The last few years have seen increased attacks on pregnancy help centers from the abortion lobby and their allies in the media and legislators. Laws on the books in Illinois and California would require pregnancy centers to refer clients to abortion clinics — and, in the case of Illinois, to counsel clients about the benefits of abortion. Last month, a lawsuit on behalf of doctors and pregnancy care centers that don’t counsel for abortion was filed against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, claiming the law violates their rights of conscience.
Pregnancy centers provide support and information to women and their loved ones during pregnancy, including providing information on the physical and psychological impact of abortion on women. While attempts have been made to deny claims of abortion risks, numerous studies that having an abortion is linked to an increased risk of numerous problems, including higher rates of suicide, deaths from other causes, breast cancer, substance abuse, depression, subsequent preterm birth, anxiety disorders and other problems.
Research Reveals the Impact of Abortion
In 2011, a meta-analysis of 22 studies and 877,297 participants (of whom 163,880 had undergone abortions) found that women who aborted experienced an 81 percent increased risk for mental health problems. When compared specifically to women who delivered unintended pregnancies, women who aborted were found to have a 55 percent increased risk of experiencing mental health problems. This review offers the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world.
Using a standardized statistical technique for combining the results of multiple studies, the meta-analysis revealed that women with a history of abortion faced higher rates of anxiety (34 percent higher) and depression (37 percent higher), heavier alcohol use (110 percent higher) and marijuana use (230 percent higher), and higher rates of suicidal behavior (155 percent higher).
The study also found that women who delivered an unplanned pregnancy were significantly less likely to have mental health problems than similar women who aborted unplanned pregnancies. Women with a history of abortion were 55 percent more likely to have mental health problems than women who did not abort an unplanned pregnancy.
Further, a meta-analysis combining the results of eight studies of women who experienced unwanted pregnancies, published in 2013, concluded that “there is no available evidence to suggest that abortion has therapeutic effects in reducing the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy.”
The lead author of that review, Professor David Fergusson, who has described himself in interviews as a pro-choice atheist, also led the research team in a 2008 study that concluded that women who continued an unwanted or mistimed pregnancy did not experience a significant increase in mental health problems. Further, having an abortion did not reduce their mental health risks.
“In general, there is no evidence in the literature on abortion and mental health that suggests that abortion reduces the mental health risks of unwanted or mistimed pregnancy,” the authors wrote. “Although some studies have concluded that abortion has neutral effects on mental health, no study has reported that exposure to abortion reduces mental health risks.”
Research from the United States, Denmark and Finland show that women are more likely to die from all causes — including suicide — after abortion than they are after giving birth. Further, while abortion advocates claim that many women who get abortions experience only relief, surveys showing that women report feelings of relief after abortion also show that they report negative emotions as well.
Coercion & Abuse Leading to Abortion
A survey of American and Russian women who had abortions, published in the peer-reviewed Medical Science Monitor, found that 14 percent of American women reported feeling relieved after abortion, but they also reported negative reactions such as thoughts of suicide (54 percent), feelings of sadness and loss (56 percent), and feeling “part of me died” (60 percent).
In addition, the same survey found that 64 percent of the American women reported feeling pressured by others to abortion, and that 84 percent said they were not adequately counseled at abortion clinics, with 52 percent percent saying they weren’t given enough time to make the decision, 79 percent saying they were given no counseling on alternatives, and 67 percent saying they received no counseling at all.
We do know that women in abusive relationships are more likely to be abused when pregnant. In fact, there are a number of peer-reviewed articles documenting murder of pregnant women by their intimate partners, particularly during early pregnancy, as a major cause of death among pregnant women. Many of the women killed are likely to have refused an abortion that an abusive partner was demanding. In fact, many homicide cases over the last several decades have been traced to women’s refusal to undergo an abortion.
A 2013 study, based on results of the World Health Organization Multi-Country study examining intimate partner violence, abortion, and unintended pregnancy, indicated that 30 percent of abortions are due to intimate partner violence. The authors concluded their report by stating:
The time has come for greater recognition of the fact that [under] the visible physical bruises of violence lie the less visible yet potentially more debilitating consequences to women living in an environment where their physical, emotional, and reproductive health are at risk in the short and long term.
Contrary to the claims of the abortion lobby, the legalization of abortion has done nothing to advance women’s freedom. Given research and anecdotal evidence showing that most abortions are unwanted or coerced, one could argue that abortion makes women less free.
Before Roe, a woman or girl who was being pressured or coerced to abort could resist on the grounds that it was illegal, unsafe and immoral. Legalization has made it easier for those around her to insist that because abortion is legal, it must be “safe,” and because it is “socially approved,” it must be moral. It makes it easier for them to refuse to support her desire to continue the pregnancy and insist that she abort anyway.
In fact, an article published several years ago on a popular men’s web site offered advice to men about how to pressure their wives or girlfriends into unwanted abortions. The article was taken down after numerous complaints, but not before readers saw writer Isabella Snow’s advice that men weren’t obligated to support their child “beyond what your conscience and the law expects of you.” Rather than asking men to step up to the plate, Snow suggested they threaten abandonment in order to secure an abortion, regardless of the woman’s wishes:
This was her decision, not yours, and the bulk of the responsibility is now hers. Take a moment to spell this out for her when she gives you her final decision; it just may sway her over to your side.
The legalization of abortion has not ended child abuse (child abuse rates have increased since 1973) or violence against women. At least two studies of maternal death rates found that homicide was the leading cause of death among pregnant women. Tracking news stories reveals that in many cases, the perpetrator wanted to get rid of the pregnancy and attacked or killed the victim after she refused to abort. For teens and young girls, abortion is often used to cover and up and continue sexual abuse by getting rid of the evidence of the crime — the resulting pregnancy.
Supporting abortion is not about protecting women’s freedom and opportunities. Women and their unborn children, as well as their families and loved ones, deserve real support and resources, not the exploitation, abuse and risks of abortion.Attacking organizations that provide that kind of support in order to promote a harmful ideology is a disservice to women.
The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centers: CareNet Report
Higher Death Rates After Abortion Found in U.S., Finland and Denmark
Women’s Suicide Rates Higher After Abortion: New Study
Most Studies Show Abortion Linked to Increased Mental Health Problems
Study Finds Abortion Provides No Mental Health Benefits to Women, Even When Pregnancy is Unwanted
Abortion Has No Benefits, But Does Have Risks
More Research Articles
Online Bibliography of Studies on the Detrimental Effects of Abortion
Conscience Leads to More Complete Support for Women