In an attack on efforts to strengthen gun legislation, frequent Fox News guest Star Parker asked if background checks would prohibit women who have had abortions from purchasing firearms by invoking a long-debunked link between abortion and mental illness.
Appearing on the March 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Parker attacked proposals to impose universal background checks for firearm purchases. Parker asked if background checks, which would consider mental health, would apply to "people who have had abortions" because " according to the studies, [they] have a tendency to have mental challenges later on":
The claim that abortion is linked to mental health problems has long been debunked. The American Psychological Association formed a task force in 2008 "to examine the scientific research addressing mental health factors associated with abortion, including the psychological responses following abortion." The task force found "no credible evidence" of such a link:
No evidence that having a single abortion causes mental health problems. The Task Force concluded that there is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women. The research consistently found that the backgrounds and circumstances of the women who seek abortions vary. The Task Force found some studies that indicate that some women do experience sadness, grief and feelings of loss following an abortion and some experience "clinically significant disorders, including depression and anxiety." The evidence regarding the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more uncertain.
In an article on Fox News' own website, LiveScience.com writer Stephanie Pappas pointed out that a report in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that a "study purporting to find a link between abortions and mental illness does not hold up to scrutiny":
The original study, conducted by Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University in Kentucky, has been a source of contention since its publication in 2009, when critics pointed out flaws in the statistical analysis. Those errors triggered a correction by Coleman and her colleagues, but outside researchers found other problems with the paper. Most importantly, they report in the February issue of the journal, the original researchers included mental health ailments not only after abortion, but all across the life span, making it impossible to know whether the psychological problems came before or after the procedure.
"This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data," study researcher Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor in the University of California, San Francisco's department of psychiatry, said in a statement. "The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors."