Research conducted during the past 10 years shows that many women who have experienced abortion may be affected emotionally.

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons recently published the findings of a study on the emotional after effects of abortion. Researchers discovered the majority of women who sought after-abortion care and participated in the study found nothing positive had come from their abortion.

The research involved 987 women with a history of abortion and was conducted by Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D., Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She used open-ended questions, including “What are the most significant positives, if any, that have come from your decision to abort?” She discovered more than 31 percent of the women who took part in the study said nothing “significantly positive” from that abortion choice. One woman wrote, “There are no positives. My life is no better; it is much worse. I carry the pain of a child lost forever.”

When asked the question “What are the most significant negatives, if any, that have come from your decision to abort?” 23.7 percent of the respondents said the abortion took a life. “My child is dead and by my own choice,” one woman said. “I spent years of anger, shame, and grief.” While more than 20 percent didn’t answer the question, others who did referred to experiencing depression (14.4 percent), guilt and remorse (14 percent), self-hatred/feelings of worthlessness (12.4 percent), and shame (10.9 percent). Others suffered from alcohol or drug addictions (9 percent), self-destructive behaviors (7.7 percent) and suicidal thoughts (6.2 percent), among other issues.

In a 2015 report published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar addresses these issues as related to abortion. “For some young women, abortion is a traumatic life event that increases vulnerability to suicidal behavior. Rates of suicidal ideation and mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, are increased among women who have had induced abortions.”

Not all women notice adverse effects of abortion immediately after the procedure. In fact, for some, emotional struggles don’t begin until years later perhaps on what would have been the child’s birthday, or the anniversary of the abortion, or when a woman has other children. Sometimes buried negative feelings rise to the surface when difficult life situations arise.

Another study published in 2011 in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology also notes the struggles of women who have experienced abortion. Effects from abortion included feelings of sadness, guilt, and regret, and avoidance of thoughts or conversations about their abortion. The researchers’ conclusion? “Accessibility of post‐termination counselling throughout life is recommended.”

In the August 2011 edition of the Journal of British Psychology, researchers reported an 81% increased risk of mental health issues for women who had an abortion, with nearly 10 percent of those problems attributable to the abortion. This study and report by Priscilla Coleman concluded, “Calling into question the conclusions from traditional reviews, the results revealed a moderate to highly increased risk of mental health problems after abortion.”

The debate as to whether women who choose to abort experience emotional side-effects continues. These three studies, among others, show that some women do experience such issues, and it’s important for women to know that there is research out about this topic. Because abortion is legal and because it is a medical procedure, women need to know about potential risks and side effects in order to make an informed, educated decision about abortion for themselves.