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A woman undergoing an abortion is usually there because those around her boyfriend, parents, and friends have left her on her own. In a very real sense, she has been betrayed. She learns that the relationship that led to the pregnancy was meaningless. She learns that her support systems are unreliable. Everywhere she turns, she is advised to take the “easy” way out that she has a right, if not an obligation, to choose abortion. Frequently, her boyfriend issues an ultimatum: the baby or me. Often, she feels that she has no “choice;” that abortion is the only option in her circumstances. This initial betrayal is nothing, however, compared to the betrayal she faces after the abortion. That’s when she discovers the long-term physical and psychological consequences none of which are usually mentioned in conversations prior to the abortion.

Sadly in the past 30 years, women have accepted cultural myths that have wreaked havoc in their lives. One of the worst myths is that they, alone, have the right to the make choices affecting their body. With the legalization of abortion, young, poor unmarried women have viewed abortion as a simple, easy, safe way to avoid having a baby out of wedlock. The mantra said that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Turns out, it is only legal; it is neither safe nor rare. Too many young girls have discovered that abortion is not really safe and the whole culture has discovered that legalizing abortion did not make it rare. Instead, the United States now has the highest abortion rate among Western nations with over a million children aborted every year. Since the legalization of abortion, there have been over 40 million abortions performed in the United States. Our teen abortion rate is the highest in the world and the rate for unmarried women is 4 times higher than the rate for married women. Ironically, though most of the women are living with the man who got them pregnant, very few end up marrying the father of their child a betrayal that often leaves the woman reeling in shock. It is common for the women in cohabiting situations to believe that the relationship will lead to marriage, yet the norm is for such couples to break up and almost always it is the man who determines whether they will marry.

A recent survey of the medical literature about the long-term physical and psychological health consequences of abortion appeared in the latest issue of Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey. Three distinguished medical professors surveyed medical journals to bring together their findings. The conclusions in the survey are important: “previous abortion was a risk factor for placenta previa” (a leading cause of uterine bleeding and low-birthweight babies), “subsequent pre-term delivery” and “mood disorders substantial enough to provoke attempts of self-harm.” The authors specifically note the risk of attempted suicide. While they were unwilling to definitively link abortion and breast cancer in their summary of findings, they wrote, “Whatever the effect of induced abortion on breast cancer risk, a young woman with an unintended pregnancy clearly sacrifices the protective effect of a term delivery should she decide to abort and delay childbearing.” The authors conclude with this advice: “informed consent before induced abortion should include information about the sequent risk of pre-term delivery and depression” and “it is clear that a decision to abort and delay pregnancy culminates in a loss of protection [against breast cancer] with the net effect being an increased risk.” Buried deep in the article is a statement free of the medical jargon: “We think, now, that clinicians are obliged to inform pregnant women that a decision to abort her first pregnancy may almost double her lifetime risk of breast cancer through loss of the protective effect of a completed first full-term pregnancy earlier in life.”

The pro-abortion activists that I have debated, have said “psychological problems after abortion are limited to those who are burdened by strict religious upbringing that makes them feel guilt over a perfectly legal decision that is in the young woman’s best interest.” Yet, researchers reported in the respected American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that depression was as high as 92% among women who have undergone selective abortion for suspected genetic disorders in the pre-born child. It is ironic that, on the one hand, our culture is preoccupied with people’s psychological states and urges women to “get in touch with their feelings” and on the other hand dismisses the very real psychological trauma of abortion. Talk to any nurse or counselor at a Crisis Pregnancy Center and you’ll hear heartrending personal stories. Nearly 10% of the women who undergo abortions have immediate problems, including such relatively minor ones as bleeding, fever, and infection and such major ones as perforation of the uterus, deadly reactions to anesthesia, toxic shock, and cervical injury. A full 5% of the women who undergo an abortion are left sterile from the procedure or from subsequent infections. Other significant problems resulting from having an abortion include ectopic pregnancies which cause 12% of all maternal deaths and cervical damage that can lead to a permanent weakening of the cervix so that it is unable to support a subsequent pregnancy. These problems are real and present dangers for women and this important information is not widely known. Indeed, nearly half of the women who abort a first pregnancy will have complications in their later pregnancies. It is cruel to withhold this vital information from frightened young women whose decisions have such health-related ramifications.

We have to ask the questions: At what point will the body of scientific research on abortion reach critical mass in the way that research on smoking finally caused a profound change in the cultural attitudes toward smoking? At what point will the issue of abortion be understood in the same context that we now view slavery as a morally reprehensible evil that harms not just the individual who is enslaved and the slave owner, but indeed, the whole nation that condones such injustice. Even drinking, while still considered sophisticated and essential to fashionable social events, is not socially acceptable in excess or in a professional situation. There is no question that public attitudes about abortion are changing. Now only one-quarter of Americans support Roe v.Wade and nearly 40% of Americans are decidedly pro-life with another 13% uncertain and ambiguous in their attitudes. No wonder the pro-abortion activists are worried; the tide is not running in their favor. The myths are being exposed and women are learning the truth abortion is a betrayal of the best instincts of a woman and, ultimately, is a betrayal of her body that can lead to immediate and long-term physical damage and is a betrayal of her soul that results in psychological harm with broad and deep ramifications.

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