The mental toll of abortion

Women should be informed of the full impact of their choice

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I remember well a night many years ago when a dear friend who was adamantly pro-choice came to me, sobbing uncontrollably. With defenses down, she unloaded a heavy burden she had long carried -- a few years before she had chosen to abort her developing baby. She told me that not one day had passed that she did not think about her baby and regret her decision. My heart ached for my friend, as she was clearly tormented by her decision.

Sadly, my friend is one among many. Abortion is not good for women's mental health. With abortion statistics alarmingly high in the United States, we live in a culture with an increasing number of post-abortive women struggling from the profound emotional and psychological consequences of abortion. Many of these women gravely regret their abortions. Visit the Feminists for Life website ( www.silentnomoreawareness.org /) to read a few of these stories.

Science supports this sad reality. In the fall, a meta-analysis was published in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry. The report was the most extensive of its kind to date -- the author looked at 22 published studies and data from more than 870,000 women. The results showed that women who have an abortion are at an 81 percent increased risk for mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, depression, drug abuse and suicidal behaviors. The study revealed the shocking statistic that close to 10 percent of all mental health problems in women can be directly attributed to abortion.

It is absolutely critical that a woman who is considering abortion be given as much information as possible so that she can make a truly informed decision, since her choice will impact her for the rest of her life. 2011 was a record year in terms of the number of laws enacted related to informed consent. The Guttmacher Institute, originally founded as the research arm of Planned Parenthood, recently reported that throughout the course of the year more than 1,000 pro-life bills were introduced into state legislatures, with 83 of these bills becoming law.

Of the new laws, a large percentage have to do with improving a woman's informed consent ( www.guttmacher.org/media/inthenews/2012/01/05/endofyear.html ). In other words, these laws include educating a woman considering abortion about the physiological stages of development of the baby, the psychological consequences she could potentially suffer as a result of choosing abortion and so on. Most reasonable people will agree that informed consent for abortion empowers a woman to make a better decision. More information is always better for an important decision, but not surprisingly abortion proponents adamantly oppose these laws. See Guttmacher's article to read more about that. To these people, I have to wonder: What ever happened to "safe, legal and rare"?

As a person steeped in public policy related to the dignity of the human person, I am honored to speak with some frequency to a variety of groups -- some friendly and some not -- about these very issues. To make my point I will close with a true story. Recently, after speaking with a group on pro-life issues, as I was walking out the door a woman followed me out into the hallway and tearfully thanked me. She shared with me that a few dozen years ago she had an abortion and that if only she had known then what she knows now she never would have made such a decision -- a decision she has grieved for many years. Thankfully she sought help and found a sense of healing and hope in one of the many groups counseling and helping post-abortive women.

With the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, let us continue to move full speed ahead with positive legislation that benefits everyone -- the developing baby and its mother.


Jeanne Monahan is director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.


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