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After-Effects of Abortion: Are There Long-Term Problems?


Cindy had an abortion. The procedure went as planned. She drove home and moved on with her life.

… But is that really it?

Pro-life activists say no; abortion has many after-effects, raising a woman’s risk for certain long-term problems.

Pro-choice activists say that’s nonsense.

After-Effect Claims
The National Right to Life argues that abortion increases the risk of problems such as sterility, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, breast cancer and depression.

Breast cancer is one of the most hotly debated aspects, but an article about surgical abortions on the organization's website says:

A study of more than 1,800 women appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1994 found that overall, women having abortions increased their risk of getting breast cancer before age 45 by 50%.

And then, says National Right to Life, there’s the potential for postabortion syndrome, with possible signs ranging from alcohol abuse to sexual dysfunction and attempted suicide.

newsletter-graphic-free2The Pro-Choice View: No Syndrome, No Breast Cancer
The National Abortion Federation dismisses the idea of post-abortion syndrome and says a 1989 American Psychological Association panel came to the same conclusion, finding "no trace" of it.

And about breast cancer? They cite a 2003 National Cancer Institute workshop in which, says a fact sheet on the Federation's website, “over 100 of the world’s leading experts on pregnancy and breast cancer” participated. They found that "'induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.'"

Our Debate
The issues surrounding abortion’s potential for after-effects are large and myriad. We posed a daunting question to our debaters: Does abortion cause long-term mental and/or physical problems? In the end, each chose one aspect on which to focus.

Ours is just a snippet of the larger debate. But it’s a place to start. Who’s more convincing this time around? And what do you believe?

You can share your opinions here.

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Argument: Yes, abortion has long-term after effects, including an increased risk of premature birth.

Abortion damages women in many ways, including causing preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death in the Western world. The 2006 Institute of Medicine report states: “Premature birth (birth before 37 weeks) has increased 27% since 1981. In 2002 the premature (preterm or PTB) rate was 12.1% of all live births.” In the appendix, abortion is noted as an “immutable” risk factor for preterm birth. Over 59 statistically significant studies to date attest to this association.

The 2004 EUROPOP study (data from 17 countries) concluded that the risk of very preterm birth (22 to 32 weeks of pregnancy) increased by 50 percent after one abortion and by 80 percent after two abortions. The 2005 EPIPAGE study stated that among women who had one or more abortions there was a 50 percent increase in very preterm births (22 to 32 weeks of pregnancy) and with two or more abortions, there was 160 percent increase. This study also documented a 70 percent increase in extremely preterm deliveries (22 to 27 weeks) for those with one prior abortion.

Lumley (Australia) found that four induced abortions increased a woman’s risk of preterm birth 800 percent. Extreme preterm birth results in a cerebral palsy rate 38 times higher than term birth.

The Institute of Medicine report also reported that African-American women have triple the rate of “very” preterm birth (less than 32 weeks) compared to Caucasian women; socioeconomic status and behavioral factors did not account for this difference. According to the Center for Disease Control statistics, African-American women have roughly triple the rate of induced abortion as compared with caucasian women.

Induced abortion increases the risk of preterm birth.

Argument: No, abortion doesn't have long-term after effects, including psychological problems.

I’ve yet to meet a woman who actually wants an abortion. Most women reach that conclusion after a grueling, heartwrenching process. If a woman decides abortion is her best option, I don’t think she’ll have long-lasting effects. A 1992 study published in Professional Psychology evaluated 5,000 women for eight years and analyzed emotional well-being before and after abortion. Researchers concluded women with high self-esteem before abortion were likely to have high self-esteem afterwards. 

A 2007 review conducted by the Geneva Department of Psychiatry suggests most psychological issues occur during the pre-abortion period, when the woman is struggling with what to do. The researchers said most women experience relief, decreased anxiety and less depression in the months following abortion. A 2000 study published in Archives of General Psychiatry studied women for two years following abortion. Approximately 75 percent were satisfied and attributed more positive than negative outcomes to their choice.

I don’t mean to imply that abortion should be taken lightly. On the contrary, dealing with an unwanted pregnancy is one of life’s toughest decisions. It’s often more difficult because the woman may be young, financially insecure or in an unstable relationship.

Deciding to deliver the baby is no psychological walk in the park either. After enduring physical and emotional rigors of pregnancy, she is faced with keeping baby or adopting out. Keeping baby may be OK; however, too often these babies are brought into conditions of poverty,
substance abuse or neglect. Adopting out poses potential separation issues for mom and abandonment issues for baby. Certainly these scenarios are wrought with emotional difficulties for both mother and child.

