We are told by abortion advocates that there are no adverse psychological effects from abortion. In contrast, the women who are suffering from the emotional after-effects of abortion are telling us that the psychological consequences are devastating and long-lasting.
Questionnaires : Cause for Concern
Abortion promoters are quick to partially quote questionnaires. The general finding of over 1000 questionnaire-based papers is that the main, immediate reaction to abortion is relief.
The same questionnaires also find abortion to be traumatic, accompanied by distress, anxiety, and numbness; but abortion adherents ignore these findings.
Questionnaires, no matter how skillfully designed, do not get to the core of one’s true feelings. In-depth research has found that when women are in trusting, sharing relationships, they report deep-seated feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, loss, anger and exploitation over their abortion experiences.
A point in fact is the research by Drs. Ian Kent, R. C. Greenwood, Janice Loeken, and W. Nicholls at the University of British Columbia. They found that a group of women asked by questionnaire about their abortions concluded that their abortions were mildly traumatic, but their main reaction was relief. Also, a feeling of emotional numbness after the abortion was reported, especially by teenagers.
Compare this to another group of women in therapy for reasons not directly associated with their abortions. After some time in therapy, the women’s deep feelings began to surface – feelings of intense pain, bereavement and identification with their aborted babies. These feelings appeared even when a woman rationally tried to maintain that abortion was the only possible course of action. In group sessions or alone with the therapist, women expressed their pain and regret.
A totally different reaction appears when a woman communicates her deep feelings to people she has come to know and trust instead of ticking off a superficial response on a questionnaire. On questionnaires women report “socially approved” responses; in a trusting relationship they report their genuine emotions.
The Damage Being Done
The immediate reaction after an abortion may be relief – no more fear of the unknown. But what about later – one month, one year, ten years later? In-depth studies are reporting consistent findings. The psychological damage is taking the following forms: guilt, anxiety, depression, a sense of loss, hostility, suicide, and psychosis.[3, 4] And women suffer from not one but a combination of these difficulties. This trauma is recognized as a psychological stress disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and is listed in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III-R:309.89, Washington, D.C., American Psychiatric Press, 1987, page 250).
Guilt over an abortion is a frequent reaction – a reaction that may smoulder for years. [5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] Women confronting their guilt make such statements as “I murdered a baby.” Many symptoms can result from unresolved guilt. Some are depression, complexes, or fears of infertility and of sex.
Anxiety often is felt very keenly and expressed by women in the post-abortion period. [11, 12] Women cry, “I’m going crazy,” or “I’m always fearful.”
Many women are anxious about physical complications. Often they are worried that they may never have another child. In some cases there are no symptoms of physical problems, in other cases there are, such as miscarriages or tubal pregnancies.
Women often describe symptoms of depression when telling of their feelings about their abortion experiences. Many feel completely immobilized. They haven’t been interested in anyone or anything since their abortion. They don’t talk to anyone, they don’t go to work, they don’t function adequately in any area of life. In short, they are alienated from those around them and feel they have no one to confide in.
In their depression, many women find they have been crying since their abortions. They state, “I cry all the time.” Others have insomnia and nightmares about little boys or girls the age their children would have been. Some have constant, distressing flashbacks of the abortion procedure.
During depressions occurring in the mid-decades of a patient’s life, therapists frequently hear expressions of remorse and guilt concerning abortions that occurred twenty or more years earlier.  And the patient’s psychological pain from the abortion surfaces as she discusses another problem, the one that brought her to the therapist.
A family who has experienced prenatal detection of an abnormality and has chosen abortion is also at risk of emotional trauma.[14,15] Studies indicate that the incidence of depression following such selective abortion may be as high as 92 percent among women and 82 percent among men and is greater than that associated with the delivery of a stillborn child. The cause of the preborn’s death makes the difference. A stillbirth usually is regarded as an unfortunate accident; in selective abortion, the baby’s death is the result of a premeditated choice.
