The myth of “post-abortion syndrome”
The concept of “post-abortion syndrome” as a traumatic response to abortion is a myth, developed by those who seek to discourage women from choosing abortion as an option when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. See a summary of expert research on “post-abortion syndrome.”
According to the American Psychological Association, various factors, such as emotional attachment to the pregnancy, lack of support, and conservative views on abortion, may increase the likelihood of experiencing negative reactions. Studies have either failed to establish a causal relationship between abortion and negative psychological symptoms experienced by women, or been inconclusive.
The myth that abortion causes depression
In 2008, a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women, and determined: “The best quality studies indicate no significant differences in long-term mental health between women in the United States who choose to terminate a pregnancy and those who do not.” Dr. Robert Blum, the senior author on the study, stated: “The best research does not support the existence of a ‘post-abortion syndrome’ similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.” Read the report.
- Fact sheet: Mental health issues and abortion
- Psychological responses after abortion
Adler NE, et al (April 1990). Science 248: 41-44.
- Psychological factors in abortion: a review
Adler NE, et al (1992). American Psychologist 47(10): 1194-1204.
- Abortion and long-term mental health outcomes:
a systematic review of the evidence
Charles VE; Polis CB; Sridhara SK; Blum RW (2008). Contraception78: 436-450.
- Comment: post-abortion trauma
David HP (Spring, 1996). Abortion Review Incorporating Abortion Research Notes 59: 1-3.
- Unwanted pregnancy, mental health and abortion:
untangling the evidence
Dwyer JM, Jackson T (2008). Aust New Zealand Health Policy 5: 2.
- Abortion Study Finds No Long-Term Ill Effects
On Emotional Well-Being
Edwards S (1997). Fam Plann Perspect 29 (4): 193-194. doi:10.2307/2953388.
- Is there an “abortion trauma syndrome”? Critiquing the evidence
Robinson GE, Stotland NL, Russo NF, Lang JA, Occhiogrosso M (2009).Harv Rev Psychiatry 17(4):268-90. Review.
- Psychological aspects of unwanted pregnancy and its resolution
Russo NF. In Abortion, Medicine, and the Law (4th Ed., pp. 593-626), J.D. Butler and D.F. Walbert (eds.). New York: Facts on File, 1992.
- Abortion and psychiatric practice
Stotland NL (2003). J Psychiatr Pract 9 (2): 139-49.
- The myth of the abortion trauma syndrome
Stotland N (1992). JAMA 268(15): 2078-2079.
- Do Depression and Low Self-Esteem Follow Abortion Among Adolescents? Evidence from a National Study
Warren JT, Harvey SM, Henderson JT (2010). Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 42(4):230–235, doi: 10.1363/4223010
A note on terminology and “late-term abortion”:
The terminology used to discuss abortions after the first trimester varies enormously. There is no agreement in the law or in the medical community about what constitutes the limit of the second trimester, for example. In scholarly journals, these abortions are variously referred to as “mid-trimester abortion,” “second-trimester abortion” (which is used to describe abortions up to 24 weeks or up to 27 weeks, depending on the writer or the state law) and late abortion. Within the mainstream media, the phrase “late-term abortion” is often used in articles about abortion policy and advocacy. These competing terms do not provide accurate clinical descriptions or contribute to public knowledge about abortion care and the differences at various stages of gestation. It is for this reason that we do not use the phrase “late-term abortion” here, and recommend against its use. Instead, we use and recommend the phrase “later abortion” to identify any pregnancy termination after 17 weeks of gestational age.