When a woman is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, there’s no easy decision. She should be able to decide what’s best for her—keep baby, adopt baby out, terminate the pregnancy. That’s the extraordinary thing about prochoice—it offers choices.

hands pulling rope

Dr. Warhus’s

The March of Dimes states that premature birth is the number-one cause of newborn death. Their website lists more than 20 potential risk factors for preterm delivery. Not one of them is abortion.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concurs and reports most doctors don’t believe one abortion affects future pregnancies. ACOG goes on to say that abortion is a low-risk procedure. When it is performed, it should be done by a well-trained physician in a professional setting and as early as possible.

Dr. Harrison’s

When the long-term outcomes of major depression and suicide following a woman’s decision to terminate the life of her unborn child are studied, the true psychological cost becomes clear.

One of the best current studies, by Fergusson of New Zealand (2005), found the rate of major depression was tripled in women who chose abortion. No women in this study had depression before the birth or abortion.

Another study, by Gissler (Finland), found those who chose abortion had a suicide rate six times higher than those choosing delivery.

Abortion hurts women.


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Last updated and/or approved: January 2012. Original article appeared in September/October 2008 former print magazine. Bios current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

Comments (10)add comment
Longterm effects of abortion?
written by Bessie Mcrue , August 23, 2015

I have been married for 8 years to a woman who had both abortion and miscarriage in the years before she met me; She has never received any form of therapy.

From the little reading I have done I have picked up a number of character traits that could be linked to the abortions and miscarriage:
She has difficulty sleeping; is highly irritable; Has violent temper tantrums; Avoids sex as long as she can - any argument, no matter how small leads to sexual withdrawal. The longest we have gone without sex is 1 year; She is extremely defensive and a habitual liar.

We have 2 lovey children brought into this world with great difficulty - she had to be on bed rest and medication to prevent miscarriages.

In the years before she met me she had an average of 3 ("Simultaneous") boyfriends/sexual partners (Married and Single) at any given time. 11 of them over a 3 year period.

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"Forgiven and set Free" through God's grace
written by Andrea , April 21, 2015

I had my abortion three years ago, I was 24. I was making plans to go back to school and start a new chapter in my life when I found out I was pregnate. I new something was different right away, I could feel it. I was in an unhealthy relationship and wasn't sure if I could handle being a single mom and being the first one in my family to be a single mother and not married. I remember this day like it was yesterday, it was the WORST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE! If anyone is unsure choose life! Through the grace of God he has used this ugly blemish and is making something beautiful from the horrible choice I made three years ago. Yes, I still grieve, and some days are worse than others,BUT I know I will see my baby again. I'm blessed my church has a recovery program for women who have had abortions and I'm meeting women who have gone through what I went through and have their support to keep me fighting the good fight. The curriculum we use is "Forgiven and set Free" it will change your life and really show you how loving your Heavenly Father is and how he wants you to bring your burdens to him. HE IS BIGGER, AND IS ALIVE!
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written by Jennifer Casey , March 28, 2015

God bless you and know that there is forgiveness and healing in JESUS
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Unforgotten & Unforgiven
written by Unnah , August 12, 2014

I was 22 years old when I moved far away from home,my family & was living with a roommate. I was going through a party phase, drinking alcohol every other day & even doing drugs. It was during this time that I got pregnant by a guy I barely knew. I didn't have a stable job, my roommate, who I thought was my close friend , never really cared. Eventually I moved back home to my mom(my parents are divorced). When I told her I was pregnant,she told me that she will not allow me to live under her roof if I have the baby. Her 2nd thought was 'what will the rest of our family think?'

I didn't want to go and live with my father because he still lived in the small town I grew up in. I would never be able to live there with people talking behind my back the rest of my life and I thought that by going through with the abortion, I'll be doing the right thing, because mother's always supposed to know what's best for their children . . . right?

I was 17 weeks along when the abortion clinic did the scan, it turned out that the baby was growing abnormally.So I had the abortion.

That was 4 years ago, that day will forever be burned into my memory, the physical pain had been unbearable but its nothing compared to the after effects.

The weight gain,the continuous excessive bleeding & pain. I have become a recluse. Interacting only with a handful of people. On the surface it seems as if I have moved on with my life but on the inside I will always be stuck on that operating table, while my baby is ripped and pulled out of my body.

I have grown to accept this self hatred, guilt and utter regret as my fate. . . even though I wish it wasn't.

