Women Who Abort: Their Reflections on Abortion

Women Who Abort: Their Reflections on the Unborn

by David C. Reardon, Ph.D.

Sit with me for a moment in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. Here you will find women who, in general, are neither philosophers nor fools–categories which admittedly include substantial overlap. Very few of these women have engaged in arcane debates about the meaning of “personhood.” Fewer still are so foolish as to believe the claim that having an abortion is no worse than having a tooth pulled.

Look about and you will see women from a wide cross-section of American culture. Bright and dull, conservative and liberal, religious and irreligious. All are represented. There is significant overrepresentation by adolescents, unmarried women, and racial minorities, but still, they are a cross-section of America. And like all Americans, these women are uneasy and deeply divided over abortion, more so today than ever before in their lives.

Many of these women, even now, while waiting to be escorted to the operating room, bury their heads in the sands of denial. “It will be over soon. I just won’t think about it. I’ll just go on with my life like before…. It wouldn’t be legal if it wasn’t right; it wouldn’t be legal if it wasn’t safe. I just won’t think about it.”

Others, who at best consider their pending abortions to be an evil necessity, are saying goodbye: “Forgive me. Mommy doesn’t want to do this, but I really don’t have any choice. If only I could have you, I would love you so much.”

For some their wait is unemotional, but they are intellectually tortured by the metaphysical question: “Am I doing the right thing?” Others are carefully focused on their answers to this same question: “This is the right thing, the only thing to do. I can always have a baby later, when the time is right, when I can be a good mother. It wouldn’t be fair to me, to Jim, or even to the baby, to have it now.”

These women, joylessly seated around the waiting room, are just typical Americans. They share the same spectrum of American beliefs and angst over the abortion question. Polls show that roughly 70 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal. Yet 75 percent (which obviously requires substantial overlap) also believe it is immoral. There is clearly a tension in our hearts between what should be legal and what is actually moral.

This tension is especially visible in abortion clinic waiting rooms. Interviews at clinics confirm that at least 70 percent of the women having abortions view abortion as immoral, or at least deviant, behavior.1 Rather than choosing according to their own moral beliefs, most women are acting against their belief systems. They feel “forced” by circumstances, or loved ones, to violate their consciences for the sake of some “other good.”

Everyone Knows…

Why, after over twenty years of legal abortion, do Americans–including young women for whom abortion has always been legal–still have a negative moral view of abortion?

The answer to this question is the same at it was two decades ago. In 1971, the editors of California Medicine wrote in support of legalized abortion, but noted that the moral view underlying this change would only slowly be adopted.

Since the old [Judeo-Christian] ethic [of the sanctity of life] has not yet been fully displaced [by the new ethic which places relative rather than absolute value on human lives] it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary because while a new ethic is being accepted the old one has not yet been rejected.2 [Italics added]

With an honesty often missing from the current abortion debate, the pro-choice editors of California Medicine affirm that “everyone really knows” that human life begins at conception. Everyone knows it. Every denial is simply “semantic gymnastics” offered by “socially impeccable auspices” to ease our way.

Sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room, this truth rides uneasily beneath the surface of silent submission. No one dares to speak it, but all know it. Even young children can understand this simple truth. It lies at the heart of the question that all children eventually ask: “Where do babies come from?” While a child might be temporarily diverted from the answer to this question, no child’s curiosity is completely satisfied until the full truth is revealed. Life begins at conception. Babies are created by an act of conception, the uniting (hopefully in an act of love) of a man and woman, sharing the substance of their very selves, two becoming one in the flesh–both symbolically in the uniting of the sexual act and most truly in the conception of a new life which unites the flesh of man and woman to create a new human being, their child.

The knowledge that the human fetus, the human embryo, or even the human zygote, is in fact a human being is as undeniable as the answer to the child’s question: “Where do babies come from?” The women in the waiting room, some of whom have yet to pack away their cherished dolls, remember when they once asked that question. They remember the answer. They remember the truth. And it is this truth–no matter how much they try to ignore it, forget it, or bury it beneath slogans or philosophical quibbles–that demands their attention.

