From the archives:
A study published in the International Journal of Mental Health & Addiction found that the relationship between women and their partners and the level of support provided by the father are important factors in whether or not the woman aborts.
The study, headed by Prof. Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, was based on a survey of low-income women undertaken at various hospitals around the country. The women involved had all become pregnant within 18 months of delivering a child and either aborted the second pregnancy or carried to term. Participants were asked about drug and alcohol abuse, their relationship with the child’s father and difficulties raising their first child.
The study found that women who felt they could not rely on their partner to help in caring for the child were more likely to have an abortion. They also found that women who had undergone an abortion were over three times more likely to report heavy alcohol use and twice as likely to report cigarette smoking.
Other studies have found that women who have had abortions have higher rates of subsequent substance abuse, suicide, anxiety disorders, depression, and other problems compared to women who carried to term. A recent study published by Coleman found that abortion was linked to higher rates of mental health disorders that included panic disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and major depression.
In the current study, women whose first child had medical problems or who had difficulty raising a child did not have a higher abortion rate, the researchers found.
“The results clearly suggest that women who feel the first child’s father has not assumed enough parental responsibility and/or lacks the ability to contribute to their efforts to raise the child, are reluctant to bear another child,” they wrote.
They also noted that women who had an abortion were more likely to report subsequently being slapped or kicked by the child’s father, suggesting that stress after abortion was leading to an increase in domestic violence.
Support From Others is Important, Other Studies Show
Other surveys of post-aborted women have also found that the level of support and the attitudes of those around them, both in personal and professional relationships, play a role in determining whether or not an abortion takes place.
A survey of women who had abortions, published in the Medical Science Monitor, found that 64 percent of American respondents reported feeling pressured to abort by others and more than 80 percent said they weren’t given enough information to make a decision about abortion. And a survey of women in post-abortion support groups found that more than 83 percent said they would have continued the pregnancy if they had been given more support from others
Women themselves have also shared stories of feeling that they had no choice but to abort. They describe a range of circumstances that can lead to unwanted abortions, including lack of support or resources to have the baby; pressure or threats from those around them; inadequate and deceptive counseling about alternatives, fetal development and abortion risks; and even violence.
One woman shared her story of being kicked out of the house by her parents when she became pregnant as a teen:
They told me to leave the house and forget that I was their daughter. I left the house with no job, no money, no home and nowhere to turn, feeling utterly abandoned and alone. Still, I was certain I would not get an abortion. I wanted my child. …
My father sent several messages urging me to have an abortion. I refused. But as I began to feel more desperate, I shut down my feelings … functioning more like a surreal observer than someone in control.
… No one explained to me the baby’s development or what the abortion would be like. … I lay there just wishing that I could die.
When a woman’s partner or family would wish her to continue the pregnancy, however, they may also be mislead by information that suggests it would be too difficult to have a child or that there are no other options but abortion. Pro-life advocates say that awareness of the harm abortion can cause their loved one and the availability of resources and options is needed so that women and teens are able to get the support they need for themselves and their unborn children.
The authors of the current study stressed that more attention should be paid to women’s relationships with those around them, suggesting that because abortion is framed as a “private women’s issue,” researchers and social scientists have been hesitant to look at how relationships with others affect pregnancy outcome.
They also called for more resources and alternatives for women facing crisis pregnancies, and offered specific suggestions for professionals working with women in vulnerable situations.
“If the father is psychologically and/or physically unavailable, counselors can assist women in identifying other sources of support within and outside the family …” they wrote. “Inquiries about a history of prior or current substance abuse and education efforts regarding documented substance abuse risks associated with [abortion] ought to be conveyed.”
PK Coleman et. al., “Predictors and Correlates of Abortion in the Fragile Families and Well-Being Study: Paternal Behavior, Substance Abuse and Partner Violence,” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, DOI 10.1007/s11469-008-9188-7, Published Dec. 31, 2008.