Abortion proponents have embraced a drastic shift in messaging over the past few decades. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” was the standard line — which is a far cry from today’s well-traveled maxims like “Free Abortion on Demand Without Apology” and “Shout Your Abortion.” Indeed, in the heart of abortion’s most ardent base, the strategy entails encouraging pride over shame and celebration over regret. But does this shift reflect the experiences of those who are disinclined to “shout” their abortions?
There’s an accusation lurking in the subtext of the abortion debate over abortion regret, implying that no woman should feel bad “terminating a pregnancy” if it was never suggested that abortion itself is bad. How paternalistic. First, “Big Abortion” sells women short by suggesting they will never be able to handle both a career and a family, and then they sell them an abortion. And now, abortion zealots make themselves the masters of how women must feel about it.
The pro-life movement at large has consistently perceived two victims in an abortion scenario — a child whose life is on the line, and a mother who is vulnerable to an industry that profits from violence and deceit. Those selling abortion must sever the one-of-a-kind physical relationship between mother and gestating child through abortion — lethal pregnancy violence that will be painfully understood by a mother when she finds herself empty of life.
Widespread abortion regret is supported by data, yet seldom reported. The physical and psychological risks of abortion are well known to those of us who support post-abortive women. New studies have shown that women who have abortions are 81 percent more likely to experience subsequent mental health problems. This includes being 110 percent more likely to abuse alcohol and 115 percent more likely to develop suicidal behavior following abortion. Another study notes women who ended their first pregnancy by abortion are five times more likely to report subsequent substance abuse than women who carried the pregnancy to term and four times more likely to report substance abuse compared to those whose first pregnancy ended naturally.
But the best source for understanding abortion regret is the women who have experienced it firsthand. Consider an entire legion of both men and women who were traumatized by abortion yet feel unwelcome in the Shout Your Abortion era.
For every handful of celebrities shouting their abortions, there’s one who courageously goes against the abortion-loving mob to tell a different truth. In 2015, Nicki Minaj said in an interview that her high school abortion has “haunted her all her life.” Eminem’s 2017 song “River” puts on full display his abortion regret as a father. In 2020, Kanye West broke down in public while explaining how much pain he suffers for even considering aborting his daughter, North, as well as his wrestling with the knowledge that he himself was almost aborted.
From our own work at Students for Life of America’s Standing with You program. We know that women struggle for years to grapple with the loss of their child through abortion or the fallout of abortion fathers and families experience. Healing ministries like Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard, and Support After Abortion exist to offer loving care to those experiencing grief.
But the second flaw in the argument against the realities of abortion regret is in who is making it. Consider that those encouraging the celebration of abortion are also in the abortion business. This is further evidenced by the fact that a disproportionate number of abortion ‟researchers” are funded by pro-abortion entities.
If, for example, the “everyone loves abortion” research comes from the Bixby Center at the University of California (as it often does), it’s highly relevant that the Center is funded and organized to find in favor of abortion. The Bixby Center trains abortionists through its Ryan Residency Training Program and is funded by population control-loving Warren Buffett, along with Planned Parenthood and their Guttmacher Institute and Gynuity Health Projects, which profits from chemical abortion sales and so on. The Bixby Center is as unbiased on abortion as The Tobacco Institute is on cigarettes.
Even worse than the clear and present bias in abortion data is the audacity of those blaming pro-lifers for abortion regret to cite The Turnaway Study, which is famously so flawed that a Planned Parenthood exec could drive their Lamborghini through the holes in its reasoning.
The study was published in 2015 by the abortion group ANSIRH and, in simplest terms, is an attempt to dismiss the trauma and long-standing pain many women feel following an abortion. It tries to conclude that women are hurt by being denied an abortion, but as explored at length by Live Action, Turnaway has four glaring problems: a bad study sample, no true control group, a lackluster assessment of physical health, and misleading questions.
The study tracks only a small number of women — fewer than 200 — who were denied abortions. Additionally, the results were only presented at an academic conference. This data has not appeared in an academic journal nor gone through the peer-review process. Finally, the study — and the full results — do not appear to be publicly available. Thus, despite shamefully poor research practices and an utter failure to prove the claim it set out to, that women don’t regret abortion, it’s still propped up “Weekend at Bernie’s” style by abortion proponents.
Furthermore, these women were denied abortions not because of legal restrictions, but because many facilities do not carry out late-term abortions.
It’s fascinating that a movement once sold as “pro-choice” refuses to allow women the freedom to feel loss after receiving an abortion. Every parent who made an abortion decision, from the main streets of pro-life communities to the pro-abortion hills of Hollywood, deserves the freedom to be honest about their experience. And for those who want to process those feelings, the pro-life community is here to help.