In interviews with 40 women shortly after their abortions, sociologist Mary Zimmerman avoided any questions regarding the woman’s view of the nature of the human fetus in order to avoid upsetting the women. Yet even when this question was left unasked, it was clearly on the minds of the women since most of them chose to reveal at least some hint of their opinion during the interview. Nearly 25 percent explicitly stated that the aborted fetus was a life, a person, or a human being. In many of these cases, they admitting a sense of having killed or murdered another being. Another 25 percent expressed confusion about the nature of the fetus. In these cases, the women generally believed the fetus was human but denied that abortion was killing. Zimmerman suggests that this contradictory stance was taken in order maintain their self-images as moral persons. Finally, only 15 percent maintained that the fetus was not a person or human life, but even these women expressed themselves in terms of denial rather than with arguments to support their beliefs, stating, for example, “I feel that it’s something there, but I don’t really feel that it’s a life yet.”3

Everyone Struggles…

The feeling of a life being killed is a common thread throughout the testimonies of women before, during, and after an abortion. According to one woman, interviewed in a clinic’s waiting room: “It’s killing. But it justifiable homicide.” Another, shortly after her abortion, says: “Like when you have an abortion you’re just destroying a part of yourself. That’s the way I feel anyhow. I just feel bad inside, that’s all. I didn’t really want to do it. It’s a sin.”4 Still another woman, describes her feelings after an abortion, saying: “I hated myself. I felt abandoned and lost. There was no one’s shoulder to cry on, and I wanted to cry like hell. And I felt guilty about killing something. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I’d just killed a baby.”5

For some the anticipation of guilt itself moves them toward acts of self-punishment. An example of this is reported in a New York Times interview with American women who have traveled to England for RU-486 abortions. A woman from Pennsylvania explained that for her there were “psychological advantages” to the harrowing experience of repeated clinic visits for RU-486 and prostaglandin injections and in the six hours or more of labor pains to expel a dead human fetus. “I didn’t want to just zip in and be put to sleep and zip out in two hours with it all done,” she explains. “In a way, that would have been too easy. This was a big painful decision for me. I would have felt irresponsible if it had just been over with like that. I wanted to remember this all my life. I never want to do it again.”6 For this woman the price for an abortion must be measured in something more than negotiable currency. The act must be etched in one’s memory with proper solemnity. Physical and emotional pain are the only fitting tributes which can be made to a life denied.

Even for those who deny the humanity of their unborn child, there is a often an admission that this denial can be maintained only by a conscious effort. For example, one woman writes: “I didn’t think of it as a baby. I just didn’t want to think of it that way.”7 Another insists that denial is the only way to deal with it: “I made up my mind to do it, and like I could let it drive me crazy, any woman could, but you can’t, because you’ve got to live with it and there’s really no sense in letting it drive you right off the edge.”8

For others, even the process of discussing their experience threatens their precarious equilibrium. For example, one woman interviewed in a clinic as she awaited her third abortion at first insisted she had adjusted well to her first two abortions, but then she went on to describe experiencing symptoms which are now identified as part of post-abortion syndrome. She found herself confessing that she had developed a compulsive fascination with other people’s children, outbursts of rage, and periods of depression and substance abuse. As she heard herself describing these problems, which she herself attributed to her previous abortions, she began to doubt what she should believe, finally concluding: “Maybe I should go to a psychiatrist, but I really don’t have the money or the interest. Truth is hard to take, and I just don’t know if I’m ready for it.”9

What is the truth, which she already knows, but is too “hard to take?” Abortion destroys a human life. Moreover, this life is her own child. This human life is also the progeny of her male partner. And their parents. And their grandparents. In this way, abortion is even more than a profound moral issue; it is a familial issue. The abortion experience not only defines how she sees herself, it also defines how she sees her family.

No One is Safe

Even the most ardent defenders of abortion rights are not immune to these issues. Linda Bird Francke, a professional journalist, feminist, and a pro-choice activist, describes how when faced with an unplanned pregnancy which would have interfered with her and her husband’s rising careers, the couple decided “It was time for us,” not another child. It was a relatively easy decision. Without any emotional hand wringing, the logical and practical choice was made.

It was not until Francke and her husband were actually sitting in the waiting room, that an unexpected ambivalence arose. “Suddenly the rhetoric, the abortion marches I’d walked in, the telegrams sent to Albany to counteract the Friends of the Fetus, the Zero Population Growth buttons I’d worn, peeled away, and I was all alone with my microscopic baby.” Intellectually, she tried to concentrate on how small the fetus was, and therefore how impossible it was for it to be human, but she had borne children before and the feel of her own body kept telling her that there was real life growing within her. “Though I would march myself into blisters for a woman’s right to exercise the option of motherhood,” she writes, “I discovered there in the waiting room that I was not the modern woman I thought I was.”10

By the time the she entered the operating room, Francke was desperately hoping for some release from her predetermined course. She longed for her husband to valiantly “burst” through the door and stop it from happening. When he failed to do so, and the doctor began to dilate her for the surgery, she herself begged him to stop. But the doctor told her it was too late and completed the surgery anyway. At that point she gave in: “What good sports we women are. And how obedient. Physically the pain passed even before the hum of the machine signaled that the vacuuming of my uterus was completed, my baby sucked up like ashes after a cocktail party.”

Afterwards, her ambivalence continued. During times of relaxation when she had time to reflect on the beauty of the world, she experienced the common reaction of “visitations” from her aborted child. Her benign “little ghost” would come to her and wave. And she would tearfully wave back to reassure her lost baby that if only he could return, now they would make room for him in their busy lives.

Five years after her abortion, Francke was drawn to reinvestigate her own mixed feelings about abortion and wrote a book entitled The Ambivalence of Abortion, in which she transcribed reactions to the abortion experience of almost 70 women, couples, parents, and men. What she found, as the title suggests, is universal ambivalence, and often frank admissions of guilt and remorse. Over 70 percent of those she interviewed expressed some type of negative feelings about the abortion. Most saw that abortion involves a “baby.” Those who denied the human fetus’s humanity did so in curt assertions which belied an edge of uncertainty. Few were as well prepared for the abortion decision as was Francke, who at least had the advantage of having been a pro-choice activist who had confronted the issues and argued for the principles used to justify abortion. Instead, few had ever participated in the abortion debate. Most had deep moral reservations about abortion, yet they were aborting because they felt they had no other choice.

Francke’s interviews are consistent with the findings of other researchers. These findings suggest that for most women, abortion is at best a marginal choice. Between 30 and 60 percent of women having abortions initially have a positive desire to carry the pregnancy to term and keep their babies.11 Many of these women still desire their babies even at the time of the abortion, but are aborting only because they feel forced to do so by others or by circumstances. Indeed, of women who experience post-abortion problems, over 80 percent say they would have carried to term under better circumstances or with the support of loved ones, over 60% report having felt “forced” to have the abortion by others or circumstances, and approximately 40 percent were still hoping to discover some alternative to abortion when going for counseling at the abortion clinic.12

Such data suggest that rather than “choosing” abortion, many women, perhaps most, are instead “submitting” to abortion. The rhetoric of “choice” may actually be obscuring the national problem of unwanted abortions–abortions on women who would prefer to keep their babies if only they could receive the love and support they need to empower them as mothers.

No one can reasonably deny the testimonies of women who describe how their unwanting lovers, parents, and others have pressured, badgered, blackmailed, and even physically forced them into accepting unwanted abortions because it would be “best for everyone.” Even pro-choice ethicist Daniel Callahan, director of the Hastings Center, writes: “That men have long coerced women into unwanted abortion when it suits their purposes is well-known but rarely mentioned. Data reported by the Alan Guttmacher Institute indicate that some 30 percent of women have an abortion because someone else, not the woman, wants it.”13

Everyone is changed

This data, combined with over a thousand case studies, in my own files alone, demonstrate that the decision to abort is often a tentative one, or even one accepted solely to please others. For many it is nothing more than an act of despair. For all, it is an intensely emotional issue which irreversibly changes the course of their lives and touches the very depths of their sexuality and self-image. It is a life-marking event. Just as after a marriage one becomes a wife, or after the birth of a child one becomes a mother, so after abortion one becomes–well, “another”–somehow different than before.

As with all life-marking events, it is human nature to look back and wonder, “How would my life be different if I hadn’t married Jim? How would it be different if I had never had the twins?” So the woman who has had an abortion is inevitably confronted with the question, “How would my life be different if I’d had that baby?”

For many women, the abortion becomes a key point in their lives around which all other events take reference. In their minds, everything can be clearly placed as having occurred either “before the abortion” or “after the abortion.” They may even see themselves as being two completely different people before and after this defining event. In a retrospective study of 260 women, an average of nearly eleven years after their abortions, 51% report having undergone a “dramatic personality change” following their abortions, of which 79% say the change was a negative one.14

Abortion is such a profound event in one’s life, that one must either thoughtfully integrate it into one’s life, or fearfully suppress it. Neither is easy. The former requires great fortitude and honesty. The latter is simply unhealthy. It is a fundamental principle of psychiatry that suppression of emotions is the cause of numerous psychological and physical ailments. Suppressed feelings create their own internal pressures, sap emotional energy, and cause turmoil in one’s life until they burst forth in a way which can no longer be ignored.

