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Psychological Consequences

Clinical research provides a growing body of scientific evidence that having an abortion can cause psychological harm to some women. "Women who report negative after-effects from abortion know exactly what their problem is," observed psychologist Wanda Franz, Ph.D., in a March 1989 congressional hearing on the impact of abortion. "They report horrible nightmares of children calling them from trash cans, of body parts, and blood," Franz told the Congressional panel. "When they are reminded of the abortion," Franz testified, "the women re-experienced it with terrible psychological pain ... They feel worthless and victimized because they failed at the most natural of human activities -- the role of being a mother."

The emergence of chemical abortion methods poses a new possibly more devastating psychological threat. Unlike surgical abortions, in which women rarely see the cut up body parts, women having chemical abortions often do see the complete tiny bodies of their unborn children and are even able to distinguish the child’s developing hands, eyes, etc. So traumatic is this for some women that both patients and researchers involved in these studies have recommended that women unprepared for the experience of seeing their aborted children not take the drugs. Long-term psychological implications of this experience have not been studied.

Researchers on the after-effects of abortion have identified a pattern of psychological problems known as Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS). Women suffering PAS may experience drug and alcohol abuse, personal relationship disorders, sexual dysfunction, repeated abortions, communications difficulties, damaged self-esteem, and even attempt suicide. Post-Abortion Syndrome appears to be a type of pattern of denial which may last for five to ten years before emotional difficulties surface.

Now that some clinicians have established that there is an identifiable patterns to PAS, they face a new challenge. What is still unknown is how widespread psychological problems are among women who have had abortions. A Los Angeles Times survey in 1989 found that 56% of women who had abortions felt guilty about it, and 26% "mostly regretted the abortion."Clinicians’ current goal should be to conduct extensive national research studies to obtain data on the psychological after-effects of abortion.

With the growing awareness of Post Abortion Syndrome in scholarly and clinical circles, women with PAS can expect to receive a more sensitive appreciation of the suffering that they endure. Fortunately, a growing network of peer support groups of women who have had abortions offers assistance to women who are experiencing emotional difficulties.

Many post-abortive women have also been speaking out publicly about their own abortion experiences and the healing process they went through.. Women or family members seeking information about this particular outreach can contact American Victims of Abortion, 419 7th Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C., 20004.

Printed with permission from National Right to Life (www.nrlc.org ).

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