The study, published in the Winter 2017 edition of The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, was conducted by researchers from Bowling Green University, led by Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies.
Researchers contacted CareNet directors throughout the U.S. who were asked to invite women who had visited their centers for post-abortion counseling services to participate in an anonymous on-line survey. The women were asked to tell about “the most positive and negative aspects” of their abortion.
More than 900 women responded and researchers learned that few women felt “liberated” by the experience.
“… the responses were far from simple, echoing themes that are not reflective of contemporary feminist rhetoric,” the researchers wrote. “Women generally did not speak of empowerment, the ability to control their reproductive destinies, liberation from abusive partners, the need for abortion in order to be competitive in the workplace, etc.
“To the contrary, … many women (nearly 32%) expressed no personal benefits of the experience. Scores of others reported spiritual growth, involvement in pro-life efforts, and reaching out to other women who were considering the procedure or had obtained an abortion.”
Of the women who responded to the survey, 58.3 percent said they had the abortion in order to make others happy; 73.8 percent reported feeling subtle pressure from others to abort, and; 28.4 percent said they aborted out of fear of losing their partner if they didn’t.
Even more heartbreaking was the finding that 66 percent of the women said they knew in their heart that they were making a mistake when they had their abortion. Another 67.5 percent said it was the hardest decision of their lives.
Of those who reported positive experiences, none concerned feeling “liberated” or “empowered.” Instead, they reported finding God or becoming more involved in pro-life activities to spare other women the same pain they were experiencing.
“The one positive is that it has brought me to my end and brought me to my knees before God,” one respondent wrote. “He has drawn me to him through His endless forgiveness, mercy, and grace. I think He could have shown me those same things had I chosen another path, but this is how I came to Him, not as a Christian, because I already was one, but as one who really knows Him now.”
“I have found forgiveness for my abortion, I have led others to find healing and forgiveness from their abortions, I have written a book…along with a website, I am Executive Director of a Pregnancy Resource Center and saved two pregnancy centers from closing, I have lobbied for the Ultrasound Bill and the Human Life Amendment and given testimony on many occasions. I have also appeared on Faces of Abortion and did several radio interviews,” another wrote.
Of the 987 women who answered the survey, 22 percent couldn’t answer the question of what positives, if any, resulted from their abortion – but nearly 32 percent said there were none.
“ . . . There are no positives,” one respondent wrote. “My life is no better, it is much worse. I carry the pain of a child lost forever. Although I know I am forgiven and have worked through the guilt and shame, the heart wrenching pain is still there. I would rather have been a single mother of two and have my baby here to love and dote on than the pain of empty arms.”
Of those who reported negative aspects, 23.7 percent said it was the loss of a life that bothered them the most.
“My child is dead and by my own choice. I spent years of anger, shame, and grief. It damaged my relationship with my husband, my children, and my God,” one respondent wrote. “For 30 years I did not speak of it to anyone but my husband. My grief overwhelmed him and left him powerless and ashamed. For years I cried every Sunday in church, experienced dark depressions, thoughts of suicide, and flashes of anger. . . Had it not been for the Biblical counseling I received through a local CPC I would be there still.”
Depression was another negative aspect affecting 14.4 percent of respondents. “I was very depressed for years after the abortion. I believe that the depression contributed to me losing a lucrative pharmaceutical job. I did not work for 2 years after the abortion and I did not have the energy to do much of anything. It took me about 3 years to just get motivated to start living somewhat of a fulfilling life again. During these three years, I started living with my boyfriend, who is now my fiancé. I am not proud of my living situation and believe it is attributed to a lack of self-confidence due to the abortion.”
Another 14 percent said guilt and remorse is what plagues them the most. “I have tremendous guilt and remorse. It keeps me sad a lot of the time. I can be happy, but something is missing. I hate myself for making that decision and I can’t take it back, fix it or make it better.”
Self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness affect another 12.4 percent of the respondents. “The most serious negatives are my being angry at myself that I could abort three babies. The aftermath of abortion is destructive to the soul. . . My life was interrupted in a way that after 30 years, since my last abortion, I am still hurting, emotionally and mentally as a result of my choices. I will have to live with them for the rest of my life on earth.”
More than 10 percent are afflicted by feelings of shame. “A sense of shame and regret have stayed with me ever since my abortion. It is tempered by forgiveness and faith in God’s mercy and grace, but it is still there after all these years. I miss my lost children and regret that my living children were robbed of their siblings through abortion. My husband who did not participate in any way with my abortion or any other abortions has suffered anger and grief because of my abortion. He struggles to forgive those who coerced my abortion.”
Nine percent of respondents now suffer with some kind of addiction to alcohol or drugs. “I died with every abortion. I became very angry, depressed, and ended up becoming a drug addict and an alcoholic,” one respondent wrote.
Regret torments more than nine percent of respondents. “Every woman knows in her heart that abortion is wrong,” said one respondent.
Seven percent reported self-destructive behaviors such as promiscuity, 7.6 percent suffered a loss of self-esteem, 7.1 percent experience anxiety and fear and 6.2 percent reported suicidal thoughts.
As researchers concluded, “Even in an ideal environment wherein women receive adequate counseling, are offered support to continue their pregnancies, and do not present with established risk factors, it is still possible to be blindsided by an abortion and suffer ill effects due to the inherent complexity of abortion.”
In addition to Dr. Coleman, former Bowling Green State University undergraduate students Kaitlyn Boswell, B.S.; Katrina Etzkorn, B.S. and; Rachel Turnwald, B.S., also participated in the research.
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