Women and Abortion Regret

All women are unique, and there are many different reactions to abortion, but many women do suffer from grief and guilt.

Sometimes these feelings surface right away. At other times, regret and grief can be triggered many years later. Some common triggering events are a subsequent pregnancy, a friend or family members pregnancy or birth experience, an inability to have children when the woman wants them, a change in religious beliefs or ideology, or learning information about the unborn baby.

In an article defending abortion, feminist Joyce Arthur said the following:

“I… believe abortion is a positive moral good and a blessing for women. It’s an act that empowers them, literally saves their lives, saves their existing or future children’s lives, protects and improves their health and that of their families, gives women back their chosen lives, enables them to pursue their career and educational aspirations, improves their economic prospects, allows them to better themselves, gives them a level playing field in the public sphere with men, and enables them to truly attain and exercise liberty and other constitutional freedoms.” (1)

Is this an accurate portrayal of abortion? Do the women choosing it feel blessed, and does the experience enrich their lives? Is abortion good for women?
Many pro-choice groups seem to think so. Planned Parenthood discusses the possibility of women suffering after abortions on its website:

Q. My friend and I were arguing about abortion, and she said she heard that millions of women who have had abortions suffer from something called “post-abortion syndrome,” which she says is just like post-traumatic stress syndrome. Is that true?

A. No, it’s not true. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, anti-choice organizations continue to spread the false idea that it is common for abortion to have severe, emotionally negative effects…The anti-choice studies that claim to prove its existence are very flawed.” (2)

Planned Parenthood dismisses the studies that have shown abortion’s link to psychological problems (see articles under “Women’s Health” for more information on these studies.)

An overview of two:

In one five-year study, 25% of women who had abortion sought out psychiatric care later, as opposed to only 3% of women who did not have abortions.(3)

Another study determined that psychiatric disorders were 40% more common among aborting women than those who had not had an abortion.(4)

Do women regret their abortions? Many women who have come out in public saying that they do have become involved in pro-life groups or activities.

Faced with these studies, pro-choice groups conduct studies of their own which show that women feel mostly relief after abortions. Randy Alcorn, author of Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments (Mulnomah

Publishers: Oregon, 2000) cites two experts:

David Reardon, author of Aborted Women: Silent No More:

“A woman that a six-month post-abortion survey declares “well-adjusted” may experience severe trauma on the anniversary of the abortion date, or even many years later. This fact is attested to in psychiatric textbooks which affirm that…”the psychiatrist frequently hears expressions of remorse and guilt concerning abortions that occurred twenty or more years earlier.”

In one study, the number of women who expressed “serious self-reproach” increased fivefold over the period of time covered by the study.”(5)

Former Surgeon-General C. Everett Koop:

“A woman had a pregnancy at about 38 or 39. Her kids were teenagers. And without letting either her family or her husband know, she had an abortion. At that moment, she said, “[the abortion was] the best thing that ever happened to me- clean slate, no one knows, I am fine.” Ten years later, she had a psychiatric break when one of those teenage daughters who had grown up, got married, gotten pregnant, delivered a baby, and presented it to her grandmother…Unless you studied that one for ten years, you would say “perfectly fine result of an abortion.” (15)

In addition, James Rogers, who carefully examined over 400 published studies said that the studies showing few emotional effects after abortion were:

” [of] poor methodology research design” and “grossly substandard power characteristics.” He concluded that: “The question of psychological sequelae of abortion is not closed.”(16)

A Canadian study polled a group of women who had previously completed a questionnaire in which they denied having problems from their abortions.

One half of the group returned to be interviewed in depth:

“What emerged from psychotherapy was in sharp contrast [to the questionnaires], even when the women had rationally considered abortion to be inevitable, the only course of action…[They expressed feelings of] invariably of intense pain, involving bereavement and a sense of identification with the fetus.”(6)

One way to see how common distress after an abortion is is to take notice of the many, many support groups and ministries have sprung up to help women cope. Simply do a Google search of “Post Abortion Help” or “PASS” i.e. Post Abortion Stress Syndrome, as some have called it, and you will see hundreds of places offering help.

