Emotional Effects of Abortion

by Sherwood Kaip, M.D

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What could a man possibly know about the emotional effects of abortion?  Not much.  

     However, women who have 'been there, done that' have spoken out and we can all learn from them.  Most importantly, there is help for those suffering from Post Abortion Stress (PAS) syndrome.  Effective sources of help will be covered below.  After all, God has promised us His forgiveness, if we seek it, no matter what we have done.

     “Those of us who have had abortions describe PAS as a deep, disturbing sense of unrest and regret.  We are unable to process the fear, anger, sadness and guilt surrounding the abortion experience, we cannot grieve the loss of the baby and we cannot come to peace with God, ourselves or others involved in the abortion decision...  

     But the irony is we do not attribute our behavior or emotional issues to the abortion experience...  After a woman has an abortion, she feels immediate relief, the problem has been solved.  What she isn't expecting is the backwash of emotions from this supposedly Simple Solution to her problem.  Her abortion experience will affect her psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually and it will affect her relationships for years to come.  But she doesn't know any of this, she is blindsided and she either reaches out for help or begins building walls around her heart, hardening it, and denying the pain she feels.”

     It is estimated that 80% of post-abortive women will experience some symptoms with half of those experiencing intense symptoms.  The symptoms are extremely varied and include 39% reporting subsequent eating disorders, 57% reporting difficulty in maintaining or developing relationships, 73% reporting some sexual dysfunction, and 92% reporting 'emotional deadening', described as either feeling less in touch with their emotions or a “need to stifle their emotions”.  Bouts of crying, depression, rage, anxiety and panic attacks, and drug and alcohol abuse are just some of the many other symptoms of Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS).  For more information on these and other symptoms and effeccts, go to the Elliot Institute website <http://www.,afterabortion.org>.

     What brings on PAS?  I think it could be summarized in two sentences.  First: If it's not a baby, you're not pregnant.  Second: Without exception, every woman who has an abortion gets to ask, “I wonder how old little George(ette) would be now?”—for the rest of her life.       

          More importantly, what can be done about PAS?  Fortunately, there is plenty of excellent help available for anyone you know, including men affected by abortion.

     Clergy or staff are often capable of dealing with these issues.  Organizations such as crisis pregnancy centers can offer real alternatives as well.  Googling “abortion healing” will bring up many choices.

     If one feels uncomfortable getting help for their 'secret' locally, there are national organizations anonymously dealing with the painful problem of Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS) all the time.  One that is excellent is Rachel's Vineyard (toll free phone 1-877-HOPE-4-ME; web site http://www.rachelsvineyard.org; go especially to the “emotions” section of the website).  Rachel's Vineyard offers anonymous weekend retreats.  Other national organizations are Ramah International ((941) 473-2188: http://www.ramahinternational.org); and Safe Haven Ministries http://www.safehavenministries.com.

     Is there really help for the pain of Post Abortion Syndrome?  Judge for yourself.  

     “For 18 years I have been haunted with heavy guilt that no one could take away, tormented by thoughts of what that child would have been like.  Through participating in Rachel's Vineyard, I was finally able to forgive myself.  I know that God has given me a peaceful mind, cleansed my heart and has washed away my guilt.”

     “...I cannot describe the healing I have received from being present at that wonderful retreat.  Thanks to Rachel's Vineyard retreat I can look in a mirror without hating the reflection I used to see.  Thanks to the wonderful counselors on that retreat, I can say “I am healed, I am loved, I am saved by my Redeemer and truly know it.”” [This woman tried suicide but the gun misfired!!]  Other examples of effectiveness are available on the website and elsewhere.  

     No one need endure the pain of PAS any longer.  We must love these people who are in such terrible secret pain, not judge them.  WWJD (What would Jesus do?)

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Is there a Societal Effect of Abortion?

     Is there a societal effect of abortion as well as the obvious individual effects?  The following is a substantial condensation of an article from the Vol. 6, No.1, Spring 1998 issue of Elliot Institute's “The Post-Abortion Review”.  The article is entitled “When the Doll Breaks” by Theresa Karminski Burke.  This is not an 'apocryphal' story (one which could have happened but didn't).  I spoke with the author and she said this is what happened except for identifying details.

When the Doll Breaks

by Theresa Karminski Burke

     I remember meeting Marita my freshman year in college.  She was cute, had boundless energy, was fun to be around and had a self-assured style.  Marita told me she would remember my name because Theresa was the name of her favorite doll.  It was one of her collection and had come from her great great grandmother.

     One night after a drunken fraternity party she didn't remember, Marita woke up naked next to her sophomore boy friend.  When Marita discovered she was pregnant she had an abortion immediately and never told a soul, except her boyfriend and her roommate.  Years later, Marita told me her roommate Ruth, who had had an abortion as a senior in high school, took her to the clinic.  She told Marita it was no big deal.  Abortion was common on campus.  Lots of girls had them.

     After the abortion, Marita's personality changed.  She became irritable and began drinking all the time.  She skipped classes on a regular basis, preferring to sleep in and snooze off each hungover depression.  Her attitude was cynical and negative, and she wasn't much fun to be around.  At that time, unaware of the abortion, I didn't understand what Marita was going through.  But there were signs.

     One night we gathered at Marita's dorm for a party.  We were drinking beers when Marita's boyfriend jumped up and shouted, “It's time for Baby Soccer!” There was a grand applause, reminiscent of the inauguration of gladiator games.  Marita brought out several doll heads which had been decapitated from their torsos, rolling them along with her hockey stick for the grand entrance.  Everyone started kicking the baby heads around the room in a frenzy of glee and hysterics.  They all cheered while gulping drinks and devouring chips.

     As the pastime continued, the aggression toward the baby heads became more severe.  [There follows a repulsive description of various mutilations of the dolls and doll heads.] They continued to kick the baby [doll] heads around the room in a hostile display of rage fused with amusement.

     I learned that this had become a favorite game in the dorm.  My reaction to this symbolic abuse was a sickening feeling in my stomach.  Desensitized to the authenticity of the game, I laughed along with the others,

     As I picked up one of the doll heads, I was overcome with a vague familiarity.  My heart skipped a beat when I identified the doll as “Theresa,” the porcelain antique which had once been Marita's prized possession.  Her face was cracked, smashed, and splintered, a jigsaw of fractured pieces—nearly unrecognizable.  Where the head had been torn from the body there were razor-sharp claws of fragmented china.

     Suddenly I felt a genuine, aching grief.  I feared that at any minute I might burst into tears.  What had happened to this doll “Theresa,” passed down through generations of female history within Marita's family?  How did this happen?  What had happened to my friend?

     The trauma was still very much a mystery to me but I knew that something inside Marita had also been crushed.  The desecration was reflected quite ostensibly in the face of her broken doll.  I waited nearly a decade to discover the answer to my questions.  Learning that Marita had suffered an abortion made everything crystal clear.