These observations are substantiated by the testimony of Dr. Julius Fogel, a psychiatrist and obstetrician who has been a long-time advocate of abortion and has personally performed 20,000 abortions. Although he approaches abortion from a pro-abortion perspective, Dr. Fogel is deeply concerned about the “psychological effects of abortion on the mother’s mind.” According to Dr. Fogel:

Abortion is an impassioned subject…. Every woman–whatever her age, background or sexuality–has a trauma at destroying a pregnancy. A level of humanness is touched. This is a part of her own life. She destroys a pregnancy, she is destroying herself. There is no way it can be innocuous. One is dealing with the life force. It is totally beside the point whether or not you think a life is there. You cannot deny that something is being created and that this creation is physically happening…. Often the trauma may sink into the unconscious and never surface in the woman’s lifetime. But it is not as harmless and casual an event as many in the pro-abortion crowd insist. A psychological price is paid. It may be alienation; it may be a pushing away from human warmth, perhaps a hardening of the maternal instinct. Something happens on the deeper levels of a woman’s consciousness when she destroys a pregnancy. I know that as a psychiatrist.15

Other investigators, on both sides of the abortion issue, share Fogel’s concern. Researchers have reported over 100 psychological sequelae connected to abortion stress. These include sexual dysfunction, depression, flashbacks, sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, eating disorders, impacted grieving, a diminished capacity for bonding with later children, increased tendency toward violent outbursts, chronic problems in maintaining intimate relationships, difficulty concentrating, and a loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities and people. One five year retrospective study in two Canadian provinces found that 25 percent of women who had abortions subsequently sought psychiatric care compared to 3% of the control group.16

Perhaps most disturbing is the increase of self-destructive behavior among post-aborted women. Women with a history of abortions are significantly more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs. A study of 700 women found that drug and alcohol abuse subsequent to a first pregnancy was approximately four times higher for those who aborted compared to those who carried to term.17 Another study of 260 women who had abortions found that 37% described themselves as being self-destructive, with 28% admitting having made one or more suicide attempts.18

The Necessity of Denial

Suppression and denial are the most common means of coping with abortion. Between 60 and 70 percent of women who eventually confronted negative feelings about their abortions admit that there was a period of time during which they would have denied to others and themselves any regrets or negative feelings. On average, this period of denial was about five years, with a low of one month and a high of twenty years.19

In general, denial and avoidance behavior is readily apparent. Participants in our own case study project who claim that their post-abortion adjustment was easy almost always give only short, concealing responses which at the same time reveal volumes. Consider the following response, which arrived just today, and is typical of the pattern I have described.

Why did you have an abortion? “I wasn’t carrying the baby right and I had knots in my stomach”

How would you describe the abortion? “I didn’t like it, but I did what was best.”

How did the abortion affect you? “It made me feel sad because I took another’s life.”

What have you done to deal with the abortion, and did it help? “Nothing really. I got over it.”

How do you think the abortion changed your life? “I take better care of myself.”

Notably, this woman describes that what she aborted was a “baby,” not a “fetus” or a “pregnancy.” She further states, very matter of factly, that in having the abortion she “took another’s life.” These statements suggest that this woman is not engaging in any sophisticated rationalizations. To her it was not a “potential life,” it was a baby, whose death warrants sadness. In the same simple and straightforward way, she copes with this death simply by “getting over it.” One hopes that she has indeed gotten over it, but one fears that in actuality she may simply be engaging in avoidance behavior which prevents true resolution and integration of the experience into her life.

But then, denial and avoidance are integral to abortion. Don’t take my word for it. Look at In Necessity and Sorrow, a book by Dr. Magda Denes, a pro-choice feminist psychologist.

Shortly after her own abortion, Denes, like Francke, felt drawn to spend months at an abortion facility to observe how others experienced abortion. Unlike Francke, Denes is a trained psychologist and knows to look beyond the words of those she interviews. She sees that words of bravery are used to disguise fears, words of calm to hide doubts. For example, when introducing the interview of one patient, she writes: “All that she says sounds honest and straightforward. It is only when she refers to the abortion that she lies, not so much to me as to herself.”20 But seeing through these self-deceptions does not mean that Denes criticizes them. Instead, she justifies denial as necessary to protect ourselves from the worst in us: “Oh yes,” she writes, “these people lie, they kid themselves, testify falsely, confess in bad faith, shirk responsibility, only pretend to honor, bracket the past, and invent their lives. And who among us does differently? Especially in times of crisis. Especially in times of irreversible choice.”21

Self-preservation is the name of the game, and Denes clearly sees that sanity in the abortion clinic can be achieved only by a strict adherence to the rules of the game. Both patients and staff collaborate in this conspiracy of self-deceptions. Describing her interviews with both staff and patients, she writes, “Above all, this a document on the evasions, multifaceted, clever, and shameful, by which we all live and die.”22 In the abortion clinic, she adds, “Reality is a matter of courtesy. A matter of agreement not to rock the tempest-torn boat.”23

Though Denes is personally committed to the pro-choice philosophy, her book, like Francke’s, was never embraced by the pro-choice movement. It is too dark, too questioning, too disturbing. In fact, despite the opposite leanings of their authors, both Denes’ and Francke’s books show that abortion is at best an ugly experience, at worst a heart wrenching nightmare. Neither is able to find any substance in the stories they tell to support the pro-choice rhetoric about “salvaged lives” in which they themselves earnestly hope. This failure is due to the fact that when one studies the effects of abortion on women in an intimate and personal way, it is never an encouraging story. What emerges is always much more sorrow than joy, much more guilt than relief.

