Abortion Complications

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Psychological Complications

Note: This is an archived article. For the latest information, see our news and research pages or visit www.abortionrisks.org.

Abortion as a Public Health Issue

In the 1973 the United States Supreme Court struck down every federal, state, and local law regulating or restricting the practice of abortion. This action was based on the premise that the state’s no longer had any need to regulate abortion because the advances of modern medicine had now made abortion “relatively safe.” Therefore, the Justices concluded, it is unconstitutional to prevent physicians from providing abortions as a “health” service to women.34

National abortion policy is built upon this judicial “fact” that abortion is a “safe” procedure. If this “fact” is found to be false, then national policy toward abortion must be re-evaluated. Indeed, if it is found that abortion may actually be dangerous to health of women, there is just cause for governments to regulate or prohibit abortion in order to protect their citizens. This is especially true since over 1.5 million women undergo abortions each year.

Since the Court’s ruling in 1973, there have been many studies into the aftereffects of abortion. Their combined results paint a haunting picture of physical and psychological damage among millions of women who have undergone abortions.


National statistics on abortion show that 10 percent of women undergoing induced abortion suffer from immediate complications, of which one-fifth (2 percent) were considered major.9,11

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 which are infection, excessive bleeding, embolism, ripping or perforation of the uterus, anesthesia complications, convulsions, hemorrhage, cervical injury, and endotoxic shock.23

In a series of 1,182 abortions which occurred under closely regulated hospital conditions, 27 percent of the patients acquired post-abortion infection lasting 3 days or longer.27

While the immediate complications of abortion are usually treatable, these complications frequently lead to long-term reproductive damage of much more serious nature.

For example, one possible outcome of abortion related infections is sterility. Researchers have reported that 3 to 5 percent of aborted women are left inadvertently sterile as a result of the operation’s latent morbidity.33,23 The risk of sterility is even greater for women who are infected with a venereal disease at the time of the abortion.30

In addition to the risk of sterility, women who acquire post-abortal infections are five to eight times more likely to experience ectopic pregnancies.7,20 Between 1970-1983, the rate of ectopic pregnancies in USA has risen 4-fold.4 Twelve percent of all maternal deaths due to ectopic pregnancy.2 Other countries which have legalized abortion have seen the same dramatic increase in ectopic pregnancies.14,30

Cervical damage is another leading cause of long term complications following abortion. Normally the cervix is rigid and tightly closed. In order to perform an abortion, the cervix must be stretched open with a great deal of force. During this forced dilation there is almost always causes microscopic tearing of the cervix muscles and occasionally severe ripping of the uterine wall, as well.

According to one hospital study, 12.5 percent of first trimester abortions required stitching for cervical lacerations.31 Such attention to detail is not normally provided at an outpatient abortion clinics. Another study found that lacerations occurred in 22 percent of aborted women.1 Women under 17 have been found to face twice the normal risk of suffering cervical damage due to the fact that their cervixes are still “green” and developing.26,28

Whether microscopic or macroscopic in nature, the cervical damage which results during abortion frequently results in a permanent weakening of the cervix. This weakening may result in an “incompetent cervix” which, unable to carry the weight of a later “wanted” pregnancy, opens prematurely, resulting in miscarriage or premature birth. According to one study, symptoms related to cervical incompetence were found among 75 percent of women who undergo forced dilation for abortion.32

Cervical damage from previously induced abortions increase the risks of miscarriage, premature birth, and complications of labor during later pregnancies by 300-500 percent.12,15,19,33 The reproductive risks of abortion are especially acute for women who abort their first pregnancies. A major study of first pregnancy abortions found that 48 percent of women experienced abortion-related complications in later pregnancies. Women in this group experienced 2.3 miscarriages for every one live birth.19 Yet another researcher found that among teenagers who aborted their first pregnancies, 66 percent subsequently experienced miscarriages or premature birth of their second, “wanted” pregnancies.25

When the risks of increased pregnancy loss are projected on the population as a whole, it is estimated that aborted women lose 100,000 “wanted” pregnancies each year because of latent abortion morbidity.23 In addition, premature births, complications of labor, and abnormal development of the placenta, all of which can result from latent abortion morbidity, are leading causes of handicaps among newborns.16 Looking at premature deliveries alone, it is estimated that latent abortion morbidity results in 3,000 cases of acquired cerebral palsy among newborns each year.23,33 Finally, since these pregnancy problems pose a threat to the health of the mothers too, women who have had abortions face a 58 percent greater risk of dying during a later pregnancy.23

Record based studies in the United States and Finland have shown that the maternal death rate associated with abortion is significantly higher than for women who give birth, who have miscarriages, or who have not been pregnant.36

Learn more about the physical risks of abortion here.


