Is Post-Abortion Syndrome Real?
Spend even five minutes googling abortion clinics, and you’ll be inundated with scary facts about how abortion destroys mental health, leaving survivors depressed, addicted, and broken. Post-abortion syndrome is one of the far right’s favorite myths. In their imagination, women deserve to be punished for abortion, so naturally, they must suffer following a pregnancy termination. Post-abortion syndrome is a myth designed to scare and stigmatize abortion seekers. The reality is that abortion clinics are places of healing, that abortion is far less risky to mental health than giving birth, and that almost all people who have abortion report relief.
Post-Abortion Syndrome: An Anti-Choice Myth
Researchers have published dozens of papers on the link between abortion and mental health. Drawing on this research, the American Psychological Association argues that there is no such thing as post-abortion syndrome, or anything resembling it. The APA further emphasizes:
- Being denied an abortion is far more likely to damage mental health than having an abortion.
- Unwanted pregnancy is associated with worse mental health in both the parents and the child.
- People forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term are more likely to suffer intimate partner violence.
How Abortion Affects Mental Health
Most research on abortion and mental health actually suggests that, if abortion affects mental health at all, it improves it. The Turnaway Study, which compares women denied abortions to those who have them, has found a link between being denied an abortion and suffering from anxiety, depression, and abuse. Data from this study also shows that, even 5 years after abortion, 99 percent of abortion seekers still report feeling relief.
One key predictor of post-abortion mental health issues is exposure to abortion stigma. People who believe abortion is bad or whose loved ones judge their decisions are much more likely to suffer depression and other mental health woes following a pregnancy termination. This suggests that lack of support coupled with anti-choice political ideas are key to understanding post-abortion issues. In other words, the far right is creating the very issues they claim to be protecting women against.
Is it Possible to Be Traumatized by Abortion?
Post-abortion syndrome is not real, but the wide range of human reactions to abortion absolutely are. While most people find their abortions empowering experiences that promote feelings of relief and reclaiming their bodies, some do feel sad about their abortions. For some people, this sadness is a fleeting sensation. They wish circumstances were different, or they grieve for what might have been.
For a very small number of abortion seekers–less than one percent–abortion can be traumatic. A person is more likely to consider their abortion traumatic if:
- They felt pressured or coerced into the abortion.
- They experienced complications due to the abortion.
- They wanted the baby, but had to have an abortion because of birth defects or a threat to their own life.
- They were not treated well during or after the abortion procedure.
This doesn’t mean abortion is bad or wrong. Childbirth is significantly more likely to be traumatic, with about 1 in 4 mothers calling their births traumatic. Nevertheless, a person who suffers a traumatic abortion needs and deserves help. Check out Exhale, which offers sensitive, pro-choice support to people recovering from abortion.
To find an abortion clinic that will treat you with the support and sensitivity you deserve, click here.