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The Emotional and Psychological Effects of Abortion

After an abortion, people seem to be divided into one of two groups – those who are seemingly unaffected by their experience, and those who are – to a greater or lesser degree – affected by it.

Why are some affected?

We believe that the degree to which someone will be impacted by an abortion is influenced by a complex mix of factors, including life experience, the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and abortion, and the degree to which the individual can acknowledge and integrate the emotions experienced. It is our belief that anyone who experiences an abortion has the potential to make a strong and powerful connection to it subsequently. There is a saying that ‘time heals’. From what we have seen in the women on our courses, time can play a part in healing, but it is not a healing process on its own. The emotional effects of an abortion can surface powerfully, sometimes many years after the event. These effects can be complex, deep, and, if not addressed, have the potential to become a powerful source of depression and a wide range of associated problems.

When a woman becomes pregnant both her body, and her mind, start to prepare for the arrival of her child. The truth is that without an abortion a child would have been born, that five or six months later a birth would have taken place. An abortion interrupts this process and therefore has the potential to impact body, mind and soul (and from the Christian perspective also their faith). At a very deep level, pregnancy – no matter how brief – connects men and women with their child, whereas abortion leaves them suspended or disconnected.

To help us understand this further it might be helpful to think about what happens after a miscarriage. When we hear stories of a miscarriage we are readily able to understand and empathize with the pain and loss experienced. What is less understood is that an abortion also has the potential to be felt as an event similar to a miscarriage or a stillbirth.

Abortion can therefore have a powerful effect both emotionally and psychologically:

  • Emotionally it can be experienced as a loss or bereavement on a par with miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Psychologically if abortion is experienced as trauma and the powerful emotions surrounding the abortion are denied or suppressed this can lead to depression and other effects that we see on our course.

Our course is extremely successful at healing women, helping them overcome these effects, which are well known*. To summarize this important point it might be helpful to realize that abortion is not a time machine; it does not turn back the clock, or take a woman back to where she was before she became pregnant. It does not make a woman as if she had never been pregnant. She will always be a woman who has experienced a pregnancy. This is what maintains the powerful emotional and psychological connection to the past which, if not processed and dealt with, can produce powerful and unwelcome effects in women’s lives.

Men and abortion

Men can be affected in just the same way as women, illustrated by the fact that we use the same course for both men and women. As with women, we believe not all men are affected by an abortion, but many are, and the effects of abortion on both women and men are well known**. The above has focused on the experience of women, as in reality it is women who are likely to form the majority of those on our courses. That is not to neglect the fact that men as well as women are able to seek healing for a past abortion.

For information on the top five effects that we have seen on our courses see here.

*Coleman, P. K. (2011) Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009 at: http://bjp-rcpsych.org/Reviewarticles / (Accessed: 5 August 2017).

**See: Rue, V., 1996. The Effects of Abortion on Men. Ethics and Medicine 21 (4): 3–4; Condon, G., and Hazard, D., 2001. Fatherhood Aborted. Carol Stream: Tyndale House; and Coyle, C., 1999. Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing. Fort Collins: Life Cycle Books; and Jones, K. and Cochrane, L., 1996. Healing a Father’s Heart: a Post-Abortion Bible Study for Men. Ada, Michigan: Baker Books.