The philosophy of “choice” is admirable only when stripped of its reality, only when worshiped as an ideal, believed in its abstract. When examined from the viewpoint of women filled with despair, dread, guilt, and denial, this pro-choice rhetoric is cold and uncomforting. When examined from the viewpoint of the aftermath of breast cancer, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, sexual dysfunctions, impacted grieving, and Mother’s Day depression, it is a mockery.

In sum, speaking as one who has been there, Denes favors abortion on demand purely on the grounds that women should be given a choice. Yet she is discomforted with that choice, for even under the most ideal circumstances, even if abortion on demand were “provided free by the state, [and] supported with mercy by the church,” she believes that such a pure freedom would only accentuate the horrors, doubts, guilts, and other problems which are inherent to abortion. “For if we remove abortions from the realm of defiance of authority,” she writes:

…if we permit them to be acts of freedom as they should be, their meaning, private and collective, will inescapably emerge in the consciousness of every person….I think it is a far, far lighter task to regard oneself as a martyr and to battle the world than to know the private sorrows of unique commitments and the heartache of self-chosen destiny. I wish, therefore, to be taken for what I am. A proabortionist with a bad secular conscience.”24

No One Forgets

Denes is not unique. Because “everyone really knows” that life begins at conception, everyone who has ever been involved in abortions, at some level, has a bad conscience–or at least a nagging one. This is true of all those involved: the father, the parents, siblings, friends, counselors, doctors. But it is especially true for the mother because her body has been desecrated; her body has been used by another as the actual killing ground for the child her womb was designed to protect.

Like many others, Denes is compelled to admit that abortion, though justifiable, is “a type of murder” because its victim is “alive and human.” For women who allow themselves to reflect on their abortions, no other conclusion is possible.

Still, those women who possess sophisticated philosophies, strong coping resources, and semantic agility, can keep this aborted life at a distance. They remind themselves that it was just a “potential” life whose time for fulfillment had not yet come. They can lessen the impact by sanitizing the terms with which they think about it. But for the majority of women, who lack the sophistication, the coping skills, and the verbal dexterity, this aborted life is quite simply their “baby”–a person they would have cuddled and loved if only things had been different.

For this latter group of women, their abortions were an “evil necessity.” Many of them feel an immediate sense of guilt, self-condemnation, and feelings of having betrayed both themselves and their child. Others try to block out their feelings through denial, suppression, and focusing on the future. But for these women who know that what they aborted was “my baby,” the past will inevitably demand its tribute. The need to grieve will relentlessly pursue and overtake them, and this need must be compassionately acknowledged by society and shared by their loved ones.

The future of the “sophisticated” woman, who holds to a more dehumanized view of the life lost during her abortion, is less certain. If she has integrated these beliefs into her life before her abortion, then there is a congruency between what she believed and how she acted. In such a case, it may be plausible that she has not been changed or affected by her abortion experience.

But if there was not a congruency between a woman’s pre-abortion beliefs and her sophisticated post-abortion mindset, her prospects for peace of mind are not good. In this case, her more “mature” and “experienced” views are likely to be nothing more than a veneer of rationalizations which conceal, but have not obliterated, the person who once knew that abortion means the destruction of a human life. Because the modernity of this woman is just a veneer, she lacks the confidence and security of those for whom this modernity runs deep and was an integrated part of their personalities long before their abortions. This woman, with only the veneer of modernity, is easily identified by the angry energy with which she feverishly defends the abortion liberty. She is not calmly confident of her belief system, or even capable of respecting the contrary beliefs of others. Instead, she sees every challenge to her new ethic as a personal insult precisely because these challenges reverberate through the veneer of her new ethic to disturb the slumber of an old ethic which still lays claim to her heart.

Such a woman will know no true peace until there is an accord between the person above and below this veneer. And this peace, I suggest, can only be found when the person below is freed to grieve and repent according to the old ethic, precisely because it was this old ethic which had a claim on her conscience at the time of the abortion. It is to this old ethic which she must still provide an answer. Until she does, her “new ethic,” like every ethic adopted to justify past acts, is polluted with rationalization. Her new self is unstable, built upon a discordant self–a self with an unreconciled past. Such a woman is a psychological time bomb. She has unresolved pressures contained within a veneer. If that veneer is ever shattered, the emotional explosion which occurs may cause irreparable damage both to her life and the lives of loved ones.

