Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Politics of Science

A study released by a team of Danish researchers has revealed that there is little to no link between having an abortion and serious mental illness. The report, released on Thursday, is the culmination of  more than  a decade’s worth of research covering almost 400,000 teens.

Perhaps the most controversial finding is that women who go through childbirth are more likely to seek mental health counseling than women who have an abortion. While these findings do not seem particularly astounding, I found the way the study was received and reported brought out a larger issue: “When does supposedly unbiased scientific study become a political tool?”

As we have seen in the weeks following the shootings in Tuscon, Ariz., politicians, pundits, and the media are always on the lookout for a scapegoat or explanation.  Whether this search comes from a desire to place blame or merely make sense out of a tragedy, objective statistics are often used as fodder for both sides.

With this study, I feel we will certainly see a similar reaction. Pro-choice advocates will champion the study and use the findings to counter-act charges that having an abortion is psychologically damaging. Those who are pro-life will attack the validity of the study.

However, presumably no one will see this study as a reason why mental health counseling for first-time mothers or women who have an abortion should be funded. No one will use this study for what it is intended giving support and aid for mental health issues to those who need it.

-John Stone

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