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Latest Abortion Research Proves Women Harmed

SUSAN WILLS

Many post-abortion studies found in U.S. psychology journals are authored by abortion enthusiasts trying their darnedest to show that women are happier after abortion. Most contain glaring, disgraceful flaws. One, for example, is based on reactions just two hours after the abortion when the predominant, but short-lived, feeling is relief. Another neglects to mention that about half the women questioned in the study sample concealed having had an abortion. Others use standardized questionnaires and inappropriate scales (e.g., measuring self-esteem) that can't begin to reveal deep and complex reactions.

Life after abortion. What's it really like for women?

The abortion lobby paints a cheery picture of relief and empowerment. Whew! Solved that little problem! Time to bounce right back, get on with classes, career plans, social life (memo to self: from now on use two types of contraception). They claim "anti-abortion" groups lie about suffering to discourage women from getting abortions. And if a few women do suffer, they shrug it off as the result of "Catholic guilt" or pre-existing "mental" problems.

Professionals who've been counseling women and studying abortion aftermath report a very different scenario: a hidden world of grief, loss, shame, regret, anger, emptiness, sadness, isolation, and a sense of worthlessness. The intensity of these feelings, and the disruption they cause, can range from relatively mild (as with complicated bereavement) to severe and life-threatening, as in post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

Many post-abortion studies found in U.S. psychology journals are authored by abortion enthusiasts trying their darnedest to show that women are happier after abortion. Most contain glaring, disgraceful flaws. One, for example, is based on reactions just two hours after the abortion when the predominant, but short-lived, feeling is relief. Another neglects to mention that about half the women questioned in the study sample concealed having had an abortion. Others use standardized questionnaires and inappropriate scales (e.g., measuring self-esteem) that can't begin to reveal deep and complex reactions.

On the other hand, dozens of articles, books, studies, surveys, and collections of personal stories evidencing abortion's painful aftermath may possibly exaggerate the overall scope and intensity of post-abortion dysfunction. The women surveyed, studied and reported on are those who have come forward precisely because they are suffering beyond their ability to cope. If a woman successfully dismisses her abortion as a non-event (and some do), she's not likely to write a heart-wrenching, cathartic book about her journey into despair.

We welcome, therefore, several new studies which undeniably demonstrate abortion's toll on women.

The government of Finland's statistical analysis unit ("STAKES") pulled death certificates of all reproductive-age women who died between 1987 and 1994, a total of 9,192 women. STAKES discovered that 281 of these women died within one year of their last pregnancy. Six deaths involved traumatic physical injuries and could not be classified as suicide, homicide or accidental. But the remaining 275 deaths from suicide (28 percent), accidental injuries (21 percent), homicide (5 percent) and natural causes (46 percent) were compared for women who died within a year of childbirth, abortion or miscarriage.

David Reardon has done a first-rate job explaining and annotating the study's findings (www.afterabortion.org). STAKES, he notes, found the risk of suicide was more than seven times greater for post-abortion women than for women who had given birth (and also 3.5 times higher than for women in the general population). The risk of accidental death was four times greater for aborted women than for those who had given birth, and was twice that of the general population. Almost all of the homicides were to women who had aborted; their risk was four times greater than the general population. Even the risk of dying from natural causes was 60 percent higher for women who aborted than for those who gave birth or miscarried.

Two related studies investigating rates of suicide attempts following abortion lend support to the STAKES study. In South Glamorgan Hospital (Great Britain) suicide attempts were made by 8.1 per 1,000 women who had abortion, compared to 1.9/1,000 [1.009] among those who gave birth. A University of Minnesota study found a 0.4 percent rate of suicide attempt among teens who had not aborted in the preceding six months, but a 4 percent rate among those who had.

Reardon and Priscilla Coleman co-authored what might be the first large-scale record-based study on abortion aftermath in the United States, and presented their paper at the June meeting of the American Psychological Society. The mental health claims of low-income California women who had state-funded childbirth or abortion in 1989 were followed for up to six years. Low-income women who had abortions "were more than twice as likely to have 2 to 9 treatments for mental health as women who carried to term," they found.

The latest study (see "Archives of General Psychiatry," August 2000) has a number of methodological flaws not present in the records-based studies. Nevertheless, it is extremely important as perhaps the first attempt by Brenda Major, a prominent pro-abortion researcher, to construct an unbiased longitudinal study. Results may significantly understate the psychological harm because 15 percent of the women approached refused to participate, and 50 percent of those who agreed to take part, later refused to be interviewed at the final assessment (two years post-abortion). Other studies have shown that non-participators and drop-outs match the profiles of those likely to experience the most post-abortion distress. No women were followed beyond two years, despite the fact that we know many women don't acknowledge their grief and distress until five to seven years post-abortion.

While Dr. Major tries to put the best possible spin on her findings, there's much that's troubling. Major reports that "only" 1.36 percent of women could be classified as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating mental disorder. But even at this low rate, 1.36 percent of 40 million abortions in the United States since 1972 means about 560,000 American women are, or have been, afflicted with PTSD. Major also found that 20 percent of women suffered from clinical depression (at least 8 million American women). Also disturbing: negative reactions increased over time and 31 percent stated, if they could do it again, they would not have chosen abortion or were unsure. Physical complications, such as excessive bleeding or pelvic infection, were reported by 17 percent of participants, an incidence much higher than the industry admits.

All in all, bad news for the abortion lobby, but welcome data for all who want to advise vulnerable women, and the general public, about abortion's many risks.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Susan Wills "Latest Abortion Research Proves Women Harmed." Arlington Catholic Herald (September 28, 2000).

Reprinted with permission of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

Copyright 2000 Arlington Catholic Herald

 

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