdown. Whereas the journalists cites various studies that support her argument that abortion is bad for mental health, the Royal College notes that the evidence for this is inconclusive.

Moreover, whereas the Royal College suggests updating informational pamphlets distributed to women and putting in place better mental health screening during pregnancy, it seems that some MPs have interpreted this as a perfect oppportunity to put restrict access to abortion. MPs will shortly vote on a proposal to reduce the upper time limit for abortions “for social reasons” from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. Thankfully, this is not yet supported by the government. Even more frightening is that some conservative Christian groups have used the released statement from the Royal College saying that it is not clear whether pregnancy exacerbates mental health issues to argue that if it is not clear that pregnancy is detrimental to women's mental health than why should women be allowed to have abortions at all?

Interesting how many different ways one very neutral statement can be interpreted depending on one's political agenda.

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3559486.ece

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