The Journey Begins

So it is, when I look around the clinic’s waiting room, I see lives driven by despair, not hope. I see women inwardly crying, saying goodbye. And I see women whose clenched teeth and fixed eyes are determinedly set on the future because they dare not look at the present which will forever be their past.

As I look into their many faces, the philosophical debate over when a human becomes a “person” dissolves into nothing more than ethereal elevator music. Whether these waiting women listen to it or ignore it, it has no real effect on the living of their lives. For beneath the lyric of excuses and jargon, on the level of a little girl who once asked, “Where do babies come from?”, every woman here knows that life begins at conception. It is a human life. It is a familial life. It is a part of her and a part of another; it is their child. The only question which remains is how well will she be able to live with this truth…or how long will she be able to run from it?

This article is adapted from an essay which will appear in The Silent Subject: Reflections on the Unborn in American Culture, edited by Brad Stetson. It will be published by Praeger Publishers in 1996.

Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 4(1) Winter 1996. Copyright 1996 Elliot Institute.


1. Mary K. Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977), 69. David C. Reardon, Aborted Women, Silent No More (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987), 13.

2. “A New Ethic for Medicine and Society,” California Medicine, Sept. 1970, 113(3):67-68.

3. Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion, 194-195.

4. Magda Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow, (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 94.

5. Linda Bird Francke, The Ambivalence of Abortion (New York: Random House, 1978), 61.

6. New York Times, March 23, 1994 cited in “The Public Square,” First Things, June/July 1994, p.79.

7. Francke, Ambivalence, 201.

8. Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow, 97-98.

9. Francke, Ambivalence, 63.

10. Jane Doe [pseud. Linda Bird Francke], “There Just Wasn’t Room in Our Lives Now for Another Baby,” New York Times, May 14, 1976, Op-Ed Section.

11. Zimmerman, Passages, 110-111. Reardon, Aborted Women, 12.

12. Reardon, Aborted Women, 14-15.

13. Daniel Callahan, “An Ethical Challenge to Prochoice Advocates,” Commonweal, Nov. 23, 1990, 681-687, 684.

14. Reardon, “Psychological Reactions Reported After Abortion” The Post-Abortion Review, Fall 1994, 2(3):4-8.

15. From an interview with columnist Colman McCarthy, “A Psychological View of Abortion,” St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press, March 7, 1971. Dr. Fogel, who continued to do abortions for the next two decades, reiterated the same view in a subsequent interview with McCarthy, “The Real Anguish of Abortions” The Washington Post, Feb. 5, 1989.

16. R.F. Badgley, et al., Report of the Committee on the Abortion Law, Supply and Services, Ottawa, Canada, 1977:313-319.

17. “New Study Confirms Link Between Abortion and Substance Abuse,” The Post-Abortion Review, Fall 1993, 1(3):1-2.

18. Reardon, “Psychological Reactions Reported After Abortion” The Post-Abortion Review, Fall 1994, 2(3):4-8.

19. Ibid.

20. Denes, In Necessity, 101.

21. Ibid., 122.

22. Ibid., xvii.

23. Ibid., 6.

24. Ibid., xv-xvi.


Women Who Abort: Their Reflections on Abortion — 19 Comments

  1. I was told at 16 I would never get pregnant. At the time I could of cared less. I was too busy having fun.(1968) I guess you could say I drank drugged and had sex with who ever. I even got married at 17 because I knew it all and my parents just finally gave up and signed for me. That marriage lasted 6 years.

    Single again I started my same routine. Even tended bar. Loved my life or so I thought. I moved in with my boyfriend and guess what? I got pregnant. (24 now) I had went to the doctor because I had a lot of female problems and thought dang another cyst or whatever.

    Imagine my shock. I couldn’t believe it. I told my boyfriend and he said he didn’t want it. He was 11 years older and I loved him, so it was get rid of it or move out. I had 2 weeks before I was at the cut off stage for the abortion. I talked with my family told them what he said. I was so scared. Could I do this by myself? I went back and forth.

    In the end my girlfriend took me to get the abortion. Back then it was a two step procedure. First day they pack you with some stuff to dilate you then the next day they abort the fetus. I can still feel the novicain shot and the machine they used to suck it out. I cried silently with the nurse holding my hand. My girlfriend took me home and proceeded to find some drugs to make it all go away.

    Now here is the topper; I got pregnant 3 months later. again! I now told my boyfriend he had had no choice this time. We were having a baby and if he didn’t like it, too bad. I was so happy. I was already starting to wear maternity tops at 3 months because every thing was to tight. My mom and I bought baby things. My boyfriend bought us a washer and dryer and everything was going smoothly till….. I woke up one morning with cramps. The doctor said to keep to my bed with my feet elevated. This was at 5 a.m., then at 4 p.m. I couldn’t take the pain anymore and drove to my girlfriend. Well needless to say I sat on her toilet in labor. I have never had such pain in my life. I was puking my guts out and my rear end was well you figure it out. I finally aborted then went to the hospital for the d&c.

