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Questions & Answers About Abortion

Q & A: Finding Real Answers about Abortion

Why do women have abortions?

Most women - at least 70% - say they believe abortion is immoral. But they choose against their consciences because of pressure from others and their circumstances. They choose abortion out of fear - fear of not being able to raise a child, fear of losing their partner if they do not have an abortion, fear of losing control over of their lives, etc. Many women lack support from their families and loved ones. More than 80% say they would have completed their pregnancies under better circumstances or with more support from the people they love.

Abortion is not a true "choice" on the woman's part; it is an act of despair. On a very basic level, it is precisely because women who abort are acting against their consciences and their maternal instincts that the psychological impact of abortion is so profound.

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When does human life actually begin? I've heard the terms viability, conception, and fertilization tossed around and still don't know when a baby becomes a baby.

This is a question that has been addressed, answered, and re-answered for the past 25 years. The baby's life begins at the moment of fertilization (conception). This is the point when the 23 chromosomes in the father's sperm and the 23 chromosomes in the mother's egg meet and combine to form a new one-celled human being. This new little person is called a human zygote. Around six or seven days into the baby's development, the tiny baby moves down the fallopian tube and implants into the wall of the mother's uterus, or womb. There the baby will receive nourishment while he or she is growing and forming.

Viability refers to the point at which a baby can survive outside of the mother's womb. This is usually defined as being at around 24 weeks. Unfortunately, abortion supporters use the term viability to define when the baby actually becomes a human life. This is scientifically inaccurate.

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Didn't former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop conclude that there are no psychological consequences from abortion? 

Actually, no. Dr. Koop was assigned by President Ronald Reagan to produce a report on the psychological impact of abortion on women. What Koop told the President is that he could not find any studies at that time that were not seriously flawed. As a result, the data was simply inadequate to determine the extent and degree of psychological impact of abortion, if any. He made a recommendation for a government-funded study to evaluate this question, but unfortunately this was never done.

Extremists who want to deny any psychological importance to the abortion experience have repeatedly misquoted and twisted Koop's statements. In essence, Koop's official statement was simply that we need to do more research before we can arrive at any irrefutable conclusions. Radicals have twisted this to mean, "Koop didn't find anything, so nothing exists." In numerous interviews, however, Koop has refuted this misrepresentation of his views. He has stated that he is personally convinced by the existing evidence that many women do suffer serious post-abortion psychological problems. Speaking as the Surgeon General, however, he conservatively, and properly, concluded that more research needs to be done.

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What are the psychological aftereffects of abortion? 

Every woman is different. They have different responses that may appear in different time frames. Some women repress or are unaware of any aftereffects for years. Many reactions are delayed but are triggered later by significant events such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a religious conversion.

Commonly reported reactions include: feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, helplessness, grief and/or remorse; uncontrollable crying; feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment; feelings of distrust and betrayal; lowered self-esteem; avoidance of babies, small children, or anything to do with pregnancy; fear of future pregnancies or desire to have a "replacement" baby; flashbacks to the abortion experience; nightmares or sleeping disorders; depression; sexual dysfunction; eating disorders, substance abuse or other self-destructive behavior; broken or abusive relationships; problems bonding with other children; suicidal thoughts or tendencies; and other problems.

A major problem is that women and men may feel unable to share their grief with others. When they turn to people who are pro-abortion, they will probably be told, "Forget about it. It wasn't really a baby, yet, so there's nothing to feel bad about." Such "comforting" words actually deny the reality of grief and stymie the healing process. On the other hand, women and men are likely to feel afraid to share their pain with people on the pro-life side because they fear they will be rejected and condemned. As a result, women and men who are struggling with a past abortion are likely to feel "boxed" on both sides. To whom can they turn? Who will acknowledge the reality of their grief without making them feel even more guilty? This is why so many carry the burden of their grief alone, and this burden can place an enormous strain on their ability to function and relate to others.

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If some of the side effects are delayed or repressed, are there times or circumstances when they are more likely to occur? 

As mentioned before, significant changes (such as the birth of a child, death of a family member, the break up of a relationship, or even physical changes like menopause) in a woman's life might trigger some of these reactions. Many women often have "anniversary reactions" on the day the baby was aborted or around the time when the baby might have been due.

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Can abortion affect children who are born later? 

Yes. Many women who have abortions experience physical problems with future pregnancies, including miscarriages, ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, stillbirths, and premature birth (which affects children's development). Other physical complications could lead to sterility or difficulty conceiving a child.

Children can also be affected by the mother's emotional problems. Many women either have difficulty bonding with their children or become very overprotective.

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Can abortion affect one's parenting skills? 

