The writer of this amazing piece in the Psychiatric Times
asks readers – and reporters – to apply critical thinking skills to a
thought experiment about the way they talk about abortion.
It is exceptional, from beginning to end (and the end really reveals the beginning).
As an active member of the “anti-abortion movement,” I
read the article “Abortion Trauma Syndrome” in the September issue of
Psychiatric Times with great interest.
I was mildly surprised that a piece such as this appeared in the
news section rather than as an editorial. I was much more surprised,
however, that a statement so final and definitive as “abortion does not
cause psychiatric damage” (emphasis mine) was quoted in the article,
which then went on to discuss the multi-flawed nature of the research
that currently exists for or against this postulation.
For those who are open to a more in depth discussion about this
issue, I would like to propose a thought experiment. Is there anything
else in all of human existence that one could substitute with complete
confidence for the word “abortion” in the above quote, given the
complexity of the human psyche? Can we say with absolute certainty that
any other type of surgery or medical condition or treatment can never
cause psychiatric damage? If the physical and mental changes associated
with pregnancy, the post-partum period or the menstrual cycle itself
can be accepted as sometimes having psychiatric sequelae, why should we
be so quick to exclude abortion from consideration?
Her discourse is thorough and well-researched.
A pro-life organization called Priests for Life has
recently initiated a campaign called “Silent No More” where they help
to connect individuals grieving over a past abortion with resources for
healing. So far about 4,000 people have registered on the campaign Web
site and many have posted about the specific negative psychological and
other consequences of their abortion. In addition, a post-abortion
healing weekend retreat program, Rachel’s Vineyard, has helped over
60,000 women (and men) in various countries since 1995 with the pain
they are experiencing after a previous abortion experience (the
retreat’s cost averages just over $100 per person) Can we discount the
possibility of any psychiatric illness caused or exacerbated by
abortion for all of these 60,000 or more people?
Another pro-life organization, Feminists for Life, has identified
evidence of an appalling lack of “choice” on our nation’s college
campuses for many pregnant students whose health insurance plans do not
cover prenatal or maternity care and who have no family housing or
child care services available to them on campus. Given such
circumstances, is it any wonder that about half of the 1.2 million
annual U.S. abortions are performed on college-age women?5 Are all of
these women really “choosing” abortion as freely as we might like to
believe? If they aren’t, does that alter their risk of future negative
This is well-reasoned and fair.
The pro-life community acknowledges that there are some
women who believe that their abortion was the right decision and show
no evidence of any negative psychological effects afterward. On the
contrary, there are certainly some women who suffer very intense grief
and depression after an abortion…
And it is bittersweet, as the author eloquently shares her own exquisite pain…
Every time I see my 2 beautiful toddler-age daughters, I
ruminate about how their lives, and mine, would have been better had I
given them the opportunity to know their sibling, who would now be 15.
Every time I hug or kiss them I think about the child I will never get
to hug or kiss. Is this indicative of any psychiatric “damage”? Who can
definitively say? I have been raped, severely physically abused, and
came near death after a freak accident that permanently disabled me,
but my abortion is by far the most traumatic experience of my entire
A breathtaking account. Let the healing begin with the end of denial.
A lot of people might look at me and say that I had a
“better outcome” because of my abortion, as the original article
implied is the result when a woman who chose abortion later finishes
school or has a better financial status than a young mother. But I
would gladly give every title, every possession, and every penny to my
name in return for the opportunity to once again be that terrified
17-year-old on that cold exam table, sobbing, waiting for the doctor to
come in, and to choose what I knew in my heart was really the right
thing to do.