    Ok I can see this story is dragging out but I am almost done. 3 years later we spit up for good. I finally found a great guy settled down and married him. He had 3 children and a vasectomy. Now I have 3 stepchildren and 9 grandchildren so why do I still cry at least 3 times a week about what I can’t change?

    It has been 38 years now and it feels like yesterday. Thank-you for letting me share my story. Hopefully you got something out it all.

  2. Ruth says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    A Virgin..falling for a non christian boy….tells me to love him I should do this…15 and pregnant..with parents and doctor tells me I also have a vaginal disease from my boyfriend who has evidently had multiple partners..Parents are advised by local social worker that I should abort this bunch of cells- not really a baby at all. .No counseling, only told that this is a bastard and this is my only choice, it is the best choice…abortion date set…I run away…and am found…abortion date reset and was told that this was really inconvient to reschedule. Trip to Cllinic with family. Getting out of the car. Feeling cold and trembling. Parked along the road on a hilly area in KC.. Went into a little house. Crying and crying. Sat me down asked me what I was here for…I had to say “abortion”….I had to sign paper with my signature….still crying, I remember even the lady that was assisting me began to cry. Sent me to the bathroom…crying and tell my baby I’m sorry and I love him/her- rubbing my stomach. Going into the cold surgery room. Giving me injection that knocks me semi -out, but crying and saying “I’m sorry” over and over until I faintly hear a vacum sound and find myself on a bed in the recovery room with multiple other young girls – one asked my if this was my first….she had had several…I continued to cry. Finally time to leave, I sleep and cry on the way home. Feel empty, feel lonely, in disbelif, feel ashamed…On the couch at home for a bit, don’t remember how long….First time I’ve ever mention this by writting this. Never spoke of it in nearly 41 years. Have always lived in the same area and remarks are made from time to time that makes me realize that my secret, really isn’t “My secret” at all.and the remarks, posts hurt so much, but I still can’t talk about it….not to my husband, not to my children, not to my friends…I Never was told this was something I would live/ think about the rest of my life. I ache, I suffer, I hurt all alone. As a christian I know that God has forgiven me, but I just can’t seem to forgive myself, especailly when others – sometimes the christians, let me know that they know what I did….still crying on the inside.. These are things they don’t tell you. Praying this will help someone else.

    • Dear Ruth,

      Thank you for sharing your moving story. Yes, God has forgiven you but clearly you are not yet emotionally healed. But God has a plan for that, too. You’ve suffered enough. Now is the time to let those who have been where you are help you through the last stages of healing. Please read our tips on finding a post-abortion healing program and do go to one . . . or more, until you find the right program for you. It’s important for you to find healing, not only for yourself, but also so you can be of greater service to others. You are in our prayers. Please call a post-abortion healing group today. Don’t delay. Even the hesitation to participate is a way that you are being tempted away from the healing God wants for you.

  3. I have an appt this Friday for my abortion. I feel hatred towards myself already. I’m just scared I wont also love my partner anymore. I feel so guilty. He made it clear he don’t want a baby.. but he support me either way. I don’t want an unwanted baby. I want to make the right decision. But there’s no right decision. I either have an abortion or keep the baby. (there is no adoption choice for me) I can’t handle to keep the baby I have a lot of personal reasons. But does one stop loving their partner? I can see it for me. How can you have sex with someone that supports to kill your baby? That’s just way too gross for me. and if there is no intimacy then the relationship breaks apart.

    • If you feel guilt now, it is a near certainty that you will feel far greater guilt afterwards.

      You are also right to worry about the relationship. Abortion almost always dooms a relationship. When relationships do survive, they are often built on a sense of obligation to remain together, no matter how much emotional distance exists, because a life was sacrificed so you could be together. The very best thing you can do for your relationship is to work together to give your child, who is part of both of you, all that you can. You won’t be perfect parents, but giving whatever you can will help both of you to grow in so many ways, as individuals and as a couple. That’s what children do for us! We often think of how much parents give to their children, but really our children give so much to us and become the persons through whom we learn so much about ourselves, love, responsibility, and trust.

      We strongly encourage you to speak to a pregnancy help center to find people who have been in your situation who can help you with resources, good advice, and a friendly, non-judgmental ear.

      Don’t do it. I understand your aversion to adoption, but it is better for you (and obviously for the baby) than abortion. And if you decide to keep the baby, the person you now think of as “unwanted” will be soon be transformed into the person you can’t imagine your life without!

