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A Tidal Wave of Published Data: More Than 30 Studies in Last Five Years Show Negative Impact of Abortion on Women
by Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D.


There is a wide variety of symptoms of abortion's aftermath, ranging from mild grief to profound reactions which may include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It is the people working in the field of bereavement who have written about the need to resolve abortion losses and recognize that this disenfranchised loss surfaces during subsequent losses.

The society, our churches, and our families do not recognize abortion as a legitimate loss.

In fact, the societal message says that this experience solves a problem and that it is a non-experience. With other surgical procedures, there is an acknowledgement of the need to recover and to process the experience.

Many of the symptoms discussed are symptoms common to complicated mourning and to trauma reactions.

The manifestations of abortion's aftermath are:

    * Low self-esteem

    * Grief

    * Depression

    * Guilt

    * A sense of alienation from self, friends and others

    * Shame

    * Isolation, self-imposed actions to avoid sharing the abortion experience with others

    * Anger, though this is often buried deeply. Depression and anger are flip sides of the same experience

    * Difficulty concentrating

    * Nightmares/"baby dreams"–these may take the form of some menacing creature attacking children, or of, as a woman described them, "dead dolls, dismembered babies, or babies in distress that can't be reached."

    * Auditory hallucinations of a baby crying

    * Flashbacks of the abortion experience that are triggered by such things as vacuum cleaners, which are reminders of the suction equipment; music on Muzak that was playing during the procedure; elevators which lead up to the clinic; or cookies served after the procedure.

    * Sleep disorders

    * Suicidal thoughts–in a study done in Ohio by Suicide Anonymous Hotline over a 36-month period, of the 4000 women who called, 1800 had previously had abortions.

    * Drug and alcohol abuse–in a California study of 12,000 pregnant women, it was found that among those with two or more prior abortions, virtually all consumed alcohol up to three ounces per day during the entire time of their pregnancy. A Boston City Hospital study found that among inner city women enrolled in pre-natal care, those who reported cocaine use were more than twice as likely to report two abortions and were three times as likely to report three abortions compared to the non-cocaine using control group.

   * Relationship problems–70% of romantic relationships end after an abortion. Some women also distance themselves from their nuclear family and from their closest friends.

    * Intimacy problems–women often shy away from intimate relationships with males for fear of having to reveal things about herself, including her abortion.

    * Physical pain–women may describe pain such as abdominal pian, menstrual pain, or back pain. This could be organic pain caused be complications from the abortion or it could be psychosomatic pain.

    * Physical numbness

    * Hyperalertness

    * Difficulties in subsequent pregnancies. This may include high anxiety during pregnancy, being fearful of another pregnancy loss such as a miscarriage, still birth, or ectopic pregnancy as well as infertility. It is possible that women will incur a pregnancy complication due to some damage that might have happened during or immediately following the abortion procedure, such as cervical damage, uterine scarring or fallopian tube scarring caused by low-grade infection.

    * Difficulties in subsequent labor and delivery, such as labors that start and stop or that fail to progress resulting in Cesareans.

    * Inability to bond properly with subsequent children. Women will describe great difficulty in breastfeeding, bottle feeding, diaper changing–any activity that requires intimate contact with the baby. The bond that does develop is characterized by overly protective behavior and emotional distancing.

    * Acute reaction may involve fascination with or obsession with pregnancy that may result in bizarre short term acting-out behavior.

    * Avoidance behavior centered on children, pregnancy, and abortion.

    * Eating disorders

    * Self-mutilation

    * Sexual disfunction or promiscuity

    * Atonement pregnancy–feeling compelled to become pregnant again, often within one year following the abortion.

    * Phantom pregnancy–going to physicians' offices, crisis pregnancy centers, and emergency rooms believing she is pregnant.

    * Atonement marriage–marriage between partners in an abortion in an attempt to save the relationship after

the abortion

    * Abusive relationships–in some cases, the woman is the abusive party; in other cases, she is the abused party

    * Anniversary reactions

    * Over-compensation in a career–especially true for a woman who choses the abortion in order to finish college or complete her career goals

    * Involvement with pro-life movement or pro-abortion movements

    * Spiritual wound–for many women, this may be the first experience of "serious sin." Some women fear that God will punish them, especially when it comes to future childbearing experiences.