When a post-abortive woman is allowed to grieve, she articulates a sense of loss. Women describe a number of reactions. “I cannot look at babies, little children or pregnant women,” or “I’m jealous of mothers,” or “I want to get pregnant again to replace my lost baby.”
Often women are simultaneously experiencing other losses that serve to increase their pain. Their relationship with their sexual partner has deteriorated or even been destroyed since the abortion. There is much distress and confusion over husbands or boyfriends abandoning them after their abortions or lacking concern about their emotional pain.
Another loss is that of self-esteem and of values that the women cherished before their abortions but found obliterated by their abortions. They are disappointed in themselves for going against their previously held values. They describe themselves now as “violent” or “not worthy of love or of children” or “copping out.” [16, 17]
Anger is strongly felt and expressed toward people involved in the abortion: themselves, counselors, physicians, boyfriends and spouses, for example.
Anger is directed toward doctors and counselors who “don’t present the other side of the picture” or “don’t warn of the possible physical and emotional problems.” One woman states, “After the abortion, when I was in pain emotionally, no one at the clinic wanted to see me again.”
Husbands and boyfriends cause anger when they don’t support their partner who desperately needs help and understanding or when they have encouraged or forced the woman to have an abortion.
Women are not only disappointed in themselves but angry with themselves when they feel they went against their previously held values.
Along with the anger are feelings of being misled and exploited by the so called professionals they went to for help before and after their abortions. Many women state they were given misinformation such as “your pregnancy is only tissue,” or “don’t think of it as killing, only getting your period going again.” Women are angry, hostile, and resentful because they are not informed about prenatal development, abortion methods and their risks – physical and psychological – and alternatives to abortion. Women say they were made to feel like helpless, powerless “victims” and still feel that way in their interactions.
Women who regret having abortions, and feel they were exploited by counselors, doctors, husbands or boyfriends who pushed abortion as a solution to problems, are founding post-abortion counseling groups. The founding women and those who continue to join the groups discover they all have problems, especially with guilt and depression, and feel what they did is wrong. These counseling groups help women for whom pregnancy poses a problem by providing the needed assistance to bring a baby safely to term and to care for him or her adequately after delivery.
A growing problem is suicide after an abortion. An increasing number of attempted and successful suicides by women on the approximate date their babies would have been born had they not aborted them is being reported by physicians, researchers, and counsellors. The highest rate is for 15- to 24-year-olds.
To illustrate, a 17-year-old attempted to kill herself by crashing her car beyond repair while driving under the influence of alcohol and 29 Bufferin tablets. She walked away from the accident and was found sitting in a cemetery. During her abortion, she had calculated her baby’s birth date, the exact date the accident occurred.
In 1979 alone, Drs. Sim and Neisser reported 95 post-abortive psychoses from Israel and from Birmingham, England, indicating that this problem is not as rare as some would suggest. Compared to post-delivery disturbances, post-abortion psychoses are more serious, last longer, and are more likely to recur.
In the following examples, abortion produced severe psychoses 6-12 weeks post-abortion in women who functioned well before their abortions.
“A 17-year-old honor student attended a summer program in an area in which she excelled. This was the first time she had been away from home for an extended period. She met her first boyfriend, fell in love and became pregnant. She visted a sister in a northern city and obtained an abortion without her parents’ knowledge.
“Later, she developed lethargy, malaise, nausea with occasional vomiting. Thorough physical evaluation failed to reveal any organic cause for the symptoms. A short time later she complained of feeling bloated, excessive weight gain, breast engorgement and tenderness.
“On the eve of the first anniversary of her abortion, she experienced an overt psychosis. The mental status examination revealed marked regression, visual hallucinations, and psychotic thought processes…The regression was so severe that she had fecal incontinence and smeared the feces on herself and around the room…
“Psychological testing revealed a marked amount of guilt…Treatment with an antipsychotic drug was begun…She was able to attend school…However, each time her menstrual period began, she rapidly regressed to psychotic behavior with fecal smearing and visual hallucination.”