Researchers investigating post-abortion reactions report only one positive emotion: relief. This emotion is understandable, especially in light of the fact that the majority of aborting women report feeling under intense pressure to “get it over with.”8,23

Temporary feelings of relief are frequently followed by a period psychiatrists identify as emotional “paralysis,” or post-abortion “numbness.”18 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.

Studies within the first few weeks after the abortion have found that between 40 and 60 percent of women questioned report negative reactions.3,23,35 Within 8 weeks after their abortions, 55 percent expressed guilt, 44 percent complained of nervous disorders, 36 percent had experienced sleep disturbances, 31 percent had regrets about their decision, and 11 percent had been prescribed psychotropic medicine by their family doctor.3

A study of the medical records of 56,741 California medicaid patients revealed that women who had abortions were 160 percent more likely than delivering women to be hospitalized for psychiatric treatment in the first 90 days following abortion or delivery. Rates of psychiatric treatment remained significantly higher for at least four years.

In another study of 500 aborted women, researchers found that 50 percent expressed negative feelings, and up to 10 percent were classified as having developed “serious psychiatric complications.”10

Thirty to fifty percent of aborted women report experiencing sexual dysfunctions, of both short and long duration, beginning immediately after their abortions.23,8 These problems may include one or more of the following: loss of pleasure from intercourse, increased pain, an aversion to sex and/or males in general, or the development of a promiscuous life-style.

Up to 33 percent of aborted women develop an intense longing to become pregnant again in order to “make up” for the lost pregnancy, with 18 percent succeeding within one year of the abortion.23,22,29 Unfortunately, many women who succeed at obtaining their “wanted” replacement pregnancies discover that the same problems which pressured them into having their first abortion still exist, and so they end up feeling “forced” into yet another abortion.

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.29

The best available data indicates that on average there is a five to ten year period of denial during which a woman who was traumatized by her abortion will repress her feelings.23,24 During this time, the woman may go to great lengths to avoid people, situations, or events which she associates with her abortion and she may even become vocally defensive of abortion in order to convince others, and herself, that she made the right choice and is satisfied with the outcome. In reality, these women who are subsequently identified as having been severely traumatized, have failed to reach a true state of “closure” with regard to their experiences.

Repressed feelings of any sort can result in psychological and behavioral difficulties which exhibit themselves in other areas of one’s life. An increasing number of counselors are reporting that unacknowledged post-abortion distress is the causative factor in many of their female patients, even though their patients have come to them seeking therapy for seemingly unrelated problems.13,17

Other women who would otherwise appear to have been satisfied with their abortion experience, are reported to enter into emotional crisis decades later with the onset of menopause or after their youngest child leaves home.6,21

Numerous researchers have reported that postabortion crises are often precipitated by the anniversary date of the abortion or the unachieved “due date.”23,29 These emotional crises may appear to be inexplicable and short-lived, occurring for many years until a connection is finally established during counseling sessions.

A 5 year retrospective study in two Canadian provinces found that 25 percent of aborted women made visits to psychiatrists as compared to 3 percent of the control group.5

Women who have undergone post-abortion counseling report over 100 major reactions to abortion. Among the most frequently reported are: depression, loss of self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, sleep disorders, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, chronic problems with relationships, dramatic personality changes, anxiety attacks, guilt and remorse, difficulty grieving, increased tendency toward violence, chronic crying, difficulty concentrating, flashbacks, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and people, and difficulty bonding with later children.23,24

Among the most worrisome of these reactions is the increase of self-destructive behavior among aborted women. In a survey of over 100 women who had suffered from post-abortion trauma, fully 80 percent expressed feelings of “self-hatred.” In the same study, 49 percent reported drug abuse and 39 percent began to use or increased their use of alcohol. Approximately 14 percent described themselves as having become “addicted” or “alcoholic” after their abortions. In addition, 60 percent reported suicidal ideation, with 28 percent actually attempting suicide, of which half attempted suicide two or more times.24

Learn more about the psychological risks of abortion here.


1. “Abortion in Hawaii”, Family Planning Perspectives (Winter 1973) 5(1):Table 8.

2. “Annual Ectopic Totals Rose Steadily in 1970’s But Mortality Fell”, Family Planning Perspectives (1983) vol.15,p.85.