   * Child abuse–women may have inappropriate coping mechanisms for dealing with frustration until the grief issue is resolved. The abuse may be emotional in terms of distancing, or actual physical striking out against a subsequent child. Women sometimes share that their "perfect child" was the one they aborted, and now they are left with this one.

    * Increased bitterness toward men–this manifests itself in terms of being able to really trust men in the future.

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Immediate Effects

  • Excessive bleeding (Hemorrhage)

  • Puncture and tearing of the womb (Uterus)

  • Infection from mild to fatal (sometimes parts of the baby are left inside the womb)

  • Cervical laceration in 5% of women

  • Hepatitis from blood transfusions; blood clots and embolisms

  • Sterility, ranging from 2% to 5% of abortions

  • Pain, Shock, Vomiting

Maternal Mortality (Mother's Death) From Abortion
Elliot Institute published a news release on a study by Finnish researchers showing that 94 percent of women's deaths from abortion are not verifiable by looking at death certificates alone.

This means that many maternal deaths from abortion go unnoticed and uncounted in statistics reports, and allow abortion advocates to continue claiming that abortion is safer for women than childbirth — one of the key arguments for abortion that was laid out in Roe v. Wade.

For more information on death rates after abortion and the scope of the abortion death cover-up, readers can link to the following articles posted on the Elliot Institute's web site:

The Cover Up: Why U.S. Abortion Mortality Statistics Are

Abortion Four Times Deadlier Than Childbirth: New Studies Unmask High Maternal Death Rates from Abortion

Abortion May Increase Women's Mortality Rate: New Study Shows Women's Death Rate from Abortion Much Higher Than Previously Known
[Elliot Institute, 27Sept05]


Long Term Effects

  • Guilt and personality disturbances

  • In future desired pregnancies…
    1. 1. Miscarriage/ Stillbirth
    2. 2. Premature delivery because of damage to the cervix
    3. 3. Tubal pregnancies (increased from 8-fold to 20-fold by abortion)

  • Potential for Breast Cancer 
  • Peritonitis / Future Menstrual Problems

  • Depression / Anger / Mourning / Self-Destructive Tendencies

  • Loss of Sexual Interest / Nightmares / Troubled Relationships

  • Flashbacks of the Abortion / Intense Feeling of Loss

  • Inability to Forget Baby & Baby's Due Date / Drug & Alcohol Abuse


  • [The Mourning After, Terry Selby, M.S.W., Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1990; Human Development Resource Council, Inc., LifeSupport, Spring/Summer 1991]

Re-experiencing Trauma:

  • Nightmares/ recurrent dreams

  • Flashback episodes

  • Anniversary reactions (on the date of the abortion)

  • Extreme distress at exposure to events that resemble some aspect of the abortion (i.e. a pelvic examination, sexual intercourse, childbirth, the sound of a vacuum cleaner)

Avoidance/ Denial:

  • Avoiding thoughts of feelings about the abortion

  • Avoiding situations/activities that cause thoughts of the abortion (i.e. medical exams, sexual intercourse, exposure to infants, conversations about abortion or childbirth)

  • Inability to recall aspects of the abortion – memory blocks

  • Emotional numbing – estrangement from others, inability to have loving feelings to children, mate, parents, friends

Increased Arousal:

  • Sleep disorders

  • Irritability or outbursts of anger

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Hyper-vigilance

  • Exaggerated startle response

Associated symptoms:

  • Depression, frequent crying, anxiety

  • Guilt/ Inability to forgive self

  • Self-destructive behavior, including drug/ alcohol abuse, eating disorders, suicidal urges

[The Mourning After, Terry Selby, M.S.W., Baker Book House:Grand Rapids, 1990; Human Development Resource Council, Inc LifeSupport, Spring/Summer 1991]



The Decline of Partner Relationships in the Aftermath of Abortion, Winter 2007, vol 20, no 1, Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change–2007.pdf




A Tidal Wave of Published Data: More Than 30 Studies in Last Five Years Show Negative Impact of Abortion on Women
by Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D.

On Sunday, November 7th, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Dr. Brenda Major, titled The Big Lie about Abortion and Mental Health. I would like to offer another perspective on dishonesty permeating the scientific study and dissemination of information pertaining to abortion and mental health.