    • Please don’t do it. The only person you need to leave is your boyfriend. Truthfully, you should be married, but I would not marry a man who is not faithful to protect his wife and his child. A husband’s role is to protect his family, and not advocate death for his own flesh and blood. Please don’t murder the baby.

  4. I had an abortion yesterday. I thought it was for the right reasons (not being with the child’s father anymore (who wanted me to do it), fear of not having enough support to look after a baby along with my 2 older children). I know I have destroyed a human life, whatever stage it was at. It was an awful decision to make and in retrospect I would encourage others considering abortion to listen to their feelings and their body (which for me desired only to protect and nurture this new life) rather then give too much weight to other people’s opinions or try to push themself into believing abortion is ‘normal’ or ‘right’ for circumstantial reasons. To get through the abortion procedure I had to ignore my emotions and feelings about it and convince myself it was right for circumstantial reasons, and for the benefit of my other children. I therfore denied myself the right to be true to -and attach full value to – my feelings. The clinics make it seem like just an everyday, non-significant, normal thing that you can just go through like it doesn’t matter. Just because it is legal and common don’t dismiss the irreversible significance of the unnatural step you are taking. Don’t be deceived that if it is a common procedure it is ok to do. I don’t think I will ever really be the same again after my experience. I feel it was wrong and I wish I had truly known beforehand what I would feel. I was told my doubts about going ahead were just the ‘hormones’ talking. Going through with an abortion is an experience you will never forget – in a really bad way.

    • Our hearts and prayers go out to you. Have courage. Cling to the hope and promise that while your wound is still so deep and fresh, God can and will heal you. There will be a scar, but there will also be a gift of wisdom and opportunities for you to share that wisdom with others.

      We encourage you to contact a post-abortion healing group where you can find not only someone to talk with, but to hug you and comfort you through your grief.

  5. People only talk about the women’s choice to do whatever they want with their bodies, and yet they never turn around and ask the unborn babies; do they want to be aborted? The so-called “pro-choice” is full of hypocrisy. Every action has its own risk and the adults chose not to deal with the consequences and instead they’re just running away from it.

  6. I had an abortion 2 days ago at 11 weeks at my own will. The only emotional problem I had was my phobia for needles while at the clinic.

    I believe most women who have problems mentally after having an abortion are the women who have it against their will.

    The clinic I went to had screenings and a private counselor talk with me to ask me if this was what I really wanted to do or whether or not I was being forced against my will. If I had said no I didn’t want the abortion or I was being forced against my will then they wouldn’t have operated on me.

    Some women put themselves in corners when they get pregnant with a man who outright objects to being a parent. The woman needs know ahead of time what their other half’s view is on the possibility of her getting pregnant, and if their views don’t match then she should find someone else who will honor it.

    Nobody likes to be forced into anything. The reason so many women will have psychological problems is because they are being forced to have an abortion or they are being forced to keep it.

    • I was not forced. I have lived with depression, guilt, anxiety and a hole in my heart that will never be filled. I bet you will not see that in the abortion clinic infromation hand out. This was 32 years ago.

      • I agree with your comments although I was forced to a point – my husband decided he didn’t know if he loved me and wouldn’t promise to stay with me . I already had a 6 month old son … He led me to believe I could save my marriage if it was just the three of us. I had only a few days to make a decision but I felt very pressured – it was the worse decision of my life and I’m now suffering from PTSD – I wasn’t given counselling at all.

  7. I had an abortion at age 21. I am now 34 and have a 3 year old daughter. I do NOT regret having abortion AT ALL. In fact, I am relieved that I made the decision to end my first pregnancy. It is the best decision I have ever made.

    • While we are certainly glad that you have not suffered as other women have, we hope you will respect the fact that not all women are as unscathed after an abortion. Nor are as most as confident as you are that it was the “best decision” they ever made.


    • Yes, many, many, women do wonder and worry about seeing their child in heaven. It is one of the most common worries?

      You are not alone. Even when you hear the reassurance that you can and will be reunited with your unborn child in heaven, there can be a long time during which you will face the temptation to worry and disbelieve this.

      If you believe in God, then perhaps you also believe in the devil. In which case you should remember that the prince of lies wants to trap you into despair, and doubts about God’s mercy, His mercy toward both you and your unborn child. Whenever you feel any doubts or despair, remember that the same weapons were used to coax you into the abortion. The devil is the enemy of the virtue of hope. He wants to trap you with doubt and despair. Cling always to hope and a trust in God’s overwhelming mercy which is far greater than any human love or mercy.

      We encourage you to participate in a post-abortion ministry that can help you work through all of these common issues. You may also find a good bit of help by reading Forbidden Grief and / or The Jericho Plan: Breaking Down the Walls Which Prevent Post-abortion Healing.

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