Some people argue that having abortion legal makes it "safe" for women and that the overturn of Roe v. Wade would have a devastating impact on women's health.
The idea that legalized abortion makes abortion "safe" is untrue. There is strong evidence that there are many complications – physical, emotional and psychological – which can occur as a result of an abortion or multiple abortions.
National statistics show that 10% of women undergoing induced abortion suffer from immediate complications, of which one-fifth (2%) were considered major.1
Over one hundred potential complications have been associated with induced abortion. "Minor" complications include minor infections, bleeding, fevers, chronic abdominal pain, gastro-intestinal disturbances, vomiting, and Rh sensitization. The nine most common "major" complications are infection, excessive bleeding, embolism, ripping or perforation of the uterus, anesthesia complications, convulsion, hemorrhage, cervical injury and endotoxic shock.2
Long-term damage can occur from the immediate complications. One such example, identified by Dr. David Reardon, post-abortion expert, is sterility. "Researchers have reported that three to five percent of aborted women are left inadvertently sterile as a result of the operation's latent morbidity.3 The risk of sterility is even greater for women who are infected with a venereal disease at the time of the abortion.3
After induced abortions, premature future births are more likely. Why? During an abortion procedure, the cervix is artificially opened before it is ready to deliver the baby, and often the cervical muscle is torn. The cervical muscle must be stretched to allow the surgeon to enter the uterus to complete the abortion. If the cervical opening and muscle are torn, depending upon the extent of the tear and damage to the cervix, the muscle becomes weakened. Babies as they develop rest head down, preparing for birth. If the muscle is damaged, it may open prematurely to allow the baby to be born before he/she is fully developed.4.5
In a study of post-abortion patients only eight weeks after their abortion, researchers found that 44% of patients complained of nervous disorders, 36% had experienced sleep disturbances, 31% had regrets about their decisions, and 11 % had been prescribed psychotropic medicine by their family doctor.6
Research further shows that women who have had abortions are significantly more likely than others to subsequently require admission to a psychiatric hospital. At especially high risk are teenagers, separated or divorced women, and women with a history of more than one abortion.7
Guilt is what an individual feels when she has violated her own moral code. For the woman who has come to believe, at some point either before or after the abortion, that she consented to the killing of her unborn child, the burden of guilt is relentless. There is little consolation to offer the woman who has transgressed one of nature's strongest instincts: the protection a mother extends to her young. In fact, many post-abortive women believe that any unhappy events that have occurred since the abortion were inevitable because they "deserve it."8
Anxiety is defined as an unpleasant emotional and physical state of apprehension that may take the form of tension (inability to relax, irritability, etc), physical responses (dizziness. pounding heart, upset stomach, headaches, etc.), worry about the future, difficulty concentrating and disturbed sleep. The conflict between a woman's moral standards and her decision to abort generates much of this anxiety. Very often, she will not relate her anxiety to a post-abortion syndrome abortion, and yet she will unconsciously begin to avoid anything having to do with babies. She may make excuses for not attending a baby shower, skip the baby aisle at the grocery store and so forth.9
Temporary Feelings of Relief
Temporary feelings of relief are frequently followed by a period psychiatrists identify as emotional "paralysis" or post-abortion "numbness." Like shell-shocked soldiers, these aborted women are unable to express or even feel their own emotions. Their focus is primarily on having survived the ordeal, and they are at least temporarily out of touch with their feelings.10
In a study of teenage abortion patients, half suffered a worsening of psychosocial functioning within 7 months after the abortion. The immediate impact appeared to be greatest on the patients who were under 17 years of age, and for those with previous psychosocial problems. Symptoms included: self-reproach, depression, social regression, withdrawal, obsession with need to become pregnant again, and hasty marriages.11
No matter when the abortion occurred – a few days or many years ago, the women who underwent the procedure never forget the abortion experience and grieve for their unborn children. The grief of losing a child never ends, but for those who chose to abort, the grief, combined with guilt, make the experience very difficult to forget or forgive. Most women report that when the anniversary date of the abortion comes, they remember it as if it were yesterday.
In addition, grief over an abortion is not limited to just the woman who had the abortion. Grief extends to the aborted baby's father, siblings of the aborted child, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended family.