Yes. A women may be afraid or unable to bond with or love her child because she is obsessed with the aborted child. She may see the child as a "replacement child" for the one who was aborted and be constantly comparing him or her to "what might have been." She may experience depression that leaves her unable to care for her children or anger that could lead to abuse. For example, in the case of Renee Nicely of New Jersey, post-abortion trauma triggered a "psychotic episode" which resulted in the beating death of her 3-year-old son, Shawn. She told the court psychiatrist that she "knew that abortion was wrong" and "I should be punished for the abortion." Unfortunately, Shawn became the victim of her frustrations.

Or the mother might be extremely overprotective, afraid that God will punish her for aborting her child by harming or taking away later children.

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What kind of impact does abortion have on a relationship with a boyfriend? 

Many women choose abortion in an effort to save their relationship or "keep" a boyfriend from leaving. The idea may be very subtle - an "it's your decision" mentality - or an outright threat to leave if the woman does not abort. But this never works. Most relationships do not survive the abortion.

For many couples, there may be resentment or anger if one of them only "went along with the abortion" to please the other. Women who feel they were not supported by their partners, or men whose partners aborted against their wishes, are especially likely to have problems coping with abortion. Either or both of them might be feeling grief or guilt, but are unwilling to share their feelings with their partner for fear of upsetting them. This can be especially problematic for men, who are often taught to hide their emotions. All of this can lead to a break-up between the couple.

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What is the impact of abortion on marriages? 

If the abortion takes place before the marriage, with a person other than the spouse, it can still have an impact on the person involved who brings this emotional baggage into the relationship. This is especially problematic if the person keeps the abortion a secret from their spouse, who will not understand their emotional problems. Secrets can be devastating to a marriage, since they keep a person from giving and receiving unconditional love.

If the abortion takes place within the marriage, it can be a breeding ground for anger and resentment between the spouses. They are more likely to feel resentment, anger, and rage toward each other. Several famous cases of domestic violence involved abortion: including the Lorena Bobbitt case and the O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson case.

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Can abortion increase the risk of domestic violence? 

Yes. It is no accident that the abortion rate and the domestic violence rate have risen almost side by side. Abortion tends to create feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment between partners. A woman who is self-destructive or suicidal, but afraid to deliberately harm herself, may be more likely to become involved with a violent man. She may feel unconsciously that she "deserves to be punished" because of her abortion. Because her abortion has destroyed her self-esteem, she may think that she does not deserve a better relationship than the abusive one she is in.

The most troubling concern of domestic violence counselors is that so many abused women stay in abusive relationships. In many of these cases, the best explanation for this victimizing behavior may be found in the self-punishing aspects of post-abortion trauma. Therefore, until domestic violence counselors begin to address the underlying problems associated with post-abortion trauma, they may never help this group of women escape from the cycle of violence in which they are trapped.

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Does abortion have any impact on men? 

Yes, it does. Men involved in abortion have reported many problems they say were a direct result of the abortion experience, including broken relationships; sexual dysfunction; substance abuse; self-hate; risk-taking and suicidal behavior; increased feelings of grief over time; feelings of helplessness and guilt; depression; greater tendencies toward becoming angry and violent, and a sense of lost manhood.

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Is legal abortion safer than illegal abortion? 

No. Legality reduces the risks abortionists face because they are not doing anything illegal when they perform abortions. Legalized abortion allows them to lower their standards because they do not fear exposure. Remember, most illegal abortions were performed by doctors. The skill level hasn't increased, only the ease of advertising.

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At least with legalized abortion, women who suffer physical complications can get emergency medical treatment without fear of becoming involved in a criminal investigation, right?

That's true. And that is the only health benefit of legalized abortion. But the overall impact is still very negative because the total number of women having abortions increases dramatically. Why? Because legalizing abortion has made it easier to pressure reluctant women into having abortions. Before abortion was legal women at least had the excuse that abortion was not safe. But now, since abortion is seen to be safe, they no longer have that reason to refuse abortion. As a result, the number of abortions has skyrocketed with only a minimal improvement, if any, in safety. So, while the percentage of deaths from hemorrhage and infections may go down, the actual number of women suffering these complications goes up. Plus, since psychological complications are even more common than physical complications, the number of women experiencing complications of one type or another is increasing dramatically.

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If a pregnancy results from rape, does carrying the baby only make the woman’s situation worse?

