Impacts of Abortion

Psychological Risks | Traumatic Aftereffects of Abortion

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  • 6 times higher suicide rate. Aborting women were 6 times more likely to commit suicide in the following year than were delivering women.1 A study of women for up to eight years after the pregnancy ended found a 2.5 times higher suicide rate after abortion than after giving birth.2
  • Up to 60% have suicidal thoughts. In a study in a major scientific journal, 31% of women had thoughts of suicide after undergoing an abortion.3 In another survey, approximately 60% of women with post-abortion problems reported suicidal thoughts, with 28% attempting suicide and half of those attempting suicide two or more times.4


  • 65% higher risk of clinical depression. Women who aborted were 65% more likely than delivering women to be at risk of long-term clinical depression after controlling for age, race, education, marital status, income, and prior psychiatric state.5
  • Depression risk remained high, even when pregnancies were unplanned. Among women with unintended first pregnancies, aborting women were at significantly higher risk of long-term clinical depression compared to delivering women.6


  • 65% report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 65% of U.S. women who had abortions experienced multiple symptoms of PTSD, which they attributed to their abortions. Slightly over 14% reported all the symptoms necessary for a clinical diagnosis of abortion-induced PTSD.3
  • 60% said they felt “part of me died.” In the above study, 60% reported that they felt “part of me died” after their abortions.3
  • More psychiatric treatment. Compared to women who deliver, women who abort are more than twice as likely to be subsequently hospitalized for psychiatric illness within six months.7 Analysis of California Medicaid records shows that women who have abortions subsequently require significantly more treatments for psychiatric illness through outpatient care.8
  • Multiple disorders and regrets. In a study eight weeks after abortion, 36% of women experienced sleep disturbances, 31% had regrets about the abortion, and 11% had been prescribed psychotropic medicine by their family doctor.9
  • Generalized anxiety disorder. Among women with no previous history of anxiety, women who aborted a first, unplanned pregnancy were 30% more likely to subsequently report all the symptoms associated with a diagnosis for generalized anxiety disorder, compared to women who carried to term.10
  • Sleep disorders. In a study of women with no known history of sleep disorders, women were more likely to be treated for sleep disorders after having an abortion compared to giving birth (nearly twice as likely in the first 180 days afterwards). Numerous studies have shown that trauma victims often experience sleep difficulties.11
  • Disorders not pre-existing. A New Zealand study found that women had higher rates of suicidal behavior, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other disorders after abortion. The study found that these were not pre-existing problems.12

Eating Disorders & Substance Abuse

  • 39% had eating disorders. In a survey of women with post-abortion problems, 39% reported subsequent eating disorders.13
  • Five-fold higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse. Excluding women with a prior history of substance abuse, those who abort their first pregnancy are 5 times more likely to report subsequent drug and alcohol abuse vs. those who give birth.14

Divorce  and  chronic  relationship  problems

  • Women with a history of abortion are significantly more likely to subsequently have shorter relationships and more divorces.15
  • More poverty and single parenthood after repeat abortions. Women who have more than one abortion (nearly half of those seeking abortions each year16) are more likely to become single parents and to require public assistance.17
  • 30-50% of post-abortive women report experiencing sexual dysfunctions such as promiscuity, loss of pleasure from intercourse, increased pain, and aversion to sex and/or men.18
  • Studies have identified factors that put women at risk for negative reactions to abortion, including feeling pressured to abort, lack of support, being more religious, prior emotional or psychological problems, adolescence, being unsure of her decision, and receiving little or no counseling prior to abortion.19

Published 01/08


1. Gissler, Hemminki & Lonnqvist, "Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: register linkage study," British Journal of Medicine 313:1431-4, 1996; and M. Gissler, “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000,” European J. Public Health 15(5):459-63,2005.

2. 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.

3. VM Rue et. al., “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10(10): SR5-16, 2004.

4. D. Reardon, Aborted Women, Silent No More (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2002).

5. JR Cougle, DC Reardon & PK Coleman, “Depression Associated With Abortion and Childbirth: A Long-Term Analysis of the NLSY Cohort,” Medical Science Monitor 9(4):CR105-112, 2003.

6. DC Reardon, JR Cougle, “Depression and unintended pregnancy in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth: a cohort study,” British Medical Journal 324:151-2, 2002.

7. DC Reardon et. al., “Psychiatric admissions of low-income women following abortions and childbirth,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 168(10): May 13, 2003.

8. PK Coleman et. al., “State-Funded Abortions Versus Deliveries: A Comparison of Outpatient Mental Health Claims Over Four Years,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 72(1):141-152, 2002.

9. Ashton,"The Psychosocial Outcome of Induced Abortion", British Journal of Ob & Gyn. 87:1115-1122, 1980.

10. JR Cougle, DC Reardon, PK Coleman, “Generalized Anxiety Following Unintended Pregnancies Resolved Through Childbirth and Abortion: A Cohort Study of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth,” Journal of Anxiety Disorders 19:137-142 (2005).

11. DC Reardon and PK Coleman, “Relative Treatment Rates for Sleep Disorders and Sleep Disturbances Following Abortion and Childbirth: A Prospective Record Based-Study,” Sleep 29(1):105-106, 2006.

12. DM Fergusson et. al., “Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(1): 16-24, 2006.

13. T. Burke with D. Reardon, Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2002) 189, 293

14. DC Reardon, PG Ney, “Abortion and Subsequent Substance Abuse,” American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 26(1):61-75, 2000.

15. Shepard, et al., "Contraceptive Practice and Repeat Induced Abortion: An Epidemiological Investigation," J. Biosocial Science 11:289-302, 1979; M. Bracken, "First and Repeated Abortions: A Study of Decision-Making and Delay," J. Biosocial Science 7:473-491, 1975; S. Henshaw, "The Characteristics and Prior Contraceptive Use of U.S. Abortion Patients," Family Planning Perspectives, 20(4):158-168, 1988; D. Sherman, et al., "The Abortion Experience in Private Practice," Women and Loss: Psychobiological Perspectives, ed. W.F. Finn, et al., (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985) 98-107; E.M. Belsey, et al., "Predictive Factors in Emotional Response to Abortion: King's Termination Study - IV," Social Science and Medicine 11:71-82, 1977; E. Freeman, et al., "Emotional Distress Patterns Among Women Having First or Repeat Abortions," Obstetrics and Gynecology 55(5):630-636, 1980; C. Berger, et al., "Repeat Abortion: Is it a Problem?" Family Planning Perspectives 16(2):70-75 (1984).

16. “Facts in Brief: Induced Abortion,” The Alan Guttmacher Institute (, 2002.

17. Speckhard, Psycho-social Stress Following Abortion, (Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1987); and Belsey, et al., "Predictive Factors in Emotional Response to Abortion: King's Termination Study - IV," Social Science & Med.icine 11:71-82, 1977.

18. Speckhard, Psycho-social Stress Following Abortion, (Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1987); and Belsey, et al., "Predictive Factors in Emotional Response to Abortion: King's Termination Study - IV," Social Science & Med.icine 11:71-82, 1977. See also P.K. Coleman, V.M. Rue, C.T. Coyle, "Induced abortion and intimate relationship quality in the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey," Public Health (2009), doi:10,1016/j.puhe.2009.01.005.

19. David C. Reardon, “The Duty to Screen: Clinical, Legal, and Ethical Implications of Predictive Risk Factors of Post-Abortion Maladjustment,” The Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy 20(2):33-114, Spring 2004