A Frank Ob/Gyn's Message

An honest assessment of all things medical and ethical.

Is abortion safe? part 3

Today, we’ll conclude our overview of abortion’s harm to women with a discussion of associated mental health problems. While a person’s health is comprised of interrelated physical, mental, and spiritual aspects, my professional competencies only cover the physical and mental (clergy and religious leaders can better address the spiritual components). Several years ago, I did some in-depth research on the issue of psychological effects of abortion. If I had any doubt as to the depth and severity of women’s suffering from this, it has been thoroughly removed after numerous personal stories I’ve since witnessed.

Sadly, I’ve had many patients suffering from the regret and sorrow of a terrible mistake they cannot undo—a suffering that the politically correct and pro-abortion culture pretends does not exist. One woman in particular comes to mind who, through tears, explains to me how not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about the abortion she had years ago. She related to me how the memory of this and the regret is destroying her marriage and making her less capable of caring for her living child. In the short space I have left, I can only describe one example of such resultant psychiatric problems.

In 1992, Anne C. Speckhard and Vincent M. Rue defined and described Postabortion Syndrome (PAS) as a variant of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Four basic components of PAS are defined:

(a) exposure to or participation in an abortion experience, which is seen as the traumatic and intentional destruction of one’s unborn child; (b) uncontrolled negative reexperiencing of the abortion event; (c) unsuccessful attempts to avoid or deny painful abortion recollections, resulting in reduced responsiveness; and (d) experiencing associated symptoms not present before the abortion, including guilt about surviving.

This designation gives much insight into the nature of the symptoms to expect from and to use in assessment of those suffering PAS. The study prompting the PAS specification of PTSD was a large-scale random survey showing that at least 19% of women suffer from diagnosable PTSD three to five years following an abortion. This study also found that 45% of the women reported having at least several symptoms of PTSD (Barnard 1990). For example: intrusive nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, reenactment, reexperience, denial, psychogenic amnesia, and psychic numbing are all reported as regularly encountered symptoms of PAS (Speckhard 1992). Unfortunately, this figure of 19% is probably far less than the actual number of women suffering from PAS since women suffering abortion-related stress usually avoid questionnaires and other such surveys pertaining to this subject matter—as would be expected with any other case of PTSD wherein the patient “makes deliberate efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event (Criterion C1) and to avoid activities, situations, or people who arouse recollections of it (Criterion C2).”

Anniversary reactions are one of the particularly painful symptoms of PTSD and the PAS variant is no exception. One study found this unique symptom to be present in 36% of the women who responded to surveys (Franco 1989); again the actual number could be much higher. In clinical practice, patients typically report the onset of severe psychological distress on dates as early as the first anniversary of the perceived birth date for the child, or the date of the abortion. Such distress commonly includes overwhelming guilt and an associated episode of major depression (Tishler 1981, Spaulding 1978).

The greatest tragedy in all this is that such suffering is discredited and denied by most of the medical profession and, of course, nearly all major media outlets.

For more information, the following website is one of the best on this issue:

afterabortion.org/

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank

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