Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) is a term used to describe a wide range of symptoms that are intimately related to, and expressions of, a previous abortion experience. Many believe PAS is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). PTSD is the result of having suffered an event so stressful and so traumatic that the person is taken beyond his/her ability to cope in a normal manner. Victims of PTSD are unable to simply resume their lives where they left off before the traumatic event. Instead they experience a variety of reactions that do not go away merely with the passage of time. Although the symptoms of PTSD (and PAS) are varied and may not surface for years after the trauma, they are nonetheless real and should be considered.
Immediately after an abortion, many women report a feeling of relief, but guilt and depression frequently follow. A national poll found that at least 56% of women experience a sense of guilt over their decision, though the pollster himself acknowledged that many women will not even admit having had an abortion. 1 In fact, a five-year study shows that 25% of women who have had abortions sought out psychiatric care, versus just 3% of women who have not had abortions. 2 Further, numerous studies reveal that women who have had an abortion have a high incidence of depression, stress, low self-esteem, suicidal feelings and substance abuse.3
Dr. Anne Speckhard, in a 1985 University of Minnesota study, researched “long-term manifestations of abortion” (5-10 years), and found that 81% of mothers reported preoccupation with their aborted child, 54% had nightmares, 35% had perceived visitations with their child, and 96% felt their abortion had taken a human life. 4
With the growing awareness of Post-Abortion Syndrome in scholarly and clinical circles, women with PAS can expect to receive a more sensitive appreciation of the suffering that they endure. Fortunately, a growing network of peer support groups of women who have had abortions offers assistance to women who are experiencing emotional difficulties.
Many post-abortive women have also been speaking out publicly about their own abortion experiences and the subsequent healing process. Women or family members seeking information about this particular outreach can contact:
- American Victims of Abortion, 419 7th Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C., 20004
- Silent No More Awareness Campaign, www.silentnomoreawareness.org
- Rachel's Vineyard, www.rachelsvineyard.org
Symptoms of Post-Abortion Syndrome
- Impacted grieving and an inability to complete the grieving process
- Self-destructive tendencies such as eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, and substance abuse
- Feelings of isolation
- Feelings of confusion and difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety attacks
- Outbursts of rage or anger
- Aggressive behavior
- Nightmares or sleeping disorders
- Recurrent and intrusive thoughts about the abortion or the aborted child
- Flashbacks to the abortion experience
- Feelings of intense grief or depression on the date of the abortion or the due date of the aborted pregnancy
- Repression or denial about thoughts or feelings dealing with the abortion
- Efforts to avoid activities or situations which remind one of the pregnancy or abortion
- Withdraw or estrangement from others
- Inability to maintain loving or trusting relationships
- A sense of hopelessness or futility about the future
- Diminished interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Suicidal thoughts or acts
- Sudden and uncontrollable crying
- Deterioration of self-esteem
- Preoccupation with becoming pregnant again
- Disruption of the bonding process with present or future children
- George Skelton, “Many in Survey Who Had Abortion Cite Guilt Feelings,” Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1989, p. 28.
- “Report on the Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law,” p. 321. Ottawa, 1977.
- Vincent M. Rue, “The Psychological Realities of Induced Abortion,” Post-Abortion aftermath: A Comprehensive Consideration, Michael T. Mannion, Editor, Sheed & Ward, 1994, p. 543.
- Anne Speckhard, Psycho-social Stress Following Abortion (Kansas City, Mo.: Sheed & Ward, 1987).