Subsequent illness after an abortion has been examined in studies internationally. The Elliot Institute (Springfield, USA, 1994) conducted a study on 260 women aged 15 to 35 from 35 US states after an abortion. 92.6% of respondents suffered from strong feelings of guilt, 88.2% indicated being depressed, 55.8% thought about suicide, 82.3% suffered from a loss of self-esteem, 66% ended their relationship with their partner after the abortion, 40.6% started using drugs and 36.5% turned to alcohol.
A study by David M. Fergusson (Christchurch, New Zealand, 2006) provided evidence that nearly half of all women suffer psychologically after an abortion, and that there is a close connection between depression, anxiety, suicide risk, addictive behaviour and abortion. From a group of 1,265 girls born in 1977, 41% became pregnant by age 25. 14.6 % aborted their child. Of these, 42% developed severe depression within four years. Drug and alcohol consumption increased significantly in this group. These behaviours and diseases could be attributed to no other earlier experiences. For Fergusson it is scandalous that the psychological consequences of a surgery, which is performed on one woman in every ten, have hardly been studied or assessed.
In a long-term study, sociologist Willy Pedersen (University of Oslo, Norway, 2008) followed 768 women from 15 to 27 years of age over 11 years. Above all the young women who had an abortion were more prone to depression. Addictive behaviour after an abortion was significantly higher than in those who had opted to have the baby.
Recently a patient visited me who had had an abortion forty years earlier. She dreams about her aborted child and suffers from grief and feelings of guilt. Her husband and 20-year-old son know nothing about the abortion she had as a young girl. Her mother sent her to Amsterdam alone. There a woman picked her up and brought her to the clinic. Her relationship with her mother was damaged for life. Why did she leave me alone? Why did no one help me? Faith in God has given her comfort and hope in recent years, but the patient remains depressed. «My whole life was and is overshadowed by this act.» She gave the baby a name convenient for a girl and a boy and prayed with a pastor to God for forgiveness. She asked the child for forgiveness and now must learn step by step to forgive herself and those who did not help her.
Dr. med. Angelika Pokropp-Hippen*
* Dr. med. Angelika Pokropp-Hippen is a specialist in general medicine and a psychotherapist with her own practice in Münster, Germany. She has a great deal of experience with patients who suffer from PAS.