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Illinois Federation

For Right to Life

Daily News

Monday, August 18, 2008

Post-Abortion Women Challenge Psychologists’ Claim of ‘Harmless’ Abortions


Women who have had abortions, scientists, and pro-life advocates are joining forces to refute the findings of an American Psychological Association (APA) task force that claims women who have one abortion do not experience any more mental problems than women who decide to give birth.


“The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion or deliver the pregnancy,” said Brenda Mayor, lead psychologist on the APA task force, in a press release about the report, which was released last week.


The study has outraged women like Leslee Unruh, whose decision to have an abortion inspired her to dedicate her life to helping other women who she says have lived to regret that decision and who say they have suffered both emotional and physical damage as a result.


“It’s one thing to take our money and do what they did to harm us,” Unruh, who founded the Alpha Center pregnancy resource in her home state of South Dakota and is the moving force behind Initiated Measure 11 on the state’s November ballot to ban abortion, told “It’s another to dismiss our grieving. That is the ultimate slap.”


“The APA should advocate a closer examination of the grief and warn women of the well-documented dangers (of abortion),” Theresa Burke, founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, a Christian recovery program for post-abortive women, said in response to the task force’s finding.


“Instead, the APA continues to censor information, de-legitimize research, prohibit opposing points of view, obstruct discussions, avoid scholarly debates and promote intolerance of those who are negatively impacted by abortion,” said Burke.


Repeated requests by to interview several members of the APA task force, including Major, and separate requests for comments from the APA were not answered by press time.


Alveda King, niece of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., evoked her famous uncle’s call for civil rights for all people, including pregnant women and their unborn children, in reaction to the report.


“(Abortion) violates the civil rights and human rights of the baby in the womb and then it hurts the mother,” King, who has had two abortions and a miscarriage related to those abortions, told She added that most post-abortion women she has met say they have suffered irrevocable damage.


“The (APA) wants to say we are the exception to the rule … but for every one woman they can find that says they weren’t harmed by abortion … they could find 10 women who were,” said King.


King, who works on pro-life causes with Priests for Life, was one of 2,000 like-minded women who signed sworn affidavits of the harm caused them by having an abortion as part of the Gonzales v. Carhart case, in which the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion.


The affidavits were gathered by Operation Outcry, a project of the Justice Foundation, a conservative non-profit public interest litigation firm.


The Justice Foundation also responded to the APA report by posting a press release on its Web site naming 100 medical and mental health professionals who spoke out against the report.


They said that choosing abortion can lead to “severe depression and loss of self-esteem,” and they confirmed that the medical profession should not ignore the “significant numbers of women who suffer serious physical, mental or psychological trauma as a result of abortion.”


The APA report did note that some of the studies used for the report said “some women do experience sadness, grief and feelings of loss following an abortion and some may experience clinically significant disorders, including depression and anxiety.”


However, the task force found “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”


Critics of the report also said that while its authors allude to the fact that the connection between mental health and women who have multiple abortions is less clear, they fail to mention that more than half of the women who have one abortion go on to have more.


“I think the study is flawed,” Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, a network of pregnancy resource centers, told


Hartshorn said two of those flaws are 1) not including many credible studies that show a distinct link between abortion and mental health problems for the women who have them and 2) the political agenda of task force members, including lead author Major, who is a recognized pro-abortion advocate.


“The study has to be politically motivated to perpetuate the myth that abortion is a helpful and positive choice for women,” Hartshorn said. “(The study) ignores the testimonies of women who have had several psychological and emotional issues after having an abortion.”


Unruh told that she wished the authors of the APA report could meet with the almost 100 women who are in her ALIVE post-abortion support group, or an American Indian woman who lives on a reservation in South Dakota and joined a rally supporting the 2006 ballot measure to ban abortion in the state.


“I’m holding this sign because I can’t hold my two children,” the woman told Unruh, adding that after two abortions she was infertile. “The only two children I had, I killed.”


“I wish I could put (the authors of the study) in a room with us and have them look into our eyes and tell us about the report,” Unruh said. “I wish they could talk to the women themselves.”


The measure Unruh’s Vote Yes for Life got on the November ballot in South Dakota would ban abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, and if the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother.


Contact: Penny Starr


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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.