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Study Linking Poor Pre-Abortion Counseling and PTSD Shows Need for New Legislation: Research Finds Poor Counseling Predicts Post-Abortion Psychological Problems

A new study has found that poor counseling before abortion is more likely to be followed by symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological problems.1

The results from an online survey of women and men who had been involved in a past abortion, published in the journal Traumatology, showed that inadequate counseling and disagreement between the partners about having the abortion were predictors for psychological and relationship problems.

For women, inadequate counseling was linked to relationship problems, psychological problems such as hyperarousal, intrusion or avoidance behaviors; and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to experience relationship problems and symptoms of intrusion and avoidance after inadequate pre-abortion counseling.

For both women and men, disagreement about the abortion decision meant they were more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD or to experience some PTSD symptoms.    

Overall, 54 percent of the women and 43 percent of the men reported all the symptoms for a clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Approximately 80 percent of women and 77 percent of men had at least one symptom of PTSD, and nearly 80 percent of women and 60 percent of men reported that the abortion experience was highly or overwhelmingly stressful.

The authors noted that the stress surrounding an unplanned or crisis pregnancy tends to lead to psychological vulnerability.

"The emotional strain and crisis and the lack of effectiveness of one's usual coping mechanisms may result in anxiety and an inability to function," they wrote. "… Thus, men and women facing a crisis pregnancy may need considerable more counseling than is currently being offered."

Most Women Don't Receive Adequate Counseling

Indeed, a previous survey of American and Russian women found that 84 percent of American women reported that they didn't receive adequate counseling before abortion, with 67 percent reporting that they didn't receive any counseling before the abortion and more than 50 percent saying they felt rushed or uncertain about the decision. Further, 64 percent said they felt pressured to abort and the same percentage reported that they didn't feel supported by their partner.

The same study found that 65 percent of American women reported all the symptoms necessary for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD, and that they attributed their symptoms to abortion.

Women themselves have reported that they want proper counseling before abortion. One survey found that 95 percent of women said they wanted to be informed of all the risks before undergoing an elective procedure such as abortion.

Unfortunately, much pre-abortion counseling—when it is offered—gives women and their partners or families deceptive or inadequate information in order to reassure or sell them on abortion, rather than helping them find the the best support and resources possible.

The Need for Legislation to Protect Women's Rights

Dr. David Reardon, the director of the Elliot Institute, says that the results of this latest survey point to a need for legislation proposed by the Stop Forced Abortions Alliance, which would hold abortion businesses liable for failing to screen women for coercion or for known factors that put them at risk for post-abortion psychological problems. This legislation was recently introduced in Missouri by state Rep. Cynthia Davis.

Without such legislation, it is nearly impossible for women who suffer psychological injuries from a coerced or unsafe abortion to hold the abortionist liable for even gross negligence in regard to pre-abortion screening and counseling," Reardon said.

"Proper screening will reduce abortion rates, especially among women being pressured into unwanted abortions or unsafe abortions, and will also reduce the rate of psychological illness associated with abortion," he added. "But the only way to that goal is remove the barriers which prevent women from holding abortionists liable for negligent screening and counseling."


1. Catherine Coyle, Priscilla Coleman and Vincent Rue, "Inadequate Preabortion Counseling and Decision Conflict as Predictors of Subsequent Relationship Difficulties and Psychological Stress in Men and Men," Traumatology XX(X): 1-15 (2010).

[22Jan2010, Springfield, IL,]