In a previous excerpt from her book Giving Sorrow Words: The Unspoken Pain
of Abortion, journalist and women's rights advocate Melinda Tankard Reist
discussed how inadequate and deceptive pre-abortion counseling contributes
to the lack of choice. In this excerpt, she describes how women are often
not told of the potential risks of abortion, and how it affects them.
Many women were not aware of the potential physical and psychological
complications of abortion. Most women said they were totally unprepared
for what they would go through during the abortion—and after. They felt
cheated that abortion was presented as something quick and easy and over
with when the reality for them was very different.
For example, Melody felt totally unprepared for the experience of the
abortion she had in 1990:
The doctor and nurse ... didn’t prepare me for the horror of
termination ... I thought my uterus was being sucked out ... I could
hear them saying it was a healthy nine-week-old fetus and everything was
Carol also describes her experience:
It has been ten years now, almost to this day, and I can still
remember, clearly, those fatal few minutes that I will regret to my
dying day. The abortionist did not speak or look at me except to growl,
“Be quiet and keep still,” when I began to shake and cry against my own
will as I felt his cold, sharp instruments cutting out the life that had
been growing inside me for the past three months. The sound of the fetus
dropping into the plastic bucket held between my legs is a sound I
cannot erase from my memory.
Some women wrote of experiencing a sort of psychic trauma immediately
after the abortion. Patricia wrote:
When I came out of the anesthetic I began to panic. I was dreaming or
imagining where have they taken the soul of my baby. I felt robbed; I
felt something hideous, terrifying. I was in a state of fright and
shock. All I remember is thinking, “Where have they taken my baby?”
A significant number of respondents suffered physical side-effects,
ranging from heavy bleeding, sometimes for months, to infection and
incompetent cervixes. A surprising number had to have a second procedure
to remove “retained products.”
Mariah, from Melbourne, woke from the abortion in “excruciating pain.”
I began crying in pain, and as I lifted the sheets there was blood
everywhere. The pain was unbearable, it was like a knife kept stabbing
me in the stomach over and over again ... The nurse gave me an injection
for the pain, but it didn’t help. About 15 minutes later she gave me
another shot; it still didn’t help.
After the third shot she was so worried because I was still in pain that
she called the head doctor who operated on me to take a look at me. When
the doctor took the folder from the end of my bed and looked through the
pieces of paper, he was shocked. He called the nurse over and asked if it
was correct the amount of pain killer shots she’d given me. Because I was
still crying and holding my stomach in pain, the doctor had no other
choice but to inject me again ...
Lara, who underwent an abortion at the age of 21 in 1996, also suffered
I began to have pains in my stomach and I rang the 24-hour hotline
where they told me to go back. I did this and I was given a course of
antibiotics and treated for an infection in the womb. I was not really
impressed with the service, as it appeared that they had no records of
my procedure. A week later I was still suffering pains in my stomach and
they were getting to the point I could hardly walk. I was rushed [to the
hospital] ... I was told I was not the only one who had gone through
this after a termination ...
I remained in hospital for four days ... I broke out in hives from the
medication ... My condition was only getting worse ... I was now unable
to walk ... [I was] told that my body was probably just in shock. [A few
months later] I found myself still going through the emotions of a
pregnant woman, and close to the day I would have had my baby, I had
labor pains. I lay on the floor in pain, crying and alone ...
Ginny, a mother of two, also says she was not made aware of the
implications of the abortion. She was told only that the abortion was
“similar to a [D&C].” Ginny has been hospitalized on psychiatric grounds a
number of times since the abortion and has not been able to return to
work. She suffers stress-related skin conditions, self-mutilates and
experiences terrible nightmares. At the time of writing, she was
undergoing shock therapy.
I would hear a baby crying in my sleep or I would get up thinking I
had to breastfeed or just getting up to check on the baby, but it was
hearing a baby crying that was the worst. No one prepared me for the
years of nightmares, the feelings of guilt and the pain.
A number of women wrote or spoke of subsequent problems with infertility.
I was told I may not be able to have children because of problems
with my ovaries and ... fallopian tubes. If I cannot have children—after
aborting [one] and miscarrying another—I will die of an unfulfilled
Theresa lost four babies as a result of miscarriage and stillbirth. She
attributes these losses to two abortions six years earlier.
Another woman, Trish, wonders if there is a connection between abortion
and cervical cancer, having had three procedures to remove abnormal cells.
She had two abortions, forced by her previous husband and, though having
two children from that relationship, is not able to have any with her new
husband because of the abnormal growths and related problems.
The more common abortion after-effects experienced by those contributing
to this book include uncontrolled crying, dreaming of babies, grief
reactions on the date the baby would have been born, fantasizing about the
baby, depression, emotional numbness, sleep disorders and anger.
A woman in her sixties wrote anonymously about the abortion her husband
made her have almost 40 years ago:
I tried to live with having an abortion, but I lost my confidence in
life and have been a very frightened person inside. The veneer that I
parade in front of family and the world is very false.
Excerpted from the book Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief
After Abortion, by Melinda Tankard Reist. This book is available from the
Elliot Institute under our Acorn Books publishing imprint. For more
www.theunchoice.com or call 1-888-412-2676.
Afterword: Most women I know who had abortions, some even for medical
reasons, have suffered a lot after - some with physical side effects (one
lady is now unable to get pregnant even with Invitro). Here is a sampling
of people who have shared with me:
D: "I had an abortion 19 years ago because we didn't feel we were ready
for a kid" (it's still affecting her when she volunteered the info - she
had her office plastered with artwork from her very spoiled 5 year old
L: "I had an abortion when I was 19 years old. I wasn't married and the
father wasn't interested. I know I killed my baby." (she volunteered that
information when she heard I was pro life).
M: "I had two abortions 25 years ago. I know I killed my babies.
After my abortions, I started abusing alcohol and drugs." (She and I
went through a healing prayer as she still felt bad.)
This to say, that many men do not realize that abortion is NOT a choice
women like to make. It's usually made because the woman is being
pressured by family or unsupportive fathers or even pressures from
One of our granddaughters, when she was 16 years old, found herself facing an unplanned pregnancy but since she had support
from our whole family, she, looked
forward to the baby and took good care of herself (and baby) in her pregnancy. She is still in
school and is attending college (she gets straight "A's" in school!).
The baby was born without incident, a little girl and has already in her young life, been a great blessing to our whole family. The only problem is she has two sets of great grandparents, two sets of grandparents and plenty of nieces and nephews to spoil her! :) She isn't complaining however. A highly intelligent and adorable little girl, she brings joy to many people! Truly if her mother had had an abortion, not only would her mother's life had been ruined but the world would have lost the joy this sweet little girl brings. No one who kept her baby was ever sorry she did so. Most people I've talked to, who aborted are sorry for the rest of their lives! Think about it!