Post-Abortion Syndrome: Anti-Choice “Researchers” Seek to Mislead and Intimidate Women

Kathleen Reeves

The “scientists” who pursue the myth of post-abortion syndrome are scientists of the most dangerous kind: those who use faulty, manipulated research as a means to a political end.

LifeSiteNews reports that women who have an abortion are more likely to become depressed, use drugs, and beat their children.

The article cites an report by Priscilla Coleman, who focuses her work on establishing a connection between abortion and mental health problems. Only an abstract of her most recent article is available online, but in 2005 she published this piece, a speculation (though I suspect she intended it to be a scientific study) on how women may turn to drugs to quell post-abortion anxiety and guilt.

In the 2005 article, she cites another study to make the point that the decision-making that leads to abortion is inherently flawed:

Landy [97] described four styles of poor decision-making observed in abortion clinics: 1) the “spontaneous approach” involving very fast decision-making without taking the time to explore options and ambivalent feelings; 2) the “rational-analytic approach” focusing on practical reasons for pregnancy termination (finances, single parenthood, etc.) as opposed to emotions; 3) the “denying procrastinating approach” or avoiding decision-making due to internal conflicts that are not resolved prior to termination; and finally 4) the “no-decision making approach” or deferring to others to make the decision (partner, parents, a health care professional, etc.).

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Women, Coleman concludes, don’t really want to have abortions, and someone should help them realize this:

Much of this cycle can be averted if women are encouraged to explore ambivalent feelings before an induced abortion and to make choices that are consonant with their fundamental desires and values.

In a separate study, Coleman managed to prove that girls 19 and under—with some under 15—are better off giving birth than aborting.

In an interview with the Culture of Life Foundation, Coleman was asked if our increasingly selfish society is to blame for abortions:

Although this isn’t a question that has been subjected to much scientific inquiry, it certainly does seem like our materialistic, self-oriented contemporary society seeks quick fixes to problems like unintended pregnancy with little consideration for the long-term personