Psychological Reactions Reported After Abortion

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Editor’s Note: Please visit our home page for a full listing of abortion facts.

– David C. Reardon, Ph.D., Elliot Institute

This survey instrument was distributed to women who had contact with WEBA, Victims of Choice, or Last Harvest Ministries. The latter two organizations used it as an intake form for women inquiring about post-abortion counseling or crisis pregnancy counseling. Compared to women who received the questionnaire from these latter two sources, the 111 participants from the WEBA distribution were significantly more likely to have already participated in post-abortion healing programs, and were significantly more likely to report feeling “reconciled with” their abortion “today” (56.1% vs 13.9%).

Using chi-square tests for significance, women who had at least one abortion as a teen were significantly more likely to report: nightmares; flashbacks to the abortion; hysterical outbreaks; unforgiveness of those involved; feelings of guilt; fear of punishment from God; fear of harm coming upon their other children; a worsening of negative feelings about the abortion on the anniversary date of the abortion, during a later pregnancy, or when exposed to pro-choice propaganda; preoccupation with thoughts of the child they could have had; excessive interest in pregnant women; excessive interest in babies; experiencing false pregnancies; a dramatic personality change for the worse; a waking or sleeping “visitation” from the aborted child; having talked to the aborted child prior to the abortion.

Women who aborted as teens were significantly less likely to report: a history of professional counseling prior to their abortion; that the memory of the abortion has faded with time; having undergone surgical sterilization to avoid the risk of another abortion; feeling more in touch with their feelings after the abortion; feelings of hatred toward all men.

Women who reported having had more than one abortion were significantly more likely to report: a history of being physically abused as a child; a period of strong feelings of relief after the abortion; being pro-choice after the abortion; hatred of the man who made them pregnant; ending the relationship with their partner after the abortion; difficulty in maintaining and developing personal relationships; becoming promiscuous; being self-destructive; beginning to use or increasing the use of drugs after the abortion; feelings of anxiety; fear of God; fear of another pregnancy; fear of needing another abortion; fear for unknown reasons; frequently experiencing heavy bleeding after the abortion; emotional aftereffects of the abortion which were so severe that there was a period in which they could not function normally at home, work, or in personal relationships; having experienced a nervous breakdown at some time after the abortion.

Women with a history of multiple abortions were significantly less likely to report: that the memory of their abortion was vividly clear; a worsening of abortion related feelings on the anniversary date of the abortion or the due date of the pregnancy.

A total of 260 women participated in this survey. Most questions are answered on a Likert scale between 1 and 5 indicating the range of the subjects agreement or disagreement with a statement regarding a particular reaction to their abortion. Since some women skipped questions which they felt were not applicable to them, or did not want to answer, or answered in a form that could not be coded, each item is accompanied by a number in parenthesis (N) which indicates the number of women who responded to that question. The percentages given correspond to this (N).

Section 1 


Present age:

<20

20-24

25-29

30-34

35-39

>39

2.7%

11.2%

27.0%

24.3%

23.9%

10.8%

(N = 259) Avg: 32.0 yrs

Race or ethnic origin:

White

Non-White

92.3%

7.7%

(N = 255)

State of residence:

Respondents from 35 states

Highest grade

completed:

<12

12

13

14

15

16

17

>17

7.5%

40.2%

12.2%

17.7%

1.6%

16.9%

1.2%

2.8%

(N = 254) Avg: 13.6 yrs

How old were you at

the time of your abortion?

<15

15-19

20-24

25-29

30-34

>35

1.9%

40.1%

36.2%

15.6%

4.3%

1.9%

(N = 257) Avg: 21.5 yrs

Time since abortion,

in years: 

(a calculated field) 

<6

6-10

11-15

16-20

>20 

19.8%

33.1%

31.1%

12.1%

3.9%

(N = 257) Avg: 10.6 yrs

Was

your abortion.. . .

LEGAL or

ILLEGAL?

(Indicated one of each)

92.1%

7.1% 

.8% 

(N = 251)

How many abortions have

you had?

One

Two

Three

Four or more

73.6%

17.8%

5%

3.5%

(N = 258)

Marital status at that

time:

Single

Married

Engaged

Separated/Divorced

64.6%

15.4%

7.1%

13.0%

(N = 254)

How many weeks pregnant

were you at that time?

<5

5-6

7-8

9-10

11-12

13-16

16-20

>20

7.7%

11.7%

28.3%

16.2%

21.1%

10.9%

2.4%

1.6%

(N = 247) Avg: 9.6 wks

How many children did

you have at that time?

Zero

One

Two

Three

Over Three

74.2%

13.8%

8.5%

2.7%

0%

(N = 260)

What type of abortion

procedure was used?

Suction

D & C

Saline/ 

Prostaglandin

Other

80.0%

13.5%

3.7%

2.9%

(N = 245)

Were you awake during

the procedure?

Yes

No

Unsure

79.6%

18.8%

1.6%

(N = 255)

 

 

Were you given pain

killers or anesthetics prior to the operation?

Yes

No

Unsure

54.7%

32.0%

13.3%

(N = 256)


Section 2

The questions in the following section require an answer on a

scale of ranging from 5 to 1. Answer by circling number 5 if you strongly agree

with the statement, 4 if you agree , and 3 if you are uncertain . If you disagree

with the statement, circle number 2, and if you strongly disagree with the

statement or if the opposite was true in your case, circle number 1. If you believe the

question does not apply to you, leave it blank.


 

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

1.

Prior to my abortion, I believed

that abortion was a moral choice.

(252)

15.1%

9.1%

36.9%

22.2%

16.7%

2.

I believed abortion should be a legal option

for all women.

(257)

29.2%

10.1%

24.9%

19.5%

16.3%

3.

My choice to abort was consistent with my prior

beliefs about abortion.

(254)

36.2%

17.3%

18.5%

16.1%

11.8%

4.

My choice was inconsistent with my prior

beliefs. I felt my decision was a betrayal of my own ideals.

(248)

12.9%

11.3%

15.3%

14.9%

45.6%

5.

My decision to have an abortion was an

agonizing one.

(256)

8.4%

11.6%

7.2%

18.5%

54.2%

6.

Prior to my abortion I was a religious person.

(259)

16.6%

19.7%

17.0%

26.3%

20.5%

7.

There was a time prior to my abortion when I

received professional counseling for emotional or psychiatric difficulties.

(248)

59.7%

12.9%

4.0%

10.1%

13.3%

8.

The memory of my abortion has faded with time.

(256)

52.0%

22.3%

6.6%

10.2%

9.0%

9.

The memory of my abortion is vividly clear.

(255)

8.2%

10.2%

9.8%

25.1%

46.7%

10.

The abortion procedure was painful.

(257)

10.9%

8.2%

12.1%

22.2%

46.7%


Section 3

The following is a checklist of possible post-abortion

reactions. Answers again range from 1, “Strongly Disagree,” to 5, “Strongly

Agree.” In general, answer 2 for NO , 3 for Uncertain , and 4 for YES . Only if you

experienced a severe reaction, should you answer with number 5. If you experienced a

strong reaction opposite to the one questioned, answer by circling number 1. If the

question is not applicable to your case, leave the question blank. 


AFTER MY ABORTION, I

EXPERIENCED FEELINGS OF:

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

1.

Guilt

(256)

0.4%

2.3%

4.7%

31.3%

61.3%

2.

Depression

(255)

0.4%

3.9%

7.5%

35.7%

52.5%

3.

Anger

(255)

1.2%

9.0%

9.0%

35.7%

45.1%

4.

Sorrow

(255)

0.4%

2.4%

5.5%

36.5%

55.3%

 

5.

Happiness

(241)

62.2%

22.4%

7.9%

5.4%

2.1%

6.

Grief

(255)

0.8%

5.5%

9.0%

40.8%

43.9%

7.

Bitterness

(251)

3.2%

8.8%

13.5%

34.7%

39.8%

8.

Regret

(257)

1.9%

3.5%

9.7%

32.7%

52.1%

 

9.

Rage

(245)

9.4%

20.0%

20.4%

21.2%

29.0%

10.

Anguish

(245)

2.0%

7.8%

14.3%

37.1%

38.8%

11.

Remorse

(254)

1.6%

5.9%

6.3%

41.3%

44.9%

12.

Power

(237)

58.6%

23.2%

12.2%

3.8%

2.1%

 

13.

Despair

(245)

2.4%

9.8%

13.9%

35.5%

38.4%

14.

Shame

(254)

0.4%

2.8%

5.9%

39.0%

52.0%

15.

Horror

(241)

4.6%

13.3%

23.2%

29.0%

29.9%

16.

Unworthiness

(254)

1.6%

3.9%

8.7%

33.5%

52.4%

 

17.

Loneliness

(250)

2.0%

6.8%

7.6%

38.4%

45.2%

18.

Hopelessness

(247)

2.0%

11.3%

13.4%

32.0%

41.3%

19.

Helplessness

(248)

2.0%

14.1%

11.7%

31.5%

40.7%

20.

Self-condemnation

(251)

1.2%

2.4%

5.6%

33.9%

57.0%

 

21.

Liberation

(234)

44.4%

25.2%

16.7%

11.5%

2.1%

22.

Rejection

(238)

4.6%

10.1%

24.8%

31.1%

29.4%

23.

Confusion

(250)

1.2%

6.4%

11.6%

44.4%

36.4%

24.

Anxiety

(248)

1.6%

6.5%

10.5%

43.5%

37.9%

 

25.

Constant stress

(246)

2.0%

14.2%

19.5%

33.3%

30.9%

26.

Withdrawal

(245)

2.9%

15.5%

16.7%

33.1%

31.8%

27.

Isolation

(241)

3.3%

17.4%

17.4%

31.5%

30.3%

28.

Sexual freedom

(235)

40.0%

25.5%

19.1%

11.1%

4.3%

 

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

29.

Self-hatred

(250)

2.8%

6.8%

13.6%

33.2%

43.6%

30.

Alienation from others

(238)

3.4%

20.6%

18.5%

31.9%

25.6%

31.

Inner peace

(237)

63.7%

25.7%

5.5%

2.1%

3.0%

32.

Unforgiveness of self

(258)

1.9%

5.8%

6.6%

31.4%

54.3%

 

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

33.

Unforgiveness of those involved

(252)

5.6%

15.5%

14.7%

34.9%

29.4%

34.

Having become degraded or debased

(243)

2.1%

12.8%

17.7%

37.4%

30.0%

35.

Having been exploited by other

(243)

2.9%

15.2%

19.3%

30.9%

31.7%

36.

Hatred of those involved

(240)

7.9%

22.5%

22.9%

22.9%

23.8%

 

37.

Hatred of man who made me pregnant

(249)

15.3%

29.7%

20.1%

16.9%

18.1%

38.

Hatred of all men

(243)

23.0%

33.7%

19.8%

15.2%

8.2%

39.

Fear of punishment from God

(249)

4.4%

12.0%

13.3%

34.9%

35.3%

40.

Fear of harm to my other children

(218)

17.0%

21.6%

12.8%

25.2%

23.4%

 

41.

Fear of another pregnancy

(245)

13.5%

23.7%

13.9%

25.3%

23.7%

42.

Fear of needing another abortion

(244)

24.2%

28.7%

12.3%

15.2%

19.7%

43.

Fear of touching babies

(246)

24.8%

37.0%

13.0%

13.8%

11.4%

44.

Fear of others learning of abortion

(255)

5.5%

9.4%

8.2%

42.0%

34.9%

 

45.

Fear of making decisions

(245)

6.9%

21.6%

23.3%

28.2%

20.0%

46.

Fear for unknown reasons

(245)

6.1%

16.3%

20.8%

28.6%

28.2%

AFTER MY ABORTION, I

EXPERIENCED:

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

1.

Nightmares

(241)

16.2%

22.4%

14.9%

28.6%

17.8%

2.

Insomnia

(243)

15.2%

25.5%

14.4%

25.5%

19.3%

3.

Flashbacks to the abortion

(249)

8.0%

18.1%

10.4%

35.3%

28.1%

4.

Hysterical outbreaks

(244)

11.1%

25.4%

12.7%

22.5%

28.3%

 

5.

Uncontrollable weeping

(242)

5.8%

14.5%

9.9%

35.5%

34.3%

6.

Suicidal feelings

(244)

12.3%

22.5%

9.4%

24.2%

31.6%

7.

Greater closeness toward my lover

(242)

51.7%

29.8%

9.1%

7.0%

2.5%

8.

A loss of self-confidence

(249)

2.4%

9.2%

12.9%

38.2%

37.3%

9.

A loss of self-esteem

(254)

1.2%

5.9%

10.6%

38.2%

44.1%

 

 

10.

