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
- I Was 17, Drug and Raped … But Abortion Wasn’t Best for Me
- My Rape Pregnancy and My Furor Over Social Myths
- “Rape hurt my mother, but abortion devastated her.”
- Before I Had Time to Think: Case study of rape and abortion
- Read and Sign the Petition
- Don’t Traumatize Women Pregnant Through Rape Again: Candidate at GOP Debate
- Special Report on Sexual Assault Pregnancy and Abortion
- Victims and Victors Book
- Rape, Incest and Abortion: Searching Beyond the Myths
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.