3. Ashton,”They Psychosocial Outcome of Induced Abortion”, British Journal of Ob&Gyn.(1980),vol.87,p1115-1122.

4. Atrash, et.al., “Ectopic Pregnancy in the United States, 1970-1983” MMRW, Center for Disease Control, vol.35, no.2ss9.29ss.

5. Badgley,et.al.,Report of the Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law(Ottawa:Supply and Services,1977) pp.313-321.

6. Cavenar, et.al., “Psychiatric Sequelae of Therapeutic Abortions”, North Carolina Medical Journal (1978),vol.39.

7. Chung, et.al. Effects of Induced Abortion on Subsequent Reproductive Function and Pregnancy Outcome, University of Hawaii (Honolulu, 1981).

8. Francke, The Ambivalence of Abortion (New York: Random House, 1978).

9. Frank, et.al., “Induced Abortion Operations and Their Early Sequelae”, Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners (April 1985), vol.35,no.73,pp175-180.

10. Friedman,et.al.,”The Decision-Making Process and the Outcome of Therapeutic Abortion”, American Journal of Psychiatry (December 12, 1974), vol.131,pp1332-1337.

11. Grimes and Cates, “Abortion: Methods and Complications”, Human Reproduction, 2nd ed., 796-813.

12. Harlap and Davies, “Late Sequelae of Induced Abortion: Complications and Outcome of Pregnancy and Labor”, American Journal of Epidemiology (1975), vol.102,no.3.

13. Heath,”Psychiatry and Abortion”,Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal (1971), vol.16, pp55-63)

14. Hilgers, “The Medical Hazards of Legally Induced Abortion,” in Hilgers and Horan, eds., Abortion and Social Justice(New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972).

15. Hogue,”Impact of Abortion on Subsequent Fecundity”, Clinics in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (March 1986), vol.13,no.1.

16. Hogue, Cates and Tietze, “Impact of Vacuum Aspiration Abortion on Future Childbearing: A Review”, Family Planning Perspectives (May-June 1983),vol.15, no.3.

17. Kent, et al., “Bereavement in Post-Abortive Women: A Clinical Report”, World Journal of Psychosynthesis (Autumn-Winter 1981), vol.13,nos.3-4.

18. Kent, et.al., “Emotional Sequelae of Therapeutic Abortion: A Comparative Study”, presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Psychiatric Association at Saskatoon, Sept. 1977.

19. Lembrych, “Fertility Problems Following Aborted First Pregnancy”,eds.Hilgers, et.al., New Perspectives on Human Abortion (Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1981).

20. Levin, et.al., “Ectopic Pregnancy and Prior Induced Abortion”, American Journal of Public Health (1982), vol.72,p253.

21. Mattinson, “The Effects of Abortion on a Marriage”,1985 Abortion: Medical Progress and Social Implications,(Ciba Foundation Symposium, London: Pitman, 1985).

22. Pare and Raven,”Follow-up of Patients Referred for Termination of Pregnancy”,The Lancet(1970) vol.1,pp635-638.

23. Reardon, Aborted Women-Silent No More, (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987).

24. Reardon,”Criteria for the Identification of High Risk Abortion Patients: Analysis of An In-Depth Survey of 100 Aborted Women”, Presented at the 1987 Paper Session of the Association for Interdisciplinary Research, Denver.

25. Russel, “Sexual Activity and Its Consequences in the Teenager”, Clinics in Ob&Gyn, (Dec. 1974). vol.1,no.3,pp683-698.

26. Schulz, et.al., “Measures to Prevent Cervical Injury During Suction Curettage Abortion”, The Lancet (May 28, 1983),pp1182-1184.

27. Stallworthy, “Legal Abortion, A Critical Assessment of Its Risks”, The Lancet (December 4, 1971) pp1245-1249.

28. Wadhera, “Legal Abortion Among Teens, 1974-1978”, Canadian Medical Association Journal (June 1980), vol.122,pp1386-1389.

29. Wallerstein,et.al., “Psychosocial Sequelae of Therapeutic Abortion in Young Unmarried Women”, Archives of General Psychiatry (1972) vol.27.

30. Wilke, Abortion: Questions and Answers,(Cincinnati, Hayes Publishing Co., 1985).

31. Wilke, Handbook on Abortion, (Cincinnati, Hayes Publishing Co., 1979).

32. Wren, “Cervical Incompetence–Aetiology and Management”, Medical Journal of Australia (December 29, 1973), vol.60.

33. Wynn and Wynn, “Some Consequences of Induced Abortion to Children Born Subsequently”, British Medical Journal (March 3, 1973), and Foundation for Education and Research in Child Bearing (London, 1972).

