Illinois Right to Life Committee
Spring/Summer 2003 IRLC News
Psychological Impact of Abortion on Women
In the last 18 months alone, seven new studies have been published in major medical journals showing that abortion is associated with elevated rates of suicide, death from other causes, substance abuse, clinical depression, and psychiatric hospitalization . The Winter, 2003 issue of IRLC News reported briefly on five of these studies. On June 17, 2003, Norma McCorvey, Roe from Roe v. Wade, filed a motion to overturn the ruling that legalized abortion for all 9 months of pregnancy. Her motion is based in part on affidavits from over 1000 women who have had abortions. These affidavits attest to the devastating emotional, physical, and psychological trauma of abortion.
McCorvey argues that the Roe v. Wade decision deprived women of protection from dangerous abortions and exposed them to a much greater risk of being pressured into unwanted abortions. Between 30 and 60 percent of abortions are undergone because the pregnant woman is submitting to the pressure of her male partner, parents, physicians, clinic staff, or other friends and family members. In these situations the psychological effects can be overwhelming.
Theresa Burke, PhD, has been counseling women in her role as a psychotherapist. In her recently published book, Forbidden Grief, she has documented the many ways that abortion can torment women for years. This problem is aggravated because professional counselors usually reject the concept that abortion can be emotionally and psychologically detrimental. Burke provides many personal accounts and quotes that offer more than sufficient evidence to dismiss the politically correct viewpoint that abortion is a non-event. She notes that 65-70% of women who undergo abortion have a negative opinion of the procedure.
The personal accounts that Burke presents are heartbreaking. Many women are traumatized by their abortion experience. Some try to commit suicide. Others try to avoid any reminders of abortion. When a co-worker becomes pregnant, some even find it necessary to leave a good job just to avoid seeing a pregnant woman. Many feel shame, anger, and guilt regardless of whether the abortion was their choice or they felt forced into an unwanted abortion. Often, they feel they deserve punishment for their abortion so they tolerate abusive relationships or use alcohol, drugs, have eating disorders, or even physically abuse themselves. Many who appear to have a normal life actually spend hours in private crying because of they feel such despair and abandonment.
Some want to have a replacement baby, but when they get pregnant again, they realize that the circumstances that motivated the earlier abortion are still there, and they get another abortion. Others feel they are not worthy to become a mother since they chose to kill their own child. Some women who do have children either have poor relationships with these children because of reminders of the past abortion, or they become overprotective because of fears that they will be punished through adversity befalling their children.
Many women recognize that they have been misled about the abortion procedure itself and by assurances that abortion is the right choice so they can get on with their life. They often find that they cannot get on with their life, instead experiencing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Students stop studying or drop out. Career women lose incentive or change jobs. Relationships with men and with other family members are often destroyed or seriously compromised. One women observed, The destruction of a precious, sweet child totally destroys the beauty of the sexual union that created it.
Forbidden Grief provides a glimpse into the private hell that many women experience after abortion. The guilt after abortion is overpowering. But there is hope. Through retreats and individual counseling offered by post-abortion ministries, women can know Gods love and forgiveness to experience healing from the hidden aftermath of abortion. The IRLC web site (www.illinoisrighttolife.org) provides links to a number of effective post-abortion ministries, or call 312-422-9300 for more information.
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