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Mother's Day
written by Benay , July 28, 2014

My novio and I were using perico & weed & alcohol todo el tiempo. Then oops I got pregnant. Surprise, surprise. I think back then without Facebook I could've hidden away at my tios or prim0s & had the baby & given it up for adoption without it getting out.
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written by Laura A , January 30, 2014

I am 56 years old. I had 2 abortions at age 16 and 17. I did this because i had catholic parents whom i was sure would send me away if they knew what i had done. I have struggled my entire life with alcoholism and have had 5 divorces. I have never forgotten the first proceedure and the feeling of death that inhabited my entire body. I had the second only because I felt I was doomed to hell for my 1st - it didn't matter what i did after that. I quit school after that and left home as a teen because i could no longer exist in a world where i had such a huge secret. I have experienced to a great degree all of the symptoms of post-abortion syndrome except breast cancer - and that was before i knew that the "syndrome" existed. No person or organization can tell me that this proceedure has not affected my life. I cry for my unborn babies to this day.
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Set Free From Abortion
written by Ms. Transparency , January 24, 2014

I aborted my beautiful daughter – a God-given gift. I allowed Satan – the enemy of darkness, to trick me into thinking that abortion was the right and only choice I had to make; surely it would solve all of my problems, only to realize I would be presented with a whole new set of challenges which would last for thirty years. I was dying inside due to the pain that was too deep to explain. I suffered from low self-esteem, verbal/physical abusive relationships, failed relationships, drug and alcohol use amongst other bondage.
My deliverance and healing was from attending a 13-week group. No Longer Bound is a ministry that provides healing by using biblical truth and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The process is painful yet necessary; and the ugliness of the past is dealt with gently. When I came to the realization that I actually murdered my child I was devastated. Jesus sacrificed and shed His precious blood for all sins. God has turned my pain into sunshine. He is healing and walking with me every moment to become the saint He created me to be.
My name from now on is Ms. Transparency

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written by Lena , November 13, 2013

Some of us have made some bad mistakes in our lives. Getting pregnant twice with a bad man who steals, does drugs, is dishonest, abusive...was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. To rectify my error, I terminated my pregnancies.
Why on God's green earth, would I bring a person into this world knowing that it will have some of its father's genes, I won't be able to provide financially, in turn making myself and my entire family around me miserable? How can I be so selfish as to bring a child into this world KNOWING that I cannot provide proper parenting, KNOWING that it will have traits from its father, KNOWING that it will be born into a broken home???? I would rather take the sin onto myself and live with terminating an embryo at 12 weeks than to pass that sin onto my child. I did it and have no regrets as I fully know the repercussions of going full term. This was 15 years ago. I am now 39, 34 weeks pregnant, overweight yes, but no problems getting pregnant as it was not planned nor expected, fully healthy big baby growing inside me, with a very loving man by my side who has supported me through think and thin, who will be an excellent father because he has so much love and wisdom to offer. My doctor has thrown the medical examination book at me and everything came back perfect.
I thank GOD for the decision I made 15 years ago. I do not grieve for it. Not a 12 week embryo with the worst man on the planet.

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long term effects on women mental and physical after abortion
written by frances jones , November 08, 2013

i am 54 years old had abortion 1 week before 21st birthday it was the biggest mistake of my life it inpacted every aspect of my life todate went through mental and physical torture for years had nervous breakdown 5 years ago and still have thoughts of what might have been inamed my child grace as she has gone before me i will always hold her in my heart
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I have done the 'unthinkable' three times
written by Melissa , February 14, 2013

If you are pregnant and you don't know what to do - don't terminate!
I was pressured by partner,family, society and friends to terminate on three separate occasions. Luckily for me I have also had three normal healthy babies. I began to suffer panic attacks/anxiety and insomnia at 21 after the first termination. I was obsessed with the idea of atoning for the wrong i committed. I am not religious. I planned to fall pregnant and gave birth to the next child (my 'first' child). Life is difficult with a young child and zero family support so to appease my partner the next child was also terminated. I dearly wanted that child. A few years later I had another normal healthy baby. Eight years later I fell pregnant at 39 and knew I couldn't cope with another abortion. I had a healthy baby. Three years later it happened again and - against my better judgement and after counselling with a pro-termination clinic - I made a terrible error that I cannot undo. Ever. I am obsessed with having another but fear that I am now unable to conceive as I now miscarry. I am a mess emotionally and mentally and find it hard to work because I cry all the time. I am on anti-depressants for life.
If a woman is ambivalent about termination - she should not terminate. If a woman is already 'attached' to the baby inside her she will grieve for that child forever. I guarantee it.

Termination is a big rip-off, it's a lie because those children are not erased. They live on in the hearts and minds of women all over the world who remember the dates - termination dates, due dates, how old would they be now? What would they look like? What would they sound like? We will never know. Abortion - and I have done it three times - is not the answer. Not by a long shot. Contraception is not always fulll-proof. Society needs to support women who feel vulnerable and give them the strength to get through and give birth to the children they already have inside them.

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