34. United States Supreme Court, Roe v Wade, U.S. Reports, October Term, 1972, 149,163.

35. Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977).

36. Reardon, et al., Deaths associated with abortion compared to childbirth: a review of new and old data and the medical and legal implications (2004).

Copyright 1990 Elliot Institute, David C. Reardon, text from a brochure List of Physical Complications of Abortion || List of Psychological Complications of Abortion


Abortion Complications — 12 Comments

  1. “My body, my choice.” Is a very selfish saying. It’s not just your body. It’s the baby’s body, too. The body that is in real risk. Tell me, which is more important to you? A woman’s right to convenience, or a baby’ right to be alive?

  2. Where on this page did anyone say “what was right” for you? Hopefully you would agree that some women may consider the risks of abortion to be relevant. Hopefully, you will also respect the views of women who say they were not informed of these risks by abortion providers. If you believe women are entitled to make their own decisions regarding, would you not also agree that they are entitled to complete information about abortion risks, and any particular risk factors the individual woman has, before they make their decision? In fact, while there are many studies identifying which women are most likely to have severe psychological reactions following abortion, there has never been a study identifying which women actually benefit, or at least achieve the ends they hoped to achieve by having an abortion (better relationship? better socio-economic status? being a better parent to their existing or future children).

    Declaring “who are any of you to decide what’s right for me?” implies that every woman instinctively knows everything that could possibly be relevant a decision to have an abortion. That’s nonsense. It’s also insensitive to the millions of women who don’t get to decide for themselves, but instead are pressured into unwanted abortions by partners, parents, employers, doctors, and others who don’t want to be troubled by a pregnant woman and her “problem” baby. I don’t know the statistics in Greece, but in the U.S. polls of women who have had abortions show that between 30% and 64% of women “choose” abortions primarily because they feel pressured to consent to it by others. I’m glad you weren’t pressured. But don’t imagine that everyone is like you.

  3. I caught an STI just after I had my abortion, this was caused through having the abortion I’d advise women to be careful

  4. Hi I have a quirks .I want to know that if a girl has had an abortion twice ….
    How do we come to know? Are there any tests to prove this after many years of abortion.
    My cousion is very depressed and most of the time she is alone in lost in her own world
    She was not in touch with us for 7yrs.oneday suddenly she left her moms place and came to our house and she said that her mom was getting married and bringing a second dad in her life and she didn’t like this..but later I got to know from her close friend that she has had abortion twice when she was 17yrs or 18yrs old.
    When I asked her she denied but I want to help her and want to know that did she seriously had abortion twice and if yes what was the reason ? Plz! Help and let me now about the process through which I come to know that she had aborted twice ?

    • Dear Kash,

      I would suggest the you first read our page about how to find a post-abortion healing program, hopefully one near you.

      Then I would refocus on what is important. It is not important how many abortions she had. Whether it is one or two, will make no difference. At this point in time, it is also not important why she had the abortion(s), assuming she did.

      If she did have one or more abortions, the

        most important thing

      is for her to know that you love her, you are not judging her, and that you want her to heal . . . and that perhaps most importantly, you know and believe she can find healing and joy in her life again. You need to “infect” her with hope . . . because right now she feels hopeless, which is the feeling that lies at the hear of her depression.

      Perhaps there is another source of her depression. Maybe it’s not an abortion. Maybe it’s some abuse she suffered, or a broken heart, or just lack of hope for her life to become what she wants it to be. In all those cases, the answer is still the same. You need to help her find hope for a better life and for an opportunity to heal from whatever she has been through or is holding her back.

      Your promise to be there for her and to help her through whatever she is going through and whatever her path of healing, can make a big difference. There is no guarantee that your love can bring about this decision to try to heal, but even if she rejects it . . . keep offering it with the prayer that one day she will take you up on it . . . or seek healing herself with others in her life. In doing so, you are at the very least setting a good example and letting her know that you have never given up on her or her future.

      All that said, I encourage you to read other articles on our web site to learn more so you can help her and others you may know who have had abortions. The testimonies of women who have had abortions and found healing afterward may be helpful. If you read about the risk factors for post-abortion depression and other problems, that may also give you more insight into what your cousin may be facing and why it was especially hard on her (assuming she had an abortion).

      If you’re able to spend the time to read a good book on post-abortion issues and healing, I’d recommend Forbidden Grief. Perhaps if your cousin sees you reading it, she’ll take a look at it herself!