A loss of dignity

(251)

1.2%

8.0%

10.4%

42.2%

38.2%

11.

A general sense of loss

(253)

1.6%

4.3%

7.9%

42.3%

43.9%

12.

Greater self-awareness

(237)

36.3%

27.8%

19.0%

11.8%

5.1%

 

13.

Hallucinations related to abortion

(233)

30.0%

41.6%

13.7%

6.9%

7.7%

14.

Eating disorders such as bulimia anorexia, or

binge eating.

(241)

22.4%

31.5%

7.5%

20.3%

18.3%

15.

A general sense of emptiness

(248)

1.6%

7.7%

7.3%

42.7%

40.7%

16.

A loss of sympathy for others

(242)

16.5%

22.7%

21.5%

22.7%

16.5%

 

17.

A compulsion to be a perfect mother

(231)

10.0%

19.0%

21.2%

24.7%

25.1%

18.

An inability to keep jobs

(232)

27.6%

33.6%

14.2%

15.9%

8.6%

19.

A loss of concentration

(236)

8.9%

22.5%

21.2%

29.2%

18.2%

20.

A difficulty in maintaining and developing

personal relationships

(246)

9.3%

19.5%

14.2%

30.1%

26.8%

AFTER MY ABORTION, I

BECAME:

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

1.

Preoccupied with thoughts of death.

(243)

14.4%

29.6%

13.2%

20.6%

22.2%

2.

Preoccupied with thoughts of the child I could

have had.

(252)

5.6%

12.7%

10.3%

34.9%

36.5%

3.

Excessively interested in pregnant women.

(243)

21.0%

33.7%

15.2%

17.7%

12.3%

4.

Excessively interested in babies.

(244)

18.9%

28.3%

15.2%

19.3%

18.4%

NEGATIVE FEELINGS

ABOUT MY ABORTION BECAME WORSE:

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

1.

On the due date of pregnancy.

(238)

10.9%

25.6%

20.6%

21.8%

21.0%

2.

On the anniversary of the abortion.

(235)

11.5%

17.4%

19.6%

26.4%

25.1%

3.

During a later pregnancy.

(199)

16.1%

18.1%

11.1%

28.6%

26.1%

4.

At the birth of a later child.

(200)

19.5%

21.0%

10.5%

23.0%

26.0%

5.

At the time of a later miscarriage.

(151)

33.8%

28.5%

10.6%

11.3%

15.9%

6.

When I later tried to get pregnant.

(181)

24.3%

24.3%

11.0%

19.9%

20.4%

7.

When exposed to pro-life propaganda.

(242)

8.3%

9.9%

5.0%

38.8%

38.0%

8.

When exposed to pro-choice propaganda.

(227)

10.6%

15.0%

9.3%

31.3%

33.9%

9.

When exposed to information in the mass media

about fetal development.

(239)

7.1%

8.4%

7.9%

34.3%

42.3%

AFTER MY ABORTION:

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

1.

I felt more in touch with my

emotions.

(247)

37.7%

36.4%

14.2%

6.1%

5.7%

2.

I felt a need to block out and stifle my

feelings.

(250)

3.2%

6.8%

10.8%

35.2%

44.0%

3.

I needed to “force” myself to be

happy.

(250)

2.0%

10.8%

17.6%

38.8%

30.8%

4.

I felt unable to grieve.

(248)

8.5%

17.7%

13.7%

35.1%

25.0%

5.

My attitude toward life became more callused or

hardened.

(245)

5.3%

11.4%

17.6%

35.5%

30.2%

6.

I felt more in control of my life.

(244)

41.8%

41.4%

9.4%

3.7%

3.7%

7.

I started losing my temper more easily.

(245)

5.3%

14.3%

21.2%

35.1%

24.1%

8.

I became more violent when angered.

(246)

10.6%

26.4%

15.4%

26.8%

20.7%

9.

I began to drink more heavily.

(244)

27.0%

27.5%

9.0%

19.3%

17.2%

 

If so, would you

describe yourself as having become an alcoholic?

(107)

Yes

No

Unsure

27.1%

50.5%

22.4%

10.

I began to use, or increased my use of drugs.

(N)

Strongly 

Disagree

 

 

 

Strongly 

Agree

(234)

33.8%

20.5%

5.1%

21.4%

19.2%

 

If so, would you

describe yourself as having become addicted?

(106)

Yes

No

Unsure