I often wonder how much the severity of what has been termed “post-abortion syndrome” is influenced by the support services that putportedly exist to treat it. If a woman who has an abortion seeks help from such a group, and is bombarded with one-sided views deriding women for abortion and pathologizing and chastising the whole process, it’s no small suprise that she would end up feeling bad about herself and her decision. Consensus among empirical researchers seems to be that post-abortion syndrome is a crock; for example, a 1990 study published in Science1 found that 76% of women felt relief and happiness after a first trimester abortion, that most women are more phychologically distressed before the abortion, and that post-abortion syndrome is all but undetectable in women whose anxiety or depression doesn’t have another verifiable cause (such as lack of support from family members); a 1993 study2 similarly indicated that 80% of women felt “relief and satisfaction” after an abortion. It would be interesting to see a comparative study between women who seek help from a pro-life support organizations and those who seek help elsewhere, to verify whether the attitudes espoused toward women during pro-life “post-abortion counselling” have a negative impact on women’s emotional wellbeing.
An interesting aspect that emerges from the empirical studies is that women who give up their children for adoption often experience greater emotional difficulty than women who have abortions. An essay recently posted at Shakesville expresses this fact anecdotally, and raises the question of why post-giving-up-your-baby-for-adoption depression is virtually unheard of anywhere, despite it’s apparent prevalence. (Of course, I think we all know the answer.)
I have given a baby up for adoption, and I have had an abortion, and while anecdotes are not evidence, I can assert that abortions may or may not cause depression – it certainly did not in me, apart from briefly mourning the path not taken – but adoption? That is an entirely different matter. I don’t doubt that there are women who were fine after adoption, and there is emphatically nothing wrong with that or with them; but I want to point out that if we’re going to have a seemingly neverending discussion about the sorrow and remorse caused by abortion, then it is about goddamn time that we hear from birth mothers too.
Read the full article here.
1. Adler, Nancy E., et al. “Psychological Responses After Abortion.” Science 248 (Apr. 1990), 41-44.
2. Sachdev, Paul. Sex, Abortion, and Unmarried Women. Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 1993.