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'Anguish of abortion is worse than miscarriage'
Women who have an abortion can suffer mental distress, anxiety, guilt and shame at least five years afterwards, researchers say today.

A study in Norway compared a group of 40 women who had suffered a miscarriage with 80 women who had an abortion, questioning them 10 days, six months, two years and five years after the event.

Although women who had a miscarriage suffered more mental distress up to six months after losing their baby, women who had an abortion experienced more mental distress at the two- and five-year intervals.

The study, by the University of Oslo, published in the journal BMC Medicine, measured the extent of intrusive thoughts, feelings and flashbacks about the end of pregnancy. The researchers also assessed how much women avoided thinking or talking about the event.

They found that after 10 days 47.5 per cent of women who had miscarried suffered from mental distress compared with 30 per cent of the abortion group. The proportion of women who had a miscarriage suffering distress fell to 22.5 per cent at six months and 2.6 per cent at two years and five years.

However, levels of distress remained high in the abortion group, falling to 25.7 per cent at six months and 18 per cent at two years but rising to 20 per cent at five years. The women in the abortion group also had high levels of anxiety, guilt, shame and relief.

Anna Pringle, from the pro-life charity Life, said the research confirmed that abortion can cause "massive" emotional suffering. "We believe it is time that the Government acknowledges the fact that abortion carries with it psychological risks that can affect women long after the actual event," she said.

Richard Warren, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said it showed the need for continuing counselling and the importance of family planning. But a spokesman for the Family Planning Association said: "There is no evidence to suggest that abortion directly causes psychological trauma.

"Women can experience mixed feelings after an abortion such as relief or sadness. These are natural reactions and few women experience long-term problems."

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