Abortion Doesn’t Help Rape Victims, Say Women Who’ve Been There

Survey of Women Became Pregnant Through Rape Finds Most Don’t Want Abortions; Say It Adds to Trauma

As the furor continues over the Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks that pregnancy from rape is very rare, one very important thing is being overlooked: what do women who have actually been there have to say about this issue?

There has been very little research conducted to date on the experiences of women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. One of the few surveys ever done was conducted by the Elliot Institute for our book, Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault.

The book was based on letters and survey responses from 192 women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. 164 were victims of rape and 28 were victims of incest (sexual assault involving a family member). Overall, 69 percent continued the pregnancy and either raised the child or made an adoption plan, 29 percent had abortions and 1.5 percent had miscarriages.

What the Research Says

The survey of women who contributed to the book found that:

  • Nearly 80 percent of the women who aborted the pregnancy reported that abortion had been the wrong solution.
  • Most women who had abortions said that abortion only increased the trauma they were experiencing.
  • In many cases, the victim faced strong pressure or demands to abort. 43 percent of rape victims who aborted said they felt pressured or were strongly directed by family members or health workers to abort.
  • In almost every case where an incest victim had an abortion, it was the girl’s parents or the perpetrator who made the decision and arrangements for the abortion, not the girl herself. In several cases, the abortion was carried out against her expressed wishes, and in a few cases, without her being aware that she was pregnant or that an abortion was taking place.
  • None of the women who gave birth to a child conceived in sexual assault expressed regret or wished they had aborted instead.1

Studies that examine risk factors for psychological problems after abortion show that women with a history of sexual assault or abuse are more likely to have difficulty coping after abortion.

The assumption that most sexual assault victims want abortions is also contradicted by a national 3-year longitudinal study which found that only half of women pregnant from rape subsequently sought abortions, while 38.1% carried to term and 11.8% had miscarriages.

As the testimonies of women in Victim and Victors indicates, of those who had abortions many do so against their conscience because of the social pressure they receive from family, friends, work associates and physicians . . . all of whom assume that abortion is best even though they have never talked to sexual assault victims who have had abortions.

Women Sign Petition for Congressional Hearings

More than 30 women have signed a petition asking congress and state legislators to hold hearings and give women a chance to tell their stories, discuss the impact of abortion and share their unique needs and concerns. They note that discussions by “legislators, judges and policy makers” on this issue “take place without ever first soliciting our input,” and that abortion promotion stops women from receiving help and support.

These views are expressed in their petition, which reads in part:

 We are deeply offended and dismayed each time our difficult circumstances are exploited for public consumption to promote the political agenda of others. This is a grave injustice. In pursuing their political agendas, these exploiters have reduced our concerns, needs and circumstances to a crude caricature. …

Only we who have actually experienced a sexual assault pregnancy truly understand the trauma, fears, concerns and needs of our sisters who are, or will someday become, pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

Each year, thousands of women will face this experience. Unless society at large begins to listen to us today, these other women will, like us, face great difficulty in finding authentic understanding and help.

The petition signers include women who had abortions as well as women who continued their pregnancies and either raised their children or placed them for adoption.

One woman was impregnated by her stepfather at the age of 12. Her mother, who knew of the abuse, took her for an abortion that resulted in the delivery of a stillborn baby girl. Years later, she wrote:

Throughout the years I have been depressed, suicidal, furious, outraged, lonely, and have felt a sense of loss . . . The abortion which was to “be in my best interest” just has not been. As far as I can tell, it only “saved their reputations,” “solved their problems,” and allowed their lives to go merrily on. … Problems are not ended by abortion, but only made worse.

Another woman, who raised her son after being raped as a teen, wrote that she believed abortion advocates have exploited stories like hers:

I having lived through rape, and also having raised a child “conceived in rape,” feel personally assaulted and insulted every time I hear that abortion should be legal because of rape and incest. I feel that we’re being used to further the abortion issue, even though we’ve not been asked to tell our side of the story.

A copy of the petition can be downloaded here. Women who have experienced a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest and who wish to sign the petition can do so here. Those who wish their names to be kept private (not for publication) may choose this option on the form.