Dr. Major is absolutely correct: an informed choice regarding abortion must be based on accurate information. For abortion providers to offer an unbiased and valid synopsis of the scientific literature on increased risks of abortion, the information must include depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as suicide ideation and behaviors.

Over 30 studies have been published in just the last five years and they add to a body of literature comprised of hundreds of studies published in major medicine and psychology journals throughout the world.

The list is provided below and the conscientious reader is encouraged to check the studies out. No lies … just scientifically-derived information that individual academics, several major professional organizations, and abortion providers have done their best to hide and distort in recent years.

Like Dr. Major, I too am a tenured, full professor at a well-respected U.S. university, and I too have published peer-reviewed scientific articles in reputable journals.

In fact, my publication record far exceeds that of Dr. Major on the topic of abortion and mental health.

I am not alone in my opinion, which has been voiced by prominent researchers in Great Britain, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the U.S., and elsewhere.

As a group of researchers who in 2008 published nearly 50 peer-reviewed articles indicating abortion is associated with negative psychological outcomes, six colleagues and I sent a petition letter to the American Psychological Association (APA) criticizing their methods and conclusions as described in their Task Force Report on Abortion and Mental Health.

The opinion piece by Brenda Major following on the heels of the highly-biased APA report is just the latest effort to divert attention from a tidal wave of sound published data on the emotional consequences of abortion.

The evidence is accumulating, despite socio-political agendas to keep the truth from the academic journals and ultimately from women to insure that the big business of abortion continues unimpeded.

The literature now echoes the voices of millions of women for whom abortion was not a liberating, health promoting "choice."

A conservative estimate from the best available data is 20 to 30 percent of women who undergo an abortion will experience serious and/or prolonged negative consequences.

Any interpretation of the available research that does not acknowledge the strong evidence now available in the professional literature represents a conscious choice to ignore basic principles of scientific integrity.

The human fallout to such a choice by the APA and like-minded colleagues is misinformed professionals, millions of women struggling in isolation to make
sense of a past abortion, thousands who will undergo an abortion today without the benefit of known risks, and millions who will make this often life-altering decision tomorrow without the basic right of informed consent, which is routinely extended for all other elective surgeries in the U.S.

In publishing Major's opinion without soliciting other voices on the topic, the Washington Post has perpetuated a serious injustice.

List of Studies

 1. Bradshaw, Z., & Slade, P. (2005). The relationship between induced abortion, attitudes toward sexuality, and sexual problems. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20, 390-406.

 2. Brockington, I.F. (2005). Post-abortion psychosis, Archives of Women's Mental Health 8: 53-54.

 3. Broen, A. N., Moum, T., Bodtker, A. S., & Ekeberg, O. (2006). Predictors of anxiety and depression following pregnancy termination: A longitudinal five-year follow-up study. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 85: 317-23.

 4. Broen, A. N., Moum, T., Bodtker, A. S., & Ekeberg, O. (2005). Reasons for induced abortion and their relation to women's emotional distress: A prospective, two-year follow-up study. General Hospital Psychiatry 27:36-43.

 5. Broen, A. N., Moum, T., Bodtker, A. S., & Ekeberg, O. (2005). The course of mental health after miscarriage and induced abortion: a longitudinal, five-year follow-up study. BMC Medicine 3(18).

 6. Coleman, P. K. (2005). Induced Abortion and increased risk of substance use: A review of the evidence. Current Women's Health Reviews 1, 21-34.

7. Coleman, P. K. (2006). Resolution of unwanted pregnancy during adolescence through abortion versus childbirth: Individual and family predictors and psychological consequences. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 35, 903-911.

 8. Coleman, P. K. (2009). The Psychological Pain of Perinatal Loss and Subsequent Parenting Risks: Could Induced Abortion be more Problematic than Other Forms of Loss? Current Women's Health Reviews 5, 88-99.

9. Coleman, P. K., Coyle, C. T., & Rue, V.M. (2010). Late-Term Elective Abortion and Susceptibility to Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms, Journal of Pregnancy vol. 2010, Article ID 130519.

