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Abortion Partisans Agree: No Need For New Study

January 10, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pro- and anti-abortion groups, unlikely allies, agreed Tuesday that the government does not need to spend tens of millions of dollars to determine whether abortion damages a woman’s physical or emotional health.

Surgeon General C. Everett Koop proposed such a study, he said in an interview with The Associated Press, because ″the data simply do not support the premise that abortion does or does not cause a specific, post-abortion psychiatric syndrome.″

Koop had been asked by President Reagan to prepare a comprehensive report on the issue, but said he told the president he could not because there is no scientific evidence to support the pro-life belief that abortion harms women or the pro-choice stance that abortion is beneficial.

Koop, who said he remains firmly opposed to abortion, told Reagan that a comprehensive study costing from $10 million to $100 million would take five years to complete.

″That seems like a lot of money, but when you figure that 1.5 million women get aborted every year, that’s only $75 per woman,″ Koop said.

Pro- and anti-abortion groups said a study is not needed.

Nancy Broff of the National Abortion Rights Action League praised Koop for doing a ″fair study″ and said the tens of millions he proposes spending on another study could be better used for contraception research.

Nellie Gray of March for Life said Koop is ″highly misguided,″ adding, ″We don’t need any more studies; what we need is for Koop to retire.″

However, one anti-abortion group, National Right to Life, said a study like the one Koop is proposing is ″long overdue.″ Psychological harm from abortion often surfaces five to 10 years after the abortion, and existing research generally is based on studies of women in their first year after abortion, said Olivia Gans, an official of the group.

The decision on whether such a study should be conducted likely will fall to President elect-Bush, who upset anti-abortion forces with his nomination of Dr. Louis Sullivan to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sullivan drew an outcry from anti-abortion forces when he said in a newspaper interview that he supported a woman’s right to seek an abortion but opposed federal aid to pay for it. He later said he opposed abortion except in cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is threatened, which mirrors Bush’s view on abortion.

Sheila Tate, a spokeswoman for the Bush transition team, said she did not know whether the incoming administration would pursue Koop’s recommended abortion study.

Reagan administration officials had nothing to say about Koop’s decision not to issue a report, a decision he detailed in a letter delivered to the White House on Monday. Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Reagan ″doesn’t have any characterization one way or the other″ of the letter.

Koop said that when he left the White House after talking to Reagan aides on Monday, ″I had the impression that I would be hearing from Mr. Reagan.″

In the letter, Koop told Reagan that among the president’s advisers, ″it was a foregone conclusion that the negative health effects of abortion on women were so overwhelming that the evidence would force the reversal of Roe versus Wade,″ the landmark Supreme Court decision.

Koop said he had met with 27 groups that had philosophical, social, medical or other professional interest in abortion and reviewed nearly 250 studies on the issue - all of which he found to be biased or flawed in their methodology.

″The data do not support the premise that abortion does or does not contribute to psychological problems,″ he said in the letter. ″Anecdotal reports abound on both sides. However, individual cases cannot be used to reach scientifically sound conclusions.″

He said a comprehensive study free of bias ″would set a lot of things to rest.″

″We have two groups of people saying very honestly and very sincerely different things. The people who are pro-choice say: ’Of course there are health effects of abortion on women. They are so delighted to get rid of their unwanted pregnancy it’s a source of relief. And I’ve known people like that.

″And there are the pro-life people, on the other hand, who say: ’We know all sorts of people who have tremendous problems with guilt after they’ve had an abortion and it isn’t necesarily something that happens the first year, it can happen five or ten years later. And I’ve known people like that.″

″But the problem is you cannot prove those things scientifically″ with the current data.

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