Researchers: Post-Abortion Syndrome a Growing Health Problem
Post Abortion Syndrome, the negative reactions many
women experience after abortion, can be characterized
as a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and should
be further researched, according to an article published
in the Fall 1992 issue of the Journal of Social Issues.
The article, authored by clinical researchers and psychologists
Anne Speckhard and Vincent Rue, found that significantly
more research is needed to fully explore the phenomenon
of Post-Abortion Syndrome, or PAS.
The authors identify PAS, as a combination of negative
reactions to the abortion event, such as flashbacks,
nightmares, grief and painful abortion recollections
resulting in reduced responsiveness.
The researchers concluded that PAS is a type of Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
has been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association
in contexts other than abortion. PAS may result immediately
following an abortion or it may be delayed. It may
persist for many years and spontaneous recovery is
PAS is believed to be a series of related and unsuccessful
attempts to gain mastery over the abortion experience.
It results in partial to total cognitive restructuring
and behavioral reorganization. Secondary symptoms of
PAS include depression, substance abuse, sleep disorders
and suicidal thoughts.
According to Speckhard and Rue, many symptoms are present
after the abortion which were not present prior to
abortion. These include: difficulty concentrating;
exaggerated startled responses to memories of the abortion
experience; physiological reactions to events that
symbolize or resemble an aspect of the abortion; self-devaluation;
and the inability to forgive the abortion decision.
How voluntary the abortion decision was is largely
responsible for the perceived degree of traumatization.
Speckhard and Rue concluded that flawed studies on the
effects of abortion and political pressure have produced
a lack of information, or informational deficit, concerning
Post Abortion trauma; at present, it is impossible
to estimate with any degree of accuracy the incidence
of Post Abortion Syndrome.
However, there are indications that PAS is present in
a substantial number of women following abortion. For
example, one study cited in the Speckhard and Rue article
stated that of 80 women who had abortions at a Baltimore
area clinic in the mid-1980s, approximately 20 percent
had all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
as established by the DSM-III R criteria of the American
Psychiatric Association. The same study also found
that 45 percent of the women were still having flashbacks
of the experience even three to five years later.
The researchers have observed that PAS is not limited
to women who have had an abortion. It has been documented
in others who participate in the abortion, such as
fathers, siblings and other family members of the child,
and abortion clinic staff.
Speckhard and Rue recommend improved research on the
subject and emphasize the growing need for specialized
Post Abortion recovery treatment models and services
as well as educational workshops for both the general
public and professional groups.