Women’s Book Review: Health After Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Evidence

Book Review

Women’s Health After Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Evidence

Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles

The last fifteen years have witnessed a steady growth in awareness about post-abortion complications for women. Previous concerns about damaged reproductive systems and severe psychological reactions have been multiplied with the addition of evidence surrounding the abortion breast cancer link, the connection between abortion and cerebral palsy in subsequent children, and evidence of lower general health and higher death rates among post-abortive women.

The release of three new books this year makes obtaining up-to-date information on this issue easier than ever before. Two are Elliot Institute titles published under our Acorn Books imprint. The third is a title from our friends at the deVeber Institute in Canada, which we have been anxiously awaiting for the last two years. Each of these titles fills an important role and belongs in every complete library.

The first is Detrimental Effects of Abortion: An Annotated Bibliography with Commentary, edited by Tom Strahan. This is presented as a reference book organizing more than 1200 entries in 140 categories. Each entry includes a citation to published studies and literature and a brief summary of the findings for that citation in regard to that category. This is an invaluable resource for anyone researching abortion complications. It is useful for term papers for both high school and college, speeches, and reports, and is an irreplaceable resource for researchers, physicians, politicians, and lobbyists who want to sort through the medical studies related to abortion.

But let’s face it, Detrimental Effects of Abortion is a reference book. It’s not intended for reading cover to cover. However, our second title, Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, is a fascinating and compelling cover to cover read. It takes an inside look at the psychological effects of abortion from the perspective of Dr. Theresa Burke, a psychotherapist who has treated hundreds of post-abortive women in private practice and thousands through her Rachel’s Vineyard retreat program. Forbidden Grief’s strength lies in its insightful analysis of the great variety of psychological reactions to abortion in the context of individual women’s (and men’s) stories. While studies related to each type of symptom are cited and briefly discussed, they are not offered in the form of a literature review. Instead, these citations are offered as evidence to show that the individuals treated by Dr. Burke in counseling are similar to those who have been evaluated in published research.

Third, Women’s Health After Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Evidence, by Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles, is a necessary and helpful bridge between the “just the facts” reference-book-style of Detrimental Effects of Abortion and the intimate “inside look” of Forbidden Grief. Each of the eighteen chapters offers a very readable summary, analysis, and critique of studies published in each of the areas examined. These are indeed literature reviews–and thorough ones.

For the average reader who simply wants to learn more about post-abortion issues, these chapters offer smoother and more interesting reading than the bibliographic reference book style offered in Detrimental Effects of Abortion. In addition, researchers (whether in post-graduate programs or high schools) will also find these chapters an invaluable aid in clarifying their thoughts and questions before they dig into the original sources.

Besides examining the standard topics such as abortion’s effects on fertility, subsequent pregnancies, mortality, breast cancer, psychological health, and relationships, Women’s Health After Abortion also explores the psychological reactions following abortion after diagnosis of fetal anomalies and “multifetal pregnancy reduction” (MFPR). The latter technique has been developed and promoted by “fertility specialists” as a means of eliminating “excess” babies when the use of ovulation drugs or the insertion of four to seven human embryos that were generated in vitro results in “too many” babies implanting and thriving. As the authors show, these abortions frequently involve the manipulation of emotionally vulnerable couples who have desperately longed to have children and are now threatened with the prospect that refusing MFPR will threaten the survival of all their unborn children.

Following the pattern of the best medical journals, each chapter of Women’s Health After Abortion begins with a concise one-page abstract summarizing the entire chapter, and ends with a page of bulleted “key points.” The authors are also careful to tell readers what the limits of research are in each area and what must yet be done to fill in the gaps.

Women’s Health After Abortion is an excellent primer on post-abortion research. Pro-lifers who have been looking for an up-to-date summary of the latest research on abortions risks will find it here.

Along with Forbidden Grief and Detrimental Effects of Abortion, Women’s Health After Abortion, completes the trilogy of the newest and most current resources on post-abortion complications. This trio belongs in every pro-life organization’s lending library. All three titles would also make an excellent donation to community, high school, and college libraries. These titles are available individually or as a set (with a 20% discount) by calling 888-412-2676.


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