Right to Life Association
of South Australia
Are legal abortions safe?
The fact that a licensed physician performs the abortion does not guarantee safety to the woman. No legal abortion is without very real and serious short and long term risks to the physical and emotional health of the woman. Experience shows it is not just a simple 10 minute procedure with no subsequent psychological consequences.
Not all women who have had an abortion will suffer from symptoms and those who do may not suffer all of them nor to the same degree. The physical and psychological complications which may occur cannot be predicted in any one person – they can happen to anyone – and there is not way of judging beforehand who will be burdened.
A woman who has chosen abortion can lose her health. In addition to the women who experience a punctured womb or are killed on abortion tables, there are more subtly damaging effects. The opening of the uterus, the cervix, is designed to happen gradually over several days at the end of pregnancy. In many abortions the cervix is wrenched open in a matter of minutes. The delicate muscle fibres can be damaged – a damage that may go unnoticed until she is far into a later, wanted pregnancy, and then they give way in a miscarriage. By some estimates, the aborted woman’s chance of later miscarriages doubles.
Surgical injury may lead to haemorrhage, infection and weakness of the uterus which could complicate future pregnancies. The most common injury is uterine perforation. Reported figures are 0.8-6.4 for every 1000 abortion procedures but they are probably higher as many perforations are unrecognised. Incomplete removal of the placental tissue from the uterus may result in continuing haemorrhage and a later repeat curettage.
Infection may be introduced at the time of operation and exacerbated if some of the placental tissue has not been completely removed. Infection is treated with antibiotics but often permanent damage occurs resulting in pelvic pain, recurrent infections, uterine bleeding and sterility. Infertility often has multiple and difficult causes, which are difficult to pinpoint, but tubal damage even of a minor degree is a common cause. Tubal damage can be caused by infection due to abortion, inter-uterine device or as a result of a sexually transmitted disease. In many cases abortion appears to be the cause, and the resulting sterility which is often permanent produces distress and guilt.
There is clear evidence that late miscarriage and premature birth due to cervical incompetence is often associated with a previous induced abortion. This problem is usually recurrent in each subsequent pregnancy. At least 50% of patients with cervical incompetence have had a previous induced abortion. This problem results in very premature birth, the baby often not surviving or requiring many weeks in the intensive care nursery. About 10% of surviving babies are left with a permanent disability.
Complications may also arise in labour if there has been injury to the uterus caused by perforation, cervical tear or scar tissue resulting from the insertion of a cervical suture. The uterus may rupture during labour resulting in severe haemorrhage and occasionally death.
Post Abortion Syndrome
Post Abortion Syndrome (sometimes referred to as PAS or Post Abortion Trauma) is defined as “A delayed or slow developing, prolonged and sometimes chronic grief syndrome.” It encumbers a woman’s ability to process the fear, anger, sadness and guilt surrounding her abortion experience. In practically every case documented by post-abortion counsellors, the woman was not given all the facts surrounding abortion.
Agencies, institutions, organisations, or individuals involved in referring for, or performing abortions are inappropriate agencies to provide abortion or post abortion counselling. There are some aspects of Post Abortion Syndrome which professionals involved in the abortion industry are unable to deal with.
Quote from Melbourne obstetrician and gynaecologist: “A review of the medical literature identifies approximately 10% of women, perfectly healthy prior to abortion, as having long term serious physical and psychological problems following abortion.”
In South Australia Birthline Pregnancy Support Inc has a 24 hour telephone counselling service on1300 655 156 and trained counsellors can listen, empathise and offer assistance.
Post Abortion Syndrome can be very severe. It can lead to psychiatric hospitalisation and suicidal behaviour. It can cripple a woman’s ability to function in normal relationships, cause marriage breakdowns and be an underlying factor in child abuse. It can lead to drug and alcohol abuse which can then become serious problems in themselves.
Symptoms are depression, frequent weeping, feelings of guilt and loss of self-esteem, inability to communicate, suicidal rumination, impaired efficiency in all sorts of circumstances, loss of normal sexual vitality and desire in the sense of sexual personhood, and nightmares. Strong emotions of grief, sadness, inappropriate emotional responsiveness, shame, anger and alienation are all common. Anorexia, bulimia, and recourse to alcohol and drugs can develop.
