Thursday, 4 November 2010

Dorries: Misrepresentation in Abortion Debate

I have emailed Ms Dorries thus,

Dear Ms Dorries

I read your speech in the above debate, both in Hansard and on your blog, and I point out an error in your reporting of the 2008 study to which you referred.  I make no other comments about the merits or otherwise of the position you outlined.

During this debate you referred to a study published in 2008 in the British Journal of Psychiatry. and your initial remark summarised the study’s position accurately but, thereafter, you misrepresented the conclusions of the study.

You said,

“A major longitudinal 30-year survey published in The British Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 showed clearly-after adjustment for confounding variables-that women who had had abortions had rates of mental disorder 30% higher than women who had not.”

This accurately reflects the position of the authors.  Woman who had had abortions were 30% more likely to suffer from a mental disorder than women who had not had an abortion.  If, for example, 10% of women who have not had an abortion, suffer from a mental disorder then 13% of those having had an abortion, will suffer likewise.  Another way of looking at this is to say that 87% of women having an abortion will NOT suffer whereas 90% of non-abortion women will NOT suffer.

This is NOT how you describe the position.  You said

“Given the disregard that we have for women seeking this procedure, I am surprised that that figure stands at only 30%. We push vulnerable women through a clinical procedure at great speed to end a life-or, as I said, a potential life-that is growing within them, and we wonder why only 30% have problems in later life [my underlining].”

You have claimed incorrectly that 30% of women having had an abortion have mental health problems rather than the risk of their suffering mental health problems is increased by 30%.  Your error suggests that the likelihood of suffering mental health issues as a result of an abortion is much greater than it actually is.

The study's conclusion is as follows, "The evidence is consistent with the view that abortion may be associated with a small increase in risk of mental disorders."  and the authors also state, "Although exposure to abortion was associated with significant increases in risks of mental health problems, the overall effects of abortion on mental health proved to be small."  Neither statement supports your contention of 30% having problems in later life.

It is clear that you have misreported the findings and I think that, given your prominence, you should issue a correction on your blog, at least.

Let me say finally that I am writing this from a position of neutrality on abortion but of outrage at the lack of services for all sufferers from mental health problems, at the lack of treatment  available and at the maltreatment which many suffer.

I look forward to hearing from you although I am not a constituent of yours.

Kindest regards


UPDATE: 4 NOVEMBER 2010 @ 20.45

What a fool I’ve been!  Not because of anything I’ve written above but because until now I had left my first draft of the post appended below here.

Corrected now.  Sorry!

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