One of the main arguments given for legalizing abortion in Ireland is that troubled women would become suicidal if they were forced to carry their pregnancies to term. Ironically, this was originally how abortions were made available in many US states before Roe versus Wade – as Dr. Bernard Nathanson describes in his books Aborting America and The Hand of God.
A woman in pre-Roe versus Wade New York, which had abortion laws more liberal than most of the other states, had to go to a psychiatrist and claim that she was emotionally unbalanced and would commit suicide if she was not allowed to abort her baby. Many of these meetings became “rubberstamping” sessions with their own script – a woman would say the right things, pay her hundred dollars for the “session”, and receive written permission to have an abortion, which she would then take to the abortion provider. This legal situation opened the door for abortion on demand.
But the underlying question is this: does having an abortion reduce a woman’s risk of suicide? Quite a few studies have been conducted addressing this question – and the answers they provide are very one-sided.
Researchers in Finland interviewed 600,000 women for a study that showed that women who became pregnant and had abortions were six times more likely to commit suicide than women who carried their pregnancies to term. Women who aborted were three times more likely to commit suicide than those who had not been pregnant. The statistics show that rather than increasing a woman’s chances of suicide, carrying a baby to term actually decreases them.(1) Also noteworthy was the fact that the study was based not only on interviews but also on medical records. This reliance on records in addition to testimony helped the study avoid “recall bias.” Recall bias is a phenomenon that sometimes skews the results of abortion related studies because many women who have had abortions are not willing to talk about them and will not reveal them on a questionnaire, even when asked.
A related study, in the European Journal of Health, found similar results. This study tracked 463,473 women who became pregnant between the years of 1980 and 2004 and recorded their mortality rates after either giving birth or having abortions. They found that women who had abortions were more likely to die within 10 years after their abortions than women who carried to term. Suicide was a common cause of death for these women.(2)
Another study in The British Medical Journal discovered that the rate of suicide in women after birth was 5.9 out of 100,000. Among women who had abortions, the rate was 34.7. The suicide rate for women who had not been pregnant was 11.3. Again, carrying a pregnancy to term was seen to reduce the suicide rate.
Another study, conducted by David C Reardon of the Elliot Institute, studied 173,000 American women who became pregnant and then either had abortions or carried to term. The survey followed them for eight years after the pregnancy ended. Reardon found that women who aborted were 154% more likely to commit suicide than women who gave birth.(3). Another survey cited by David Reardon in his book Aborted Women, Silent No More (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2002) discovered that up to 60% of women who had abortions had subsequent suicidal feelings, with 28% actually attempting suicide.
The magazine Women’s World reported a study of aborted women in which 45% said they had thoughts of suicide following their abortions.(4)
The statistics are even grimmer for teenagers. One study found that teenage girls who had one or more abortions were 10 times more likely to commit suicide than those who never aborted. (5)
Another study revealed that the rate of psychiatric hospitalization for teenagers who had abortions is three times higher than that of other teens.(6)
But statistics only tell part of the story. Numbers do not convey the anguish of individual women. A teenager identified as “Nelly R” describes being coerced by her boyfriend into having an abortion. She says:
“I remember when they started the IV and how I looked up and told one of the nurses to tell me what was the sex of the baby and to tell the baby that I loved it and I had no choice. from there I don’t remember anything but when I woke up in the recovery room crying and checking my stomach to see if it was a horrible dream. I remember screaming from the top of my lungs and saying I wish I could die too. I fell into a deep depression and I bearly [sic] made it to senior year. I tried to commit suicide. I didn’t care for my self [sic] or anyone else at the time I was a murder.[sic] I remember going to the police station and saying that I had murdered someone and saying that I killed my own baby. I thought that I would never be happy again.”