What the Women Say

Learn More:

Resources to Download and Share:

“Hard Cases” Fact Sheet
Petition to Congress and State Legislators



1. Reardon, Makimaa & Sobie, Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2000) 19-22.




Abortion Doesn’t Help Rape Victims, Say Women Who’ve Been There — 4 Comments

  1. To reiterate on what another questioner has asked: isn’t it worthwhile to consider abortion due to pregnancy by rape as a case-by-case basis instead of generalizing? If all cases of abortion were deemed illegal, there is a huge chance that what’s happening in El Salvador can happen here as well. One of the leading cause of suicide in females under 19 is unwanted pregnancy (due to their strict no-abortion law). As a survivor of sexual assault, I can’t help but feel nauseous thinking about having a child that is comprised of me, and of the monster that assaulted me. I already suffer from a mental health disorder and I can strongly say that I would not be able to fully love a child that I had with someone who had their way with me. I have also discussed this with multiple friends from a survivor group I found and they all expressed that they would feel lost if they didn’t at least have the option of abortion. Lastly, I know of multiple women who have had abortions after becoming pregnant from their attackers and they said they are relieved. These women said that they would not be able to happily look at their child and have the constant reminder of the pain they endured as a result of the assault. To add, I have also worked with women who kept their babies from their attackers and the thing they regret the most about keeping the child was having to explain to family where the child’s father is, who the child’s father is, and how the child came to be. The women expressed how terrible they felt that they had bottled up resentment towards the child because of who the father is.

    I strongly believe that it should be the victim’s decision whether to go through with the pregnancy or not. We have to consider the mental health implications of both sides and not treat all victims as the same. I understand your points in this article and I respect your opinions, facts, and views; but I also feel as though the other side should be considered as well.

    • I respect your opinion as well. The core argument of our article is not about the legality of abortion–either in general or in cases of sexual assault. The core argument is in regard to evidence based medical ethics. Specifically, what counseling and advice should be given to women and their families in cases of sexual assault pregnancies?

      Unfortunately, too many people, including doctors, rush to the recommendation of abortion, even though no evidence exists to show that it produces more benefits than harm. I gather from your response that you at least accept and agree that it may be a bad choice for some women and would even agree that every woman considering abortion after sexual assault should receive counseling about the possible negative effects and other issues (such as feeling pressured to abort due to social expectations) covered in the article.

      I would also like to address your comments about yourself and other women who believe they would have had a very hard time raising, much less loving, a child conceived in sexual assault are very valid concerns. That’s a legitimate concern. That’s why adoption should be given serious consideration. I strongly believe women will be exposed to far less psychological risk if they place a child for adoption than if they abort the child. And obviously, that option is also better for children.

      Bottom line: there is no perfect solution. But there is good evidence that in most cases abortion may be the worst option. But women are not being warned of this risk because the idea that “abortion is the best solution for rape and incest pregnancies” is too dearly embraced as “clearly a good reason for abortion” by those who promote and defend abortions that this myth is believed without serious engagement with the facts to the contrary.

      For any friends you may have who have had abortions of sexual assault pregnancies, I truly do wish them the best. If they are glad they had that choice and made it, I do not challenge them or their opinions. But I am deeply, deeply concerned for all the women this very day who are being guided and encouraged to abort without full disclosure of the risks and experiences of women who report that their abortions made their lives worse, not better. There is no true “freedom of choice” when those advising women are withholding relevant information.

      • I definitely understand where you’re coming from as I was once a very firm pro-life advocate. I, too, see that women are pressured and guided into believing that abortion is the only option for pregnancies from rape and incest. The only thing that I will have to politely disagree with is the notion that adoption is better. In some cases, yes, a child has the possibility to be adopted into a loving family and have the life they deserve. I’m not too familiar with the American foster care system seeing as I live in Canada, but I have a small knowledge on the amount of children who don’t ever get adopted.

        But I do appreciate your understanding and I do agree that women are coerced into abortion after sexual assault, which is why in my “pro-choice” beliefs, I feel it’s up to the woman to decide how she wants to go about her future.
        Thank you for being polite and calm with me as well, usually these kinds of conversations aren’t as respectful as you have been! I think what you are doing here is helpful for others and I wish you the best in your future!

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