These groups would not exist, and would not be full of women, if there was no reason for them.
One more thing to consider- Perhaps the only person in this country who is an experienced abortionist AND ALSO a practicing psychiatrist has this to say:

“I’ve had patients who had abortions a year or two ago- women who did the best thing at the time for themselves- but it still bothers them. Many come in- some are just mute, some hostile, some burst out crying…There is no question in my mind that we are disturbing a life process. The trauma may sink into the unconscious and never surface in the woman’s lifetime….But a psychological price is paid. It may be alienation, it may be pushing away from human warmth, perhaps a hardening of the maternal instinct. Something happens on the deeper levels of a woman’s consciousness when she destroys a pregnancy. I know that as a psychiatrist.”(7)

Washington abortonist Julius Fogel, who has done over 20,000 abortions
In addition, a number of counselors have talked about the prevalence of abortion regrets among women who seek their services. For example, Meta Buchtman, director of Suicide Anonymous in Cincinnati, said that of roughly 4000 women who called over a certain period, nearly half previously had an abortion. Of the 1800 who had abortions, 1400 were between ages 15 and 24.(8)

According to online counselor Georgette Forney:

“Alot of younger girls… they’ve had an abortion on Saturday and they are looking for online help on Monday. They are starting to shut down emotionally and they can’t go to school. As a 16-year-old, you are not prepared to have yourself violated like that. The trauma totally freaks you out.”(9)

Further studies on abortion and mental health have found women who have had abortions have:

– 6-7 times higher suicide rate(10)
– Up to 60% have suicidal thoughts(11)
– 154% higher risk of suicide(12)
— Teen girls who had abortions are 10x more likely to commit suicide than those who haven’t(13)
— 65% higher risk of clinical depression. A longitudinal study of American women revealed that those who aborted were 65% more likely to be at risk of long-term clinical depression after controlling for age, race, education, marital status, history of divorce, income, and prior psychiatric state.(14)

Elsewhere in this section, you will read about women who have had abortions and how it has affected them.

For stories of women who regret their abortions go here.

For other studies on the emotional aftereffects of abortion, go here.

Notes

1. Joyce Arthur, Pro-Choice feminist, Open Letter to William Saletan. “Your’s is a “War” We Cannot Support” January 29, 2006. See http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/arthur-saletan.shtml

2. “Ask Dr Cullins” Planned Parenthood’s Website, updated 7/25/07 at http://ppmnj.com/health-topics/ask-dr-cullins/ask-dr-cullins-abortion-5519.htm

3. Cited in “Report on the Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law” Ottawa, Canada, 1977, p 20-1

4. Ibid.

5. David Reardon Aborted Women: Silent No More Westchester, Ill.:Crossway Books, 1987) 116

6. “Exclusive Interview: C. Everett Koop,” 31

7. Quoted by Kathleen Kelly “PAS Professionals” and “Sorrow’s Reward” The Wanderer, April 13, 1989, p 2. 8.Valerie Meehan “Hidden Pain: Silent No More” The American Feminist, Winter 2002 to 2003

9. Ibid.

10. Gissler, Hemminki & Lonnqvist, “Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: register linkage study,” British Journal of Medicine 313:1431-4, 1996; and M. Gissler, “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000,” European J. Public Health 15(5):459 63,2005.

11. D. Reardon, Aborted Women, Silent No More (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2002).

12. DC Reardon et. al., “Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women,” Southern Medical Journal 95(8):834-41, Aug. 2002.

13. B. Garfinkel, et al., “Stress, Depression and Suicide: A Study of Adolescents in Minnesota,” Responding to High Risk Youth (University of Minnesota: Minnesota Extension Service, 1986); M. Gissler, et. al., “Suicides After Pregnancy in Finland: 1987-94: register linkage study,” British Medical Journal, 313: 1431-1434, 1996; and N. Campbell, et. al., “Abortion in Adolescence,” Adolescence, 23:813-823, 1988. See the “Teen Abortion Risks” Fact Sheet at www.unfairchoice.info/resources.htm for more information.

14. JR Cougle, DC Reardon & PK Coleman, “Depression Associated With Abortion and Childbirth: A Long-Term Analysis of the NLSY Cohort,” Medical Science Monitor 9(4):CR105-112, 2003.

15. I.Kent et al. “Emotional Sequelae Of Elective Abortion” British college of Med. Journal., Volume 20, number 4, April 1978. I. Kent “Abortion Has Profound Impact” Family Practice News, June 1980 page 80

16.J. Rogers et al., “Validity of Existing Control Studies Examining the Psychological Sequelae of Abortion” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, volume 39, number 1, March 1987 PP. 20 to 29

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