      You are both in my prayers.

  5. I fail to see the validity of any of your articles on this website considering you are referencing sources dated from the 1970s and 80s. I’m not saying your info is right or wrong. I’m just saying no one could possibly take your articles seriously if you’re not going to write them within the standards of any reputable college or scientific community (regardless of their beliefs on abortion). Your facts are just not reliable since your sources are outdated.

    • The article you critique was written in 1990, as reflected at the end of the article. Unfortunately, the date that it is shown as posted is wrong due to efforts to import the archive into WordPress. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to update every article in our archives. More updated reviews are elsewhere. The most complete and up to date information can be found at http://www.AbortionRisks.org and by reviewing our news releases over the last ten years. To reduce confusion, I’ve changed the date shown for the date is was “originally posted” to more closely reflect the original publication date.

    • It is a shame that people don’t care about what happens to women, like your research shows! The remark above, speaking of references, dates and so on, sounds like some academic or business person person, cold and hard. Your research totally supports everything I have seen and heard and experienced in 25 years of supporting people who suffer after abortion. After all, it can and does take time to manifest, in some people, so profound is the trauma, that many people don’t have the ability to think about it or their less than ideal circumstances, so dated studies are very important. There is no shortage of people experiencing all that you have reported. The worrying part is that women with unmet needs become mothers with unmet needs, wives, partners, work colleagues , health care professionals, people across all socio economic demographics. And what is happening in health care to support them. Silence! Seriously? Silence. Officially women after abortion are the new “forgotten and hidden women” and even worse, the unborn children they grieve are the “forgotten and hidden children” that have caused one of the greatest collective outpourings of grief, anxiety and depression in history. Can people would ignore so many suffering and if so, how much longer. The neglect of health departments is breathtaking and a cruelty of epidemic proportions. Do we say to families of soldiers who died, where are all the sad families? God help us if we did! Thank You El on behalf of all those who would love to have a voice and just can’t find it, in their sorrow.

  6. Final speech on abortion
    Did you know that from the years of 1973-2011 an institution called the Guttmacher institution has calculated that there have been approximately 54,559,615 abortions in the United States? And that is because in America in all fifty states and through all nine months of pregnancy a woman has the right to have an abortion. Although abortion isn’t legally wrong, I still believe that morally it is wrong.
    Firstly what is an abortion? Well an abortion is a deliberate extermination of a pregnancy. Abortion is a very controversial and emotional subject about which people take strong stands. I believe strongly abortion is equal to murder. However other people around the world obviously think abortion is not murder. Let’s look at the definition of murder; Webster’s dictionary defines murder as the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.
    Secondly having an abortion isn’t healthy for the mother either. There are both physical and mental dangers that affect the mothers that are having abortions. When woman first have abortions they have a sudden emotion of relief, because they just got the abortion over with. On the other hand this emotion doesn’t stay long. Shortly after the woman begin to feel numb and out of touch with their own feelings. Studies have been taken of woman who had abortions and 40 and 60 percent of the woman experienced negative reactions. After about eight weeks after their abortions 55% felt guilty, 44% complained of nervous breakdowns, 36% have experienced problems with their sleep, and 31% have actually regretted their decisions. Physical damage has also been a big problem for women.

  7. Pingback: Legislation stops abortion - the myth - Page 9 - Political Forum

  8. Back in 1999 I became involved with a guy @ work which was involved in the waitressing industry. I had just got out of a long term relationship and was living in a big city without supports. I made a mistake and had an short sexual relationship with a waiter which resulted in a pregnancy. I was not aware of this until I returned from a weekend sponsored by my work and a beer industry. I was a week of heavy drinking and parting on a ski hill resort. I ended in the hospital for a seizure but refused to stay and returned to the city and the next day saw an medical clinic and was informed I was pregnant. My life changed I was pressured into having an abortion I was in silence I quit school as I was unable to concentrate and was feeling overwhelemed. At the clinic I felt judged but then I spoke up and told my story and the councellor changed her attitude towards me. I came back a couple weeks later to find out I was going to miscarry and decided to continue with the treatment. That experience has huanted me since I am thinking today as March is coming up and I found out in March and the procedure was in April. I never forgave myself and still greive but I have two healthy children which gives me joy but blame myself for the lost child. It went against all I beleaved but pressure was overwhelming. It still impacts my life to this day…… You never can heal mentally from this experience as it does haunt you even when you try to get on with life but the memories comes up when you least expect it….. I have had a trauma recently and have PTSD and have remembered that experience and others like it happened yesterday…..

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