And the impact of that grief can even extend to partners – husbands, fiancées, boyfriends and future partners unless the abortion experience and the associated grief are resolved. "Nearly half of women in one study said abortion had "significantly altered" their relationship with their partner.12 Breakups are common, even among couples with previously stable relationships.13
Abortion is significantly linked with a two-fold increased risk of alcohol abuse among women.14 Abortion followed by alcohol abuse is linked to violent behavior, divorce or separation, auto accidents and job loss.14, 15
Abortion and Breast Cancer
Dr. Joel Brind, an endocrinologist and biologist, and a leading expert in discussing the link between breast cancer and abortion, reports the following findings:
The first evidence of a link between abortion and breast cancer was published in April 1957 in the well-known Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, (no. 48) which is published in English. So the "news" of a link is not new. The cells in the breasts that develop for lactation are called TEBs (terminal end buds) and are undifferentiated until the end of a pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur these cells tend to grow and are susceptible to becoming cancerous. The fully developed cells, called lobules, that result from full-term pregnancy are more or less immune to cancer.
Carcinogenesis is a two-stage process: 1) exposure to a carcinogen that damages cell DNA and 2) a tumor promotion stimulus that makes cells grow. When TEB cells are exposed to a carcinogen they tend to become cancerous, whereas mature cells likewise exposed can be injured, but will not become cancerous.
In the case of induced abortions, however, the level of estrogen exposure is much higher, for two reasons. One is that, since the unborn child is viable, there is the same increase in estrogen levels that is found in healthy pregnancies. The second is that whereas spontaneous abortions usually occur in the first trimester, induced abortions are generally performed in the second or third trimester. Even one interrupted pregnancy means several weeks of exposure to abnormally high levels of estrogen. In a pregnancy that is carried to term, on the other hand, other hormones take over in the final stages, negating the effects of the earlier exposure to estrogen by differentiating cells for lactation and killing unneeded cells.
1. Frank, et.al. "Induced Abortion Operations and Their Early Sequelae," Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners (April 1985), vol. 35, no. 73, pp.175-180. Grimes and Cates, "Abortion: Methods and Complications,"Human Reproduction, 2nd ed., 796-813.
2. Reardon, Aborted Women-Silent No More, Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987). Abortion Complications http://www.afterabortion.org/complic.html, 2/27.2009.
3. Willke, Abortion: Questions and Answers, (Cincinnati, Hayes Publishing Co., 2003.)
4, 5. L. Iffy, "Second-Trimester Abortions," JAMA, vol. 249, no. 5, Feb. 4, 1983, p. 588.
6. Ashton, "The Psychosocial Outcome of Induced Abortion," British Journal of Ob&Gyn., 87:1115-1122 (1980).
7. R. Somers, "Risk of Admission to Psychiatric Institutions Among Danish. Women who Experienced Induced Abortion: An Analysis on National Record Linkage," Dissertation Abstracts International, Public Health, 2621-B, Order No. 7926166 (1979); H. David, et al., "Postpartum and Post-abortion Psychotic Reactions," Family Planning Perspectives 13:88-91 (1981).
8,9. Post Abortion Syndrome Symptoms, Ramah International, http://ramahinternational.org/post-abortion-syndrome-symptoms.html
10. Kent, et al., "Emotional Sequelae of Therapteutic Abortion: A Comparative Study," presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Psychiatric Association at Saskatoon, Sept. 1977.
11. Wallerstein, et.al. "Psychosocial Sequelae of Therapeutic Abortion in Young Unmarried Women" Archives of General Psychiatry (1972) vol. 27.
12. Arthur B. Shostak and Gary McLouth, Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses and Love (New York: Praeger, 1984), p. 105 notes that 25% of 75 men interviewed at some interval (varied) after their partner's abortion said that abortion contributed to a breakup of the relationship.
13. Winfried Barnett, et al., "Partnership After Induced Abortion: A Prospective Controlled Study," Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 21, No 5 (October 1992), pp. 443-455. Barnett and colleagues found that 20 out of the 92 aborting couples, or 22% in their study group, had separated after one year. Among the 2,000 plus cases of post abortion trauma that Theresa Burke worked with, she encountered several women whose marriage dissolved as a consequence of their abortions. See Theresa Burke, Forbidden Grief (Springfield, IL;; Acorn books, 2002), pp. 208, 212, 217.
14. Klassen, "Sexual Experience and Drinking Among Women in a U.S. National Survey," Archives of Sexual Behavior, (5): 363-39. M Plant, "Women, Drinking and Pregnancy," Tavistock Pub., London (1985); Kuzma & Kissinger, Patterns of Alcohol and Cigarette Use in PRegnancy, "Neurobehavioral Toxicology and Teratology," 3:211-221-(1981).
15. Morrissey, et al., "Stressful Life Events and Alcohol Problems Among Women Seen at a Detoxification Center, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 39(9): 1159 (1978).