Rape is a horrendous crime, leaving a woman in a state of mental, physical, and emotional turmoil. If a woman becomes pregnant as the result of rape (this occurs less than 1% of the time), an abortion will not erase the fact that she was raped. Submitting the woman to a second unspeakable act of violence (abortion) will not take away the trauma, the nightmares, or the pain, but it may add to them. According to a survey conducted by Dr. David Reardon of the Elliot Institute in 1990, the psychological complications of abortion include guilt, nervous disorders, nightmares, and memory loss (over 100 psychiatric reactions in all). Additionally, if there was a pre-existing disordered state (like rape), abortion may cause a worsening of psychological functioning.

Because of problems with our justice system, rapists often walk free, without punishment, while the child conceived because his or her mother was raped may suffer the ultimate injustice - abortion without the benefit of a trial or defense.

We must remember, first and foremost, that the person created as a result of rape is not to blame for the crime committed against the mother. Although this person is created as a result of a hideous violation, we cannot deny that he or she is still a unique individual human being created in the image of God, no matter under what circumstances he or she is brought into this world. The child is just as innocent a victim and just as worthy of our protection and love as the mother.

The good news is that women who become pregnant as a result of rape and carry their babies to term experience an increased rate of healing, recognizing the blessing that has come from such a horrible situation.

Unfortunately, the pro-abortion movement supports abortion in cases of rape at the expense of both victims; the women whose emotional, physical, and mental stability have been shattered by rape and abortion and the children who may have brought healing and peace had he or she been given the chance to live.

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Lately, it seems that one of the big issues in the pro-life movement is the partial-birth abortion. What exactly is a partial-birth abortion?

Dilation and Extraction (D&X) abortions or late-term abortions (performed in the late stages of pregnancy - the third trimester) are commonly referred to as partial-birth abortions. Partial-birth means that the baby is already partially delivered or born when he is aborted. The baby is pulled out of the mother all the way up to his head. The abortionist then takes a pair of scissors and jams them into the base of the baby's skull. The abortionist spreads the scissors apart, making the hole wider. A vacuum tube is inserted into the baby's skull, and the brain is removed. The skull collapses, and the dead baby is removed completely.

Partial-birth abortion is better termed "infanticide," the killing of an infant. A baby at 24 weeks is able to survive outside of the mother's womb, and late-term abortions are performed on babies beyond that point, sometimes at 32 weeks or more!

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Is abortion ever really necessary to save the mother’s life?

Medically speaking, abortion is unnecessary to save the mother's life. It is important to distinguish between direct abortion (the intentional and willed destruction of a pre-born child) and a legitimate treatment chosen by a pregnant mother to save her life. Such operations performed to save the life of the mother - such as the removal of a cancerous uterus or an ectopic pregnancy that poses the threat of imminent death - are considered indirect abortions. They are justified under a concept called the "principle of double effect." Under this principle, the death of the child is an unintended effect of an operation, independently justified by the necessity of saving the mother's life.

Essentially, both mother and child should be treated as patients. A doctor should try to protect both. However, in the course of treating a woman, if her child dies, it is not considered abortion.

"Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life of the mother." -Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood.

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I have heard that some forms of birth control are abortifacients. What does that mean?

An abortifacient is an agent (as a drug) that induces or causes abortion. These abortion-causing chemicals and devices kill babies in the first few days of their lives. The birth control pill, the Mini-Pill, Depo-Provera, Norplant, and the "morning-after pill" (emergency contraception) are publicized as simply preventing ovulation (releasing an egg from the woman's ovary) and therefore conception. The truth is that these drugs also alter the lining of the uterus or womb so that if ovulation and conception do occur, the newly conceived child cannot attach himself or herself to the wall of the uterus. The IUD does not act to prevent ovulation at all, and it irritates the lining of the uterus so that a conceived baby cannot implant. If a baby cannot implant in the lining of the womb to receive nourishment, he or she dies.

Other abortifacients, RU-486 and methotrexate, break down and destroy the baby's surroundings after he or she has implanted in the mother's womb, taking away the baby's nourishment and the hormone progesterone that the baby requires for growth and development. Once the little boy or girl is dead, a second chemical causes contractions and the dead baby is pushed out of the mother's womb.

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My doctor recently prescribed the birth control pill to regulate my period. I know that the pill has serious side effects, and I don't want to take it. Is there anything else I can do or take besides the birth control pill?

Doctors commonly prescribe oral contraceptives (i.e. the birth control pill) for menstrual abnormalities: regulating periods, Hypermenorrhea (heavy periods), Polymenorrhea (frequent periods), Amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), Menorrhagia (excessive bleeding during periods), Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps), and PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

The birth control pill wasn't designed to treat these conditions - it was designed to take control of the body's natural hormonal functioning (by suppressing the reproductive system) and to prepare the body to reject pregnancy. Therefore, the pill only treats the symptoms and does nothing to address the problem or cause itself. Not only does the pill just treat the symptoms, it increases the risk of bacterial infections, cervical cancer, endometriosis, and infertility, to name a few (read the insert in a packet of birth control pills to see how many risks and complications are possible).

