Let’s start by asking: Do abortions harm women? We know they harm some women; research has demonstrated as much. The study by Pricilla Coleman published in the British Journal of Psychiatry used data from 22 studies between 1995-2009 and found that “Women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be attributable to abortion.”
Understanding the full measure of these results, the author spares no feelings in her analysis. “This review offers the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world. Calling into question the conclusions from traditional reviews, the results revealed a moderate to highly increased risk of mental health problems after abortion. Consistent with the tenets of evidence-based medicine, this information should inform the delivery of abortion services.”
A Real Estimate of the Damage
To make these figures slightly more meaningful, let’s put them into real-life terms. An 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems because of an abortion is not the same as 81 percent had mental health problems because of abortion. It means that of the women in this study 81 percent of them are more likely to experience mental health issues as a result of having an abortion.
The next figure (10 percent) addresses the percentage of women who actually did have mental health problems directly related to their abortion. This means that of the 877,161 women in this study, roughly 87,000 had mental health issues because of their abortions.
Now if we apply this 10 percent figure to U.S. census data, the number becomes even more pronounced. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s research examining changes in abortion rates between the years 2000 and 2008, one in three women will have an abortion by age 45 (although this stat is disputed). Using Guttmacher’s own data along with the 2010 census data, that number comes out to roughly 18.6 million women.
If we use Coleman’s findings that 10 percent of 18.6 million women will have mental health problems due to an abortion, that number becomes approximately 1.8 million women. That means 1.8 million women will suffer from mental trauma directly caused by having an abortion before the age of 45. When we understand the magnitude of the problem, it’s easy to see why Coleman argued these results should inform how we deliver abortion services. Specifically, it should inform the abortion industry’s rhetoric.
Abortion Pushers Profit from Telling Women Lies
The messaging from organizations like Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider, demonstrate a stunning, almost willful lack of awareness, and gross insensivity towards women who are not “okay” with their abortion. Herein lies the problem for the abortion industry: their messaging campaigns amount to an ill-conceived attempt to make women feel better about their choice to abort by effectively telling them “it’s not a difficult decision,” and “don’t regret it.”
Their use of celebrity evangelism to advance the “you don’t owe anyone a justification” mantra undoubtedly skews the message to a one-sided view of the abortion experience. Targeted campaigns like these marginalize hundreds of thousands of women who do feel regret, who did find it a difficult decision, and who do think taking the life of their child does warrant at least some explanation. But these women have no voice in a pro-abortion culture, and their experiences are ignored by industry leaders, who make huge profits from their desperation.
The harm pro-abortion messaging campaigns are doing is compounded by several extenuating factors. Implicit in the pro-abortion messaging that tells women “no regrets,” for example, is the position that women can not feel regret about their abortions, so therefore they should not feel regret.
Telling women how they should feel disregards their most basic right to autonomy of thought and emotion. Violations of this kind are incredibly damaging, especially for individuals with existing emotional distress. This is precisely why leading therapeutic organizations recognize one’s autonomy as inviolate. It is foundational to the recovery process and is why the seriousness of focusing on “feel-good” messaging at the expense of real and experienced negative abortion outcomes, can not be overstated.
Invalidating Women’s Feelings Makes Them Feel Worse
Women have taken their own lives after having abortions. Are we really to believe their tragic deaths could have been avoided by a messaging campaign? Of course not, but the unapologetic sidelining of an entire group of women by an industry that never misses an opportunity to remind everyone they’re pro-woman is not only wrong, it harms women who need our support, not insensitive sloganeering.
Good grief—can you imagine the harm a mental health professional would cause by telling a depressed and suicidal client, “Just don’t feel that way?” They could have their credentials revoked, or worse.
Years ago I heard a psychologist define evil as “saying something that’s harmful is good for you.” This may explain why so many women are struggling with their abortions. They are being told that killing their child is really just a simple medical procedure. No big deal.
That is absurd in extreme. While the procedure itself may be simple, there is nothing simple about an abortion. Even pro-abortion advocates acknowledge women need to weigh their options before having one, making it at the very least a more involved decision than, say, lancing a mole.
For 1.8 million women, the emotional conflict created by telling them their abortion is at best good for them and at worst a neutral medical procedure contradicts everything they’re experiencing. This rhetoric is harmful—not because one side of the debate doesn’t like abortion, but because it’s bad psychologically.
The abortion industry uses coercive messaging to encourage conformity among women who have had abortions, and this is incredibly damaging to a woman’s recovery. The end-game of removing any glint of doubt about abortion’s acceptability denies the experiences of thousands of women in this country. The very same individuals who would never for a moment consider denying the experiences of individuals who have suffered gender discrimination don’t think twice about denying the pain of women who have suffered under the institution of abortion.
There is an obviousness here that needs addressing. The abortion industry uses this “positive” rhetoric because they truly do want all women to feel better about their choice to abort, and they know all women don’t. Some women have exposed the industry for treating them like cattle after being processed through the local clinic in an assembly-line fashion, with little to no regard for their personal needs.
Abortion providers also know that abortion is less popular now than at any time since Roe v. Wade. Clinics are closing, and rates are dropping. Abortion acolytes are flooding the court of public opinion with news images where throngs of women collectively celebrate their abortions as a truly positive life event. It’s absolute self-preservation for the industry.
Except that for 1.8 million women this kind of grotesque revelry over aborting one’s child stands in stark contrast to their own reality. They don’t feel unified by their abortion, they feel isolated, and rhetoric that tells them to feel differently compounds their pain and harms their recovery.
In this way, the pro-life movement may actually be a far safer place for these women because it acknowledges and validates their reality and the pain their decision has caused, while the pro-choice movement is singularly focused on denying negative outcomes in favor of advancing only pro-abortion rhetoric. There is no safe space for women to grieve and heal in the pro-abortion movement. This raises the question: How, then, can an industry that causes millions of women mental trauma really claim to care about them?