The Trauma of Abortion

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Many women faced with an unwanted pregnancy may view abortion as their only solution. They may lack moral and practical support from their family and friends. Statistics indicated that women who have had abortions were encouraged to do so by boyfriends or parents. Often the woman, and those who help her make a decision, aren’t aware of the medical and psycho-social ramifications of abortion.

In her study of post abortion syndrome, Dr. Anne Catherine Speckhard of the University of Minnesota found the following long-term manifestations five to 10 years after the abortion.

  • 81% had a preoccupation with the aborted child
  • 73% had flashbacks of the abortion experience
  • 69% were sexually inhibited
  • 65% had thoughts of suicide
  • 61% increased their use of alcohol
  • 54% had nightmares related to the abortion
  • 23% had hallucinations related to the abortion

According to Teri and Paul Reisser, authors of Focus on the Family’s booklet, Identifying and Overcoming Postabortion Syndrome , the trauma of an abortion can follow a woman for the rest of her life. These are some of the post-abortive symptoms:

  • Guilt -Because she has violated her own moral code, she may feel wicked.
  • Depression -Severe, prolonged depression can cause hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.
  • Psychological “numbing” -Post-abortive women often resort to drugs or alcohol to help block their abortions from their thoughts.
  • Eating disorders -Studies show an unusually high rate of anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders among women who have aborted.
  • Reliving the abortion -She may experience flashbacks, nightmares or become obsessed with babies.
  • Anniversary syndrome -She may exhibit symptoms near the anniversary of the abortion or the due date of the aborted baby.  She may look at children about the age her child would be and try to imagine what hers would look like.
  • Preoccupation with becoming pregnant again- A large percentage of women become pregnant again within a year of their abortion and see the child as an “atonement baby.”
  • Anxiety over fertility- Some fear they will never become pregnant again or that God will give them a deformed child as punishment. Caring support should be extended to a woman who has been traumatized by abortion. Listening to her is perhaps the most important way to help.

For further reading on post abortion syndrome read , Help for the Post-Abortion Woman by Teri and Paul Reisser (Zondervan).

This material adapted from The Standard , with permission.

Statistics Related to the Inadequacy of Abortion Counselling

This legislation is intended to protect those women who may experience post-abortion problems. In a major study (1) of 252 women who experienced post-abortion problems:

  • 85% believe they were misinformed or denied relevant information during their counselling
  • 64% report that when they asked questions, their questions were not thoroughly answered, were evaded, or their concerns were trivialized. Only 13% felt encouraged to ask questions.
  • 76% complain that the description of the abortion procedure was inadequate, or “watered down,” especially with regard to the presence of pain during the procedure.
  • 90% received no counselling about the biological nature of their fetus’s stage of development.
  • Only 4% felt well informed about the abortion procedure and fetal development prior to seeking an abortion.
  • 83% describe themselves as having no knowledge about the abortion procedure of fetal development prior to entering the abortion clinic.
  • 81% received little or no information about potential risks. Only 8% heard any significant mention of risks.
  • 74% did not receive any consultation with their doctor.
  • 44% were very much hoping to find some other option than abortion at the time they sought abortion counselling.
  • 51% did not feel free in making their decision but felt pressured by others, often by the abortion counsellor.
  • 81% stated they probably would have continued their pregnancies under better circumstances, such as might occur if given access to emotional support and aid. In retrospect, 90 percent of women who suffer post-abortion trauma complain that they did not receive enough information at the clinics on which to base an informed choice.
  • 66% believe their abortion counselling was strongly biased toward leading them to choose abortion.


(1) The study from which the above data was drawn was published in Aborted Women – Silent No More , Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987. See also Franz and Reardon, “Differential Impact of Abortion on Adolescents and Adults” Adolescence , Vol 27, No. 105, Spring 1992.


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