10. Coleman, P. K., Coyle, C.T., Shuping, M., & Rue, V. (2009), Induced Abortion and Anxiety, Mood, and Substance Abuse Disorders: Isolating the Effects of Abortion in the National Comorbidity Survey. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43, 770- 776.

 11. Coleman, P. K., Maxey, C. D., Rue, V. M., & Coyle, C. T. (2005). Associations between voluntary and involuntary forms of perinatal loss and child maltreatment among low-income mothers. Acta Paediatrica, 94 (10),–76-1483.
12. Coleman, P. K., & Maxey, D. C., Spence, M. Nixon, C. (2009). The choice to abort among mothers living under ecologically deprived conditions:  Predictors and consequences. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction 7, 405-422.
13. Coleman, P. K., Reardon, D. C., & Cougle, J. R. (2005). Substance use among pregnant women in the context of previous reproductive loss and desire for current pregnancy. British Journal of Health Psychology, 10 (2), 255-268.

14. Coleman, P. K., Reardon, D. C., Strahan, T., & Cougle, J. R. (2005). The psychology of abortion: A review and suggestions for future research. Psychology and Health, 20, 237-271.
15. Coleman, P.K., Rue, V.M. & Coyle, C.T. (2009). Induced abortion and intimate relationship quality in the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey. Public Health, 123, 331-338.DOI: 10.1016/j.puhe.2009.01.005.
16. Coleman, P.K., Rue, V.M., Coyle, C.T. & Maxey, C.D. (2007). Induced abortion and child-directed aggression among mothers of maltreated children. Internet Journal of Pediatrics and Neonatology, 6 (2), ISSN: 1528-8374.

17. Coleman, P. K., Rue, V., & Spence, M. (2007). Intrapersonal processes and post-abortion   relationship difficulties:  A review and consolidation of relevant literature. Internet Journal of Mental Health, 4 (2).

18. Coleman, P.K., Rue, V.M., Spence, M. & Coyle, C.T. (2008). Abortion and the sexual lives of men and women: Is casual sexual behavior more appealing and more common after abortion? International Journal of Health and Clinical Psychology, 8 (1), 77-91.

19. Cougle, J. R., Reardon, D. C., & Coleman, P. K. (2005). Generalized anxiety following unintended pregnancies resolved through childbirth and abortion: A cohort study of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 19, 137-142.

20. Coyle, C.T., Coleman, P.K. & Rue, V.M. (2010). Inadequate preabortion counseling and decision conflict as predictors of subsequent relationship difficulties and psychological stress in men and women. Traumatology, 16 (1), 16-30. DOI:10.1177/1534765609347550.
21. Dingle, K., et al. (2008). Pregnancy loss and psychiatric disorders in young women: An Australian birth cohort study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 193, 455-460.

22. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Boden, J.M. (2009). Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 195, 420-426.
23. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Ridder, E. M. (2006). Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 16-24.

24. Gissler, M., et al. (2005). Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000. European Journal of Public Health, 15, 459-463.

25. Hemmerling, F., Siedentoff, F., & Kentenich, H. (2005). Emotional impact and acceptability of medical abortion with mifepristone: A German experience. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 26, 23-31.

26. Mota, N.P. et al (2010). Associations between abortion, mental disorders, and suicidal behaviors in a nationally representative sample. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(4), 239-246.

27. Pedersen, W. (2008). Abortion and depression: A population-based longitudinal study of young women. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 36, No. 4, 424-428.
28. Pedersen, W. (2007). Childbirth, abortion and subsequent substance use in young women: a population-based longitudinal study. Addiction, 102 (12), 1971-78.

29. Reardon, D. C., & Coleman, P. K. (2006). Relative treatment for sleep disorders following abortion and child delivery: A prospective record-based study. Sleep, 29 (1), 105-106.

30. Rees, D. I. & Sabia, J. J. (2007). The Relationship between Abortion and Depression: New Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Medical Science Monitor. 13(10): 430-436.
31. Suliman et al. (2007) Comparison of pain, cortisol levels, and psychological distress in women undergoing surgical termination of pregnancy under local anaesthesia versus intravenous sedation. BMC Psychiatry, 7 (24), p.1-9.
Dr. Coleman is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University.  A major concentration of her research has been the psychological outcomes among women who have experienced abortion.

Learn more: For more information on the APA Task Force on abortion and mental health, visit
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