Two other examples illustrate further. After three years one woman believed her baby to be alive. Another woman continued to see everyone as the devil.
Other victims of abortion
The same psychological reactions to abortion may occur in others close to a woman who has aborted, such as her partner, relatives, nurses and doctors. As examples, one mother became immobilized with depression after letting her daughter have an abortion. A husband was tormented by guilt over his wife’s abortion and recent miscarriage.
Doctors and nurses who have participated in many abortions report nightmares, and researchers documenting this conclude, “Regardless of one’s religious or philosophic orientation, the view of abortion remains the same. . . that unconsciously the act of abortion was experienced as an act of murder.”
Those who have aborted are telling us they pay a psychological price. Their views of themselves, their relationships, their emotional stability, and their ability to effectively cope with life are damaged, sometimes beyond repair. The emotional reactions are both immediate and long-term. Psychologically, women are in states of crisis. And the psychological aftermath of abortion extends beyond the one who has aborted to affect significant others in her life.
Denial of the psychological complications of abortion by abortion advocates demonstrates a lack of concern for women and further exploitation of them. Women are not well-informed or prepared for the psychological problems created by abortion, and then when they are suffering from these difficulties, they are told their pain does not exist. This denial prevents the offering of assistance, and the lack of needed help denies recovery, thereby maintaining the existence of psychologically incapacitated women.
1.Doan, B.K., and Quigley, B.G., “A Review,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, Sept. 1, 1981, vol. 125.
2. Kent, I., et. al., “Emotional Sequelae of Therapeutic Abortion: A Comparative Study.” Presented to annual meeting of Canadian Psychiatric Assoc., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Sept. 1977.
3. Parthun, M.L., “Post-Abortion Mourning: The Hidden Grief,” Care for the Dying and the Bereaved, I. Gentles, ed. Anglican Book Centre, Toronto, 1982.
4. Mall, D.,and Watts, W.F., The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, University Publications of America, Washington, D.C., 1979.
5. Kent, I., et al. BC Med J 20 (4). April 1978.
6. Bulfin, M.J., “Deaths and Near Deaths with Legal Abortions.” Presented at ACOG Convention, Oct. 1975.
7. Simon, N.M., and Sentuvia, A.G., “Psychiatric Sequelae of Abortion,” Arch Gen Psych 15, Oct. 1966.
8. Peterson, P., Hannover Medical School, in deutsches Arzteblatt.
9. Francke, L.B., The Ambivalence of Abortion, Random House, 1978.
10. Wren, B.G., “Cervical Incompetence: Aetiscogy and Management,” Med J Aust 1146, Dec. 29,1973.
11. Kibel, H.D., “Staff Reactions to Abortion, A Psychiatrist’s View,” Ob Gyn 39 (1), Jan. 1972.
12. Quay, E.A., “Doctors Note Serious Side Effects on Women Following Abortion,” The Wanderer, Nov. 16, 1978.
13. Sands, W.L., “Psychiatric History and Mental Status,” Diagnosing Mental Illness: Evaluation in Psychiatry and Psychology, Freedman and Kaplan, eds. Atheneum, 1973.
14. Niswander, K.R., and Patterson, R.N., “Psychologic Reaction to Therapeutic Abortion,” Ob Gyn 29, May 1967.
15. Blumberg, B.D., et al., “The Psychological Sequelae of Abortion Performed for a Genetic Indication,” Am J Ob Gyn 122 (7), Aug. 1975.
16. Ekblad, M., “Induced Abortion on Psychiatric Grounds, A Follow-up Study of 479 Women,” Acta Psychiat Neurol Scand suppl 99:238, 1955
17. Kotasek, A., “Artificial Termination of Pregnancy in Czechoslovakia,” Int J Gynaec Obstet 9, May 1971.