The Myth of “Post-Abortion Syndrome”
The concept of “post-abortion syndrome” as a traumatic response to abortion is a myth, developed by those who seek to discourage women from choosing abortion as an option when faced with an unwanted pregnancy.
According to the American Psychological Association, various factors, such as emotional attachment to the pregnancy, lack of support, and conservation views on abortion, may increase the likelihood of experiencing negative reactions. Studies have either failed to establish a casual relationship between abortion and negative phsychological symptoms experienced by women, or been conclusive.
In 2008, a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women, and determined: “The best quality studies indicate no significant differences in long-term mental health between women in the United States who choose to terminate a pregnancy and those who do not.” Dr. Robert Blum, the senior author on the study, stated: “The best research does not support the existence os a ‘post-abortion syndrome’ similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.”
A growing body of research has demonstrated that abortion does not cause psychiatric illness. Abortion often occurs under stressful circumstances, such as poverty, lack of social supports, abandonment and ongoing mental illness, as well as in the face of ostracism, including antiabortion demonstrators at facilities where abortions are performed.
When the U.S. Surpreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, groups opposed to abortion on moral grounds began to strategize about how to reverse the decision. When moral arguments alone did not previal, they looked for rationales that would prove more effective. They attempted to demonstrate that abortion caused surgical complications, infertility, or breast cancer. These arguments have been shown scientifically to be untrue. They argued that parents should be informed about and have the right to decide whether their underage daughters could have abortions and that a waiting period should be imposed before a request for abortion could be honored. The Path Project, and judicial bypass allows an underage woman to determine whether or not she wants the courts assistance in bypassing this barrier.
While the Anti-Choice political camp continue to fight to make all abortions illegal, some of their illogical arguments have gained traction and many new laws have been, and are being enacted, across the country, making it more difficult to obtain an abortion. We refer to these unnecessary laws as barriers to Choice for women.
One in four women will face this choice in their own lifetime. It is for some an easy decision, for others, more difficult. We trust women to make the choice that is best for themselves and their families.
Until we as women demand our right to have all reproductive issues held as a personal and private choice, the Anti-Choice movement will continue to mount campaigns to take that right away. If abortions become illegal, women will seek to abort as they did in the past, with “back alley” abortions, at home attempts, and other unsafe methods. These endanger the life and well being of all women. We need to take a stand to assure that abortion remains legal. That medical doctors, in safe and clean enviroments with well trained staff are able to continue to provide this service.
As there is no scientific or medical evidence that abortion causes mental health risks, we must respect that each woman knows her own heart. Women are capable of making the decision to carry to term a pregancy, or terminate the pregnancy based on this knowledge of their own lives, their own circumstances and their own needs.
The health risks of abortion must be compared with demonstrated increased risk of going through pregnancy, labor, giving birth and assuming responsibility for a newborn infant. It is about a woman’s choice. There is no scientific evidence that women without existing mental health issues suffer any negative emotional consequences for making an informed decision about her reproductive life.