Study Finds Posttraumatic Stress Disorder after Abortions

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Men and women who felt they had inadequate counseling before an abortion, as well as those who disagreed with their partners about the decision to abort, were more likely to experience personal and interpersonal problems following the procedure, according to a new paper published in the medical journal Traumatology.

Researchers Catherine T. Coyle, Priscilla K. Coleman, and Vincent M. Rue - all experts in the after-effects of abortion - collected data via online surveys from 374 women who had a prior abortion and 198 men whose partners had experienced elective abortion. 

The results found that women who expressed dissatisfaction with their pre-abortion counseling tended to have relationship problems, such as obsessive intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal - and also tended to describe the full diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Men with the same pre-abortion experience reported similar interpersonal trauma.

When the individuals reported that their partner disagreed with the decision to abort, women were more likely to report PTSD and intrusion tendencies, while in men such disagreement was linked with PTSD, intrusion, hyperarousal, and other relationship problems.

The researchers pointed out that few studies have examined men's psychological responses to elective abortion, although the procedure has been commonly linked to subsequent feelings of anger, anxiety, guilt, grief, and powerlessness in men.

"Although men are involved with conception and abortion, they are not routinely offered abortion counseling," they write.  "Despite the call for greater inclusion of and attention to males in abortion clinics, little has changed.  Most men who accompany women for abortion do not receive counseling and are left alone to wait."

David Reardon, Executive Director of the Eliott Institute, told in an email Wednesday that the results of the study confirmed the importance of legislation to enforce better regulations on abortion, such as Missouri's Negligent Screening Act (HB1236). HB1236, sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Davis, would mandate that women seeking abortion be evaluated for risk factors for adverse psychological effects following an abortion, such as whether she is being coerced or pressured into the procedure.

"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," said Reardon.

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

Kathleen Gilbert
Publish Date:
January 13, 2010
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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.