The Elliot Institute News  
From the Leader in Post-Abortion Research
Vol. 8, No. 10 -- Oct. 28, 2009


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Psychiatric Disorders Linked
to Abortion for Fetal Anomalies


A study of women who experienced serious complications during pregnancy found that women who undergo late abortions due to fetal anomalies are more likely to experience psychiatric disorders compared to women who give birth prematurely.


The study of 170 German women, published in the Archives of Women's Mental Health, found that 22 percent of women were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder after abortion, compared to 18 percent of women who gave birth to a baby with very low-birth-weight (VLBW) and 6 percent of women who had a healthy full-term pregnancy.


The abortions took place in the second or third trimester after an adverse diagnosis was given. VLBW was defined as having a birth weight of less than 1500 grams (about 3 pounds) or a birth before 32 weeks' gestation. The women in the study were interviewed by mental health clinicians at 14 days, 6 months and 14 months after the end of the pregnancy. 


While the three groups of women "did not differ significantly" on psychiatric disorders prior to abortion or delivery, the researchers noted a difference afterwards, with women who had abortions having the highest rates of psychiatric disorders. Further, 16 percent of women who had abortions had psychiatric disorders 14 months later, compared to 7 percent of women with preterm births and none of the women with healthy pregnancies. 


The disorders found among women who had abortions included acute
stress disorders, eating disorders, affective disorders and anxiety disorders, with depression and anxiety predominating over time. Just over 64 percent of aborting women in the study developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a finding comparable to a
survey published in the Medical Science Monitor that found 65 percent of women who aborted reported symptoms of PTSD that they attributed to their abortions.


The authors reported that for most women, abortions in the 2nd or 3rd trimester after a negative fetal diagnosis "are major life events" that can cause ongoing problems even months after the event. They called for more resources and better screening to help identify those who might be at risk for problems after abortion and need psychological support.




Learn more: Access the world's most extensive online library of studies on the physical and psychological effects of abortion at


You can also download free fact sheets on the risks of abortion and coercion here.




A. Kersting et. al., "Psychological impact on women after second and third trimester termination of pregnancy due to fetal anomalies versus women after preterm birth--a 14-month follow-up study," Archives of Women's Mental Health 12:193-201 (2009). 






Women Tell Their Stories Of Abortion
After Prenatal Testing


Women who have had abortions due to fetal anomalies often describe pressure from their doctors to abort and little time to make a decision. Many receive poor information -- including outdated or overly negative information about their child's condition, and little or no information on resources or about those have successfully parented children with the same condition. And many struggle with the experience afterward, often for many years.


One woman who described herself as pro-choice wrote in the London Guardian about being being immediately sent off to a consultant after being told her unborn child had Down Syndrome.


"He then told us what the prognosis would be for the child," she wrote. "Life expectancy of 30 or 40. Never being able to look after himself. Likely to have a serious medical problem all his life. And also what the prognosis would mean for [our two-year-old son].  Now a very happy child, he would have a completely different childhood with such a sick sibling."


She was shocked to find out that once they agreed to the abortion, she was expected to take a pill "then and there" to begin the process. And she also described later feelings of grief, guilt, doubt, hatred of pregnant women and anger at the rest of the world.


Another woman who had an abortion after learning her child had Down Syndrome described a similar experience.


"I was 26 weeks pregnant when I found out the baby had Down Syndrome," she wrote. "The doctor, my family and a so-called 'Christian' counselor  thought it would be to my and the baby's advantage if I had the abortion ... The counselor was very pushy and told me I should have an abortion if I
really loved my child ...


"The abortion was cruel ... No one ever told me about all the emotional baggage I would be required to carry for the rest of my life. It destroyed my life! My marriage suffered tremendously and my relationships with others were also affected because I no longer trusted anyone."


The Need to Protect the Rights of Mothers and Babies


The Elliot Institute has called for legislation that would provide for legal liability for abortion businesses that fail to screen for coercion and other factors (including later abortion and abortion for negative fetal diagnosis) that are known to put women at risk for psychological problems after abortion. For more information on this legislation, visit






The Impact of Abortion
After Prenatal Testing

Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles


Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from the book Women's Health After Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Impact by Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles of the de Veber Institute. Due to space limitations, we are printing only part of the excerpted article in this newsletter. Click here to read the whole article and view the citations.


In advanced industrial countries, prenatal testing in order to detect fetal abnormalities has become routine. The amount of genetic information that has become available has expanded enormously in the past few years. While there are a number of ways of carrying out these tests, for each of them there is a danger of inaccurate results, and for some of them there is the additional hazard of injury to the fetus.


In past decades, little emphasis has been placed on the psychological outcome for women who abort a child owing to genetic disorders following prenatal diagnosis. But one signifcant change in recent years has been the growing amount of available genetic information about individual fetuses. This information increases the likelihood that a woman will have an abortion, perhaps at a late stage of her pregnancy.


Parents Unprepared for Diagnosis


Pregnant women and their partners are often unprepared for the news
that they are carrying a "defective" fetus. An abortion undergone in haste
and under coercive pressure can have devastating consequences, not
only for the parents, but for their other children. Is enough being done to
inform women about the implications of prenatal testing, and to provide
them with alternatives to abortion when tests prove positive?


There often appears to be dissonance between the practitioner's
understanding of the purpose of prenatal testing and the pregnant
woman's perception of the procedure. While the practitioner may view
the diagnostic tests as a way of preventing the birth of a "defective" child,
pregnant women seek them out for reassurance that their babies are
healthy. [1] For many expectant couples, the link between prenatal testing
and abortion, at least initially, does not exist.[2] Even when birth defects
and abortions are explicitly discussed, the pregnant woman and her partner
often simply do not link this outcome to prenatal diagnosis.[3]


This may be in part because genetic counselors do not make this link
explicit to their clients. In her study of the effects of prenatal diagnosis on
the dynamics of pregnancy, Barbara Katz Rothman found that, while
genetics counselors might assume that selective abortion would follow
the detection of an anomaly, rarely did they offer any information about
actual abortion procedures. Indeed, some did not even include a
discussion of abortion in the first counseling session. Furthermore, they
do not provide infomation favorable to a child with special needs.


Read the rest of the excerpted article here




This article was excerpted from the book Women's Health After Abortion:
The Medical and Psychological Impact, by Elizabeth Ring Cassidy and Ian
Gentles. Copyright 2002, Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles.
Reprinted with permission.


Learn More: For more information on the psychological implications of
abortion, see the book
Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion
by Theresa Burke with David C. Reardon.






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