Another woman shared her story on the John Ankerberg show. She said:
When I was examined the doctor said that he had been mistaken, the baby was far more advanced than he had thought, and that it was 15 weeks, and I was really just in shock. Within a minute, I was aborted, waited a few minutes, and then I got up to get dressed. And when I went over to the dressing room, I saw bucket of blood. And, my baby was in the bucket of blood, and the baby was not an inch big, the baby was as big as my hand, and it was a real baby. All I could think of was that I had murdered my baby… I started deteriorating emotionally that night. Over the next month, I cried, not normal cries, I cried from the bellows of the earth. I remember just leaning at the top of my staircase, just wishing I could throw myself down to the bottom. I remember thinking of jumping on the roof and jumping off. I thought of every method of suicide, I tried to consider doing. And I cried so deeply, so constantly, and so deeply, it was like the wail of a newborn baby when they cry and their fists are clenched, and they just cannot control the crying and somehow I thought I must. It was the most extraordinary crying I could ever see myself doing.”
Another woman who aborted twins said:
“After aborting my boys, I was a wreck. I instantly had a nervous breakdown. I contemplated suicide because I had lost my will to live. I felt I needed to be with them and to help them somehow. I could hear them calling me at night reaching out to me, but I couldn’t touch them. I wanted out of my misery.”
Another woman told the story of her abortion in The Postabortion Review newsletter published by the Elliot Institute. She had her abortion when she was 16 in 1977, and still suffers. After describing how the clinic “counselors” lied to her about the development of the baby, she says:
I began to drink heavily and use drugs. I had severe depressions in which I contemplated suicide. I had, and still have, horrible nightmares involving babies and people trying to kill me. I still get depressed and cry a lot. I pray at night that God will let my baby know that I didn’t kill him because I hated him. I long to hold him so much now that it hurts, and I want him to know that.
I harbor secret fears that one of my children will be taken from me because of this horrible act that I have committed. This fear was compounded when I almost miscarried one of my children at twelve weeks. I feel sure the problem was connected to my abortion. The problems go on and on. I had never allowed myself to calculate the month that my baby would have been born. Recently I figured out when the baby would have been born and was horrified when I realized that it was within weeks of when both of my children were born. I had felt intense pressure from within myself to become pregnant at this particular time with both my children. And now the realization has hit me that subconsciously I have substituted my live children for my dead child, by conceiving and giving birth at the same times.
I have spent many years trying to push the memory of what I have done to the back of my mind, but it won’t stay there. I have constantly compared my dead child to what he would have been doing had he lived. I understand that most women who choose to abort experience the same feelings. My child would have been in first grade this year. It’s very hard for me to look at a first grader.
I have shed many tears over the last few years and now I’m angry. I’m angry at myself, my family, the abortion clinic, their counselors, the doctors (who can commit murder on a daily basis), and most of all I’m mad at my government, who prints “IN GOD WE TRUST” on our coins, yet has legalized the daily painful, violent slaughter of the youngest members of our society.
These are just four women out of countless thousands, maybe even millions, who have contemplated suicide after abortion. Is a lie to say that suicide can be prevented by abortion – both statistics and personal testimony show that the opposite is true.
- Gissler M, Hemminki E, Lonnqvist J. Suicides after Pregnancy in Finland, 1987 to 94: Register Linkage Study British Medical Journal 1996 December 7; 313 (7070): 1431 – 4
- M. Gissler, “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000,” European J. Public Health 15(5):459 63,2005.
- DC Reardon et. al., “Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women,” Southern Medical Journal 95(8):834-41, Aug. 2002.
- Martina Mahler “Abortion: the Pain No One Talks About” Women’s World, September 24, 1991, 6
- B. Garfinkel, et al., “Stress, Depression and Suicide: A Study of Adolescents in Minnesota,” Responding to High Risk Youth (University of Minnesota: Minnesota Extension Service, 1986)
- R. Somers, “Risk of Admission to Psychiatric Institutions Among Danish Women Who Experienced Induced Abortion: An Analysis Based on National Report Linkage” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Los Angeles: University of California, 1979, Disseration Abstracts International, Public Health 2621-B, Order No. 7926066)