The reality of terminating a life is not something that many can ignore. For numerous women who have an abortion, the decision will not result in empowerment, as pro-choice advocates would have one believe, but in mourning and pain. Mourning the immediate loss of a life unlived, and the pain that may come from experiencing serious mental health repercussions down the road.
As reported by Punam Kumar Gill in her new documentary Hush, every year in the U.S., over one million women will undergo an induced abortion. Many of these women, either shortly after their abortion or many years in the future, will come to regret this decision.
A 2000 study cited by Hush and prepaired by Dr. Brenda Major, a Professor of Psychology & Communications at the University of California, recorded that approximately 21% of American women who receive an abortion believed that their abortion did more harm than good. This percentage grew to 28% within two years of the abortion. This means of the one million women who have abortions each year in the US, more than 280,000 of them believe, within two years, that their abortion did more harm than good.
In a 2009 study, Seng and colleagues found that 20% of pregnant women from eight midwestern US clinics had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women were asked to identify the single worst trauma they had ever experienced, considering five types of possible traumatic events.
The women identified two traumas as their “worst” - past abuse and reproductive trauma.
The report specifically identified miscarriage and abortion as reproductive losses that for many women were their “worst” trauma ever.
A 2013 study by Curley and Johnston of North American University students (U.S. and Canada) found all women with a history of abortion had elevated trauma scores on the Impact of Events Scale and perinatal grief on the Perinatal Grief Scale on average three years after the abortion, with about half of these women desiring treatment.
Despite these studies, the emotional scars of these hurting mothers are unacknowledged by the media, policy makers and the mainstream medical community. Instead of compassion, these women have been labeled “statistically insignificant” by those who wish to protect abortion as a policy in America. Even in the face of countless studies linking abortion to breast cancer and pre-term birth, the women most affected by these risks aren’t being told the truth about abortion.
The recent Supreme Court decision in Texas provides greater insight into why such evidence is ignored.
In their majority decision the Supreme Court overturned several Texas abortion laws meant to protect the health of the mother, instead, ruling that the laws infringed on the mothers ability to access abortion. In the words of Chief Justice Clarence Thomas, the majority ruling,
“reappoints this Court as ‘the country’s ex officio medical board with powers to disapprove medical and operative practices and standards throughout the United States.’”
However, as the self-appointed medical board, the Court did not act like its post demanded, but ruled against the application of standard medical procedures to abortion. These procedures were meant to protect women receiving an abortion from medical malpractice, as was witnessed in the horrific Kermit Gosnell case in PA. In this instance, instead of ruling to protect women, the Court ruled to protect abortion providers. (Incidentally, health inspectors in several states have cited the abortion clinics at the center of the case for numerous health and sanitation violations)
“has become a sacrament of a modern humanistic religion that emphasizes the woman as the single moral arbiter of her body.”
The Court’s decision to terminate the Texas laws was a doctrinal statement in a public religion that has dominated this country for the past 40 years. A religion vindicated and substantiated by the Court ruling during Roe V. Wade, where the woman’s right to abort her unborn child became a sacred right that could not be infringed upon, no matter the risk to the woman who chooses one. Ironically, even if her decision to abort has long-term health effects, it is clear that a woman’s health is no longer part of the conversation.
Based on the evidence cited in Hush and elsewhere, there are clear indicators that there are major health risks associated with having an abortion.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Texas is a distinct example of our country’s intentional neglect of this evidence. In their effort to protect pro-choice policy, the Court has substituted a woman’s right to free information for cheap propaganda. Abortion trumps safety.
The mission of Hush is to dispel the misinformation surrounding the health risks of abortion and to start a healthy conversation on the topic. The health risks that Gill presents in the film are serious and should not be ignored. Gill explains:
“If a woman has a right to choose than she also has the right to judgement free counseling, with accurate unbiased information that could affect her psychological and physical wellbeing.”
To Gill, it does not matter your ideological position on abortion, what matters is that people receive the truth no matter the political consequences. So, what is the truth? What are the facts? And are abortion providers misleading women concerning the health risks of abortion? The answer that the film gives, is an emphatic YES.
A 2008 APA Task Force report also prepared by Brenda Major was supposed to evaluate, “all empirical studies on the emotional effects of abortion that had been published since 1989.” They concluded 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 than if they deliver that pregnancy."
What is essential about this report are the extreme limitations that it placed on who are deemed “at risk.” The APA narrowed the field down to adult women, who received a single first trimester abortion. This intentionally excludes younger women who have had an abortion, others that choose to terminate their pregnancy later in the second or third trimesters, or women who have multiple abortions.
Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies published a scholarly critique of the APA report and referenced a myriad of other flaws with the piece, including the APA’s intentional omission of Coleman’s own study published on the issue in the August 2011 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. Her study recorded very different findings from those recorded by the APA task force and concluded that “women who had undergone abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems.”
Even excluding Coleman’s study and limiting the scope to adult women with first trimester abortions, the APA report showed that 21% to 28% of women would feel harmed by their abortion within two years.
In the film, Gill records the devastating personal experiences of women who suffered extreme emotional and psychological trauma from their abortions. The women all reported suffering adverse effects like depression, anxiety, self-deprecation, sexual dysfunction, PTSD, suicidal tendencies, and substance abuse.
Sadly, the voices of these women are being treated like they don’t exist. As Dr. David Rearden says in the film, “blanket claims that there are no psychological effects of abortion are deliberately misinformed… its really calling every woman who says, ‘I felt grief after my abortion,’ a liar.”
For any other medical procedure doctors are required by law to inform their patients about the relative risk involved. This is referred to as “informed consent,” in which an individual has the right to relevant, accurate, and unbiased information prior to receiving medical care.
For any other surgical procedure, patients have the assurance that their doctor and his office are held to stringent medical and health regulations. However abortion is different. It remains the only medical procedure in our nation that is regulated by the Supreme Court and designated a “constitutional right.”
As long as that is the case, safety will continue to be sacrificed in the name of abortion rights and nearly a quarter of a million women a year will suffer emotional harm.
 (the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)