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What's More Traumatic? Abortion or Childbirth?

pro life abortion signA common argument against abortion is that women who choose to terminate a pregnancy are psychologically traumatized afterward.  While this theory has long been considered questionable (and manipulative) by the pro-choice camp, it has been argued as fact by pro-lifers. But here’s something that could turn the whole angle on its ear.

A just-published study found that women may actually be more psychologically traumatized after giving birth to a baby than they are by having an abortion.

The study followed 365,550 women who either had an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or gave birth to their first baby over a 12 year period. The women in the study had no prior history of mental illness. The women who had abortions were in need of psychological help at roughly the same rates before and after the procedure. The women who had babies, on the other hand…

were more than twice as likely to seek psychological help in the year following childbirth.

So according to this study, having an abortion is less traumatic for women than having a baby. And that’s not women who had pregnancies they were considering aborting. That’s births across the board.

Of course people are already arguing over whether this study should be discounted for one reason or another. “Psychological problems” are a murky subject, one that’s hard to analyze from the outside, and easy to project onto. There are hormonal issues, cultural issues, religious and moral issues…Who knows why these women sought psychological support, either before or after their abortions or births?

I was never a big subscriber to the irrevocable psychological damage of abortion theory, for reasons reinforced by this study. Abortion definitely has emotional ramifications and reverberations. Sometimes lasting ones. But in an unwanted pregnancy, both choices have lasting ramifications and reverberations. The prevailing wisdom supporting the pro-life stance is that women who have abortions regret their losses, while women who don’t terminate never regret their babies. But is that really always true, or is it just an impossible thing for a woman to admit?  And even if instinct prevents women from feeling (or acknowledging) regret, does that mean that having an unwanted child can’t be equally psychologically damaging?

The study was conducted in Denmark between 1995 and 2007 and published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, Read more about this study and its potential impact on abortion politics in Delia Lloyd’s Woman Up column.

photo: Wesley Fryer/flickr

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