If the syndrome persists and is not treated adequately, personality changes will gradually emerge and affect family life, working capacity, social and recreational potentials. Affected women are not able to function properly with their partners, nor able to bond with their children. They often have an ‘atonement child’ – a deliberate pregnancy trying to make up for the aborted baby – and often smother this child with over-protective behaviour.
Abortion may be followed by a long period of unrecognised negative reactions. The woman may appear well adjusted and unaffected, but may experience trauma on the anniversary of the abortion date, the due date of birth, or years later.
Sometimes confused with postnatal depression, Post Abortion Syndrome may be triggered following the birth of a subsequent ‘wanted’ child, although not always the first subsequent ‘wanted’ child.
Other causes of anxiety can bring it to the fore, such as the death of a loved one, the failure to conceive, the loss of a wanted child, the miscarriage of a wanted baby, the birth of a niece, nephew or grandchild, the onset of menopause.
The best available data indicates the period of denial and rationalisation lasts on average five to ten years.
Who is at risk from Post Abortion Sydrome?
Women who abort for health reasons – either the woman’s health or for foetal abnormalities
Women with a previous psychiatric history
Women with interpersonal relationship difficulties
The emotionally unstable or immature woman
Women with an inadequate network of social support
Women who feel forced to abort by their emotional, financial or social circumstances
Women with a history of sexual abuse or sexual assault
Women who have second trimester abortions
Women with a history of previous abortions
Women who make their decision to abort on inadequate information
Physical complications resulting from abortion may aggravate Post Abortion Syndrome
Development of the unborn baby
People who support abortion state that words like ‘baby’ and ‘child’ are emotional and are misleading.
Unborn baby 8 weeks development
They use the Latin words ‘foetus’ and ‘embryo’ to distance and depersonalise the child in people’s minds. However, if people understood Latin, they would realise that ‘embryo’ does not mean ‘a clinical mass of cells’ but ‘growing one’, and ‘foetus’ means ‘young one’. These words are just as emotional to those who understand Latin and beautifully describe a growing baby.
This is the pattern of our growth
Day one – Conception. The baby’s facial features, sex, eye colour, hair colour, height, etc are all determined now. The cell divides into two, the two into four and so on.
1 week – The embryo is attached to the wall of the womb
2 weeks – The baby stops its mother’s menstrual period with its hormones
3 weeks – The baby’s heart is beating, eyes developing
6 weeks – Brainwaves can be detected (one criterion used to determine whether a person is alive). A complete skeleton of cartilage is apparent. Soon the first rigid bone cells begin to replace the cartilage starting with the bones in the upper arms. Teeth are budding. The baby feels pain and responds to touch. It sucks its thumb. It grasps an instrument placed in its palm. It swims with a natural swimmer’s stroke.
8 weeks -The baby has a recognisably human face, a little mouth with lips, eyes, eyelids, fingers, thumbs, knees, toes, and all the internal organs of an adult. We can see if it is male or female. It is sending out brain impulses that coordinate the functioning of its organs – the stomach is producing digestive juices, the liver manufacturers blood cells, pigment (colour) has formed in the retina of the eye – it can be seen that it is a blue-eyed, or brown-eyed, or hazel-eyed child now. Taste buds form.
10 weeks – The body is completely formed, even fingerprints
12 weeks – After 12 weeks all organs are present and all body systems are functioning. The baby is active and energetic, practising new skills like sucking its thumb, making a fist and flexing muscles. Breathing is practised. The baby can turn its head, open its mouth and press its lips tightly together. Nerves and muscles are synchronising and as strength is gained the mother, will, from 16 weeks, feel the sharp kicks and thrusts of the baby’s limbs.
The baby needs only to grow and mature until birth. Birth isn’t the beginning of life, it’s just a change of residence.
Unborn baby approx 16 wks development
Development will continue until the child is about 23 years of age!