It's important that you educate yourself about your options. Ask your doctor lots of questions. An evaluation by a physician, including but not limited to a pelvic examination, is necessary to determine the cause of the symptoms. Taking the pill without knowing what is causing your menstrual abnormality may only disguise the problem and make it worse. There's simply no need to be on the birth control pill for menstrual abnormalities or any reason.

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I would never personally have an abortion, so how does abortion affect me exactly?

Abortion affects all of us in many profound ways. Can you imagine life without your brother, sister, or best friend? Or, what if your parents had been aborted? You would have never been born! Abortion not only affects you because of the people who haven't been born, but because of the people who are still around. Just think of all the millions of men, women, and children who suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually because of abortions they know about or have been a part of. Most likely, many of these people go to your school, attend your place of worship, or live in your communities.

Also, our society has less respect for all human life because of abortion. You can see it everywhere in the increased acts of violence and hate, the breakdown of families and relationships, and the killing of people through assisted suicide. Chances are, there is not one single individual living on this earth who is not affected by abortion.

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I keep hearing the phrase "fertility rate" in the news. What exactly does it mean and why should I care?

The fertility rate is the average number of children born per woman, per year. The number of births is directly related to the world's replenishment or replacement levels. Replacement levels are the number of births required each year to replace the number of people who die. The process is ongoing and ensures that there will always be enough people to work, produce food, have children, and ensure the world's survival.

However, because of the population controllers' family planning programs, the world's fertility rate/replacement level is quickly dropping. In 1985-90, the fertility rate was 3.38 births per woman. It is now 2.7 and falling quickly. A fertility rate of 2.1 is required just to keep the population balanced, with no growth or decline. If the trend continues, the world fertility rate will fall below 2.1 in about ten years. When this happens, there will be more deaths than births.

Keep in mind that the 2.7 rate is an average between the birth rates of developed countries (like the U.S.) and the birth rates of developing countries (third world nations). Every developed country in the world has had a fertility rate below 2.1 for almost the past 30 years. It's complicated stuff, but the stats show that we're systematically killing off the human population on earth.

For more information on this subject, check out the Population Research Institute (www.pop.org).

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Can doctors detect birth defects in pre-born children?

Yes. Doctors now have the technology to medically evaluate children in the womb. One process of detection is called amniocentesis. The process was originally developed by Sir Albert William Liley in 1970 to facilitate blood-exchange for RH babies and later to permit the prenatal diagnosis of abnormalities. Liley was a world-renowned fetologist and staunch pro-lifer from New Zealand. He was the first scientist to personalize the pre-born child - recognizing both the uniqueness in each child and the common factors such as the ability of the child in utero to feel pain.

Amniocentesis is performed after the 16th week of pregnancy. Guided by ultrasound, the doctor inserts a needle through the abdominal wall into the uterus and withdraws about an ounce of amniotic fluid that will be examined for signs of chromosomal abnormalities.

When the test and diagnosis respect the life and integrity of the pre-born child and are directed toward safeguarding and healing, they are morally acceptable. Many problems detected early in pregnancy can be fixed while the child is still in utero. Heart surgery has even been successfully performed on a child while still in her mother's womb.

However, too often tests that come back with any sign of abnormality end in the abortion of the child. The National Institute of Health found that parents aborted 95% of babies who were found to be "defective" by society's standards. Even as early as 1972, amniocentesis was being used by some parents to decide on abortion when the child was of the non-preferred sex.

Not to mention the fact that many times the procedure is harmful to the growing child. Major risks include fetal puncture wounds, laceration of the baby's spleen, damage to the placenta and/or umbilical cord, and death from loss of blood. In a 1986 study of 2,264 pregnant women, 23 women had miscarriages directly caused by amniocentesis.

Another noteworthy fact is that amniocentesis is not performed before 16 weeks and is typically performed between 16-18 weeks. With the time it takes to make a proper diagnosis taken into account, most abortions are performed after 20 weeks and the most common abortion method at that point is partial-birth abortion.

In 1983, Dr. William Liley committed suicide. Friends are quoted as saying that "the misuse of amniocentesis by the March of Dimes and others became the great pain of his later life." Imagine this man, so in love with pre-born children that he spent his life developing a technique intended to preserve and uphold the dignity and respect of the pre-born child's life, offering healing in utero. Later, to his dismay, the technique became widely used to determine value of life by parents and doctors on "search and destroy" missions.

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