We have heard from famous women who have been very vocal about not regretting their abortion. In an attempt to give this view objectivity, Time Magazine published a review article in July of 2015 on a study in the journal, PLOS ONE. The study was a review of post abortive women who were interviewed over a three period. The researchers concluded that 95% of women in the study having elective abortions do not have regrets afterwards. Far from settling the debate there were groups such as the Elliot Institute that found concerns in the reported study. The Elliot Institute stated that only 32% of eligible women participated through the baseline interview. Those that were initially interviewed another 31% dropped out by the third year. In a similar post abortive interview study, Soderberg, the author, reported that those who refused to participate in the interview gave “guilt and remorse” as the most common answer. The concern about selection bias is highlighted in the PHOS ONE study stating, “Women feeling more relief and happiness at baseline were less likely to be lost at follow up.” The remaining group also was not representative of the general post abortion population with a very high percentage of women already raising children. Those who participated also got fifty dollars for each interview, creating another bias. The Elliot Institute also pointed out that the report and accompanying press release claim that this study proved there is “no evidence of widespread post abortion trauma syndrome,” in fact did not use any standard scales for assessment of psychological wellbeing. Instead their assessment of psychological health is all inferred from an assessment of six emotional reactions. Soderberg, in his Swedish study, found 50-60% of women undergoing induced abortion experienced some measure of emotional distress and 30% classified as severe. This was a series of 66.5% of women who underwent elective abortion at University Hospital in Malmo Sweden in 1989.
A local post abortive women gave us her experience: “My regret began when I knew my child was being taken from me and it continued for twenty-two years. Certain things would trigger my memories of that day. I felt empty and angry with myself for not standing up for my child. My anger came up at times and I didn’t always realize why until I got the help that I needed. It was not until I attended a Rachels Vineyard retreat that I was able to open myself up to the grief that was hidden inside. I met others who were in the same situation and together we were able to bond together and journey toward a path of healing.”
So what is the headline trying to say with the claim that 19 out of 20 women feel no shame about their abortion? It has strong implications to the women who are suffering that there must be something wrong with them because they are in the small minority. Women who experience negative emotions who hear these headlines may try to suppress or ignore negative feelings because they are just not accepted. Or if they are ready to deal with these feelings, family, friends, and counselors may believe that abortion should be psychologically safe and offer little support, leaving women to suffer in silence. This headline reinforces the main premise in Teresa Burkes’s book, Forbidden Grief, “That grief after abortion is neither expected nor permitted in our society.”
In the months ahead we will explore more mental health studies on post abortive women. As we go along on this journey together we will learn the battle lines are often not clear in the “war on women.”
If you or someone you know is suffering or broken from an abortion, woman or man, there are those that can offer help in a supportive, confidential and nonjudgmental environment. Don’t live in shame, fear, or numbness. Call 1-877 HOPE 4 ME (1-877-467-3463), or locally 1-989-797-6652.
SOURCES: Jenkins, Nash. Time. “Hardly Any Women Regret Having an Abortion, A New Study Finds.” 14, July, 2015. Web. 12, December 2015.
AfterAbortion.org, Elliot Institute. “Study Claiming Women Don’t Regret Abortions Deeply Flawed and Deceptive.” 15, July, 2015. Web. 12, December 2015.
Burke, Theresa. Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion. Springfield: Acorn Books, 2002. Print.
Soderberg, Hanna. European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. “Emotional Distress Following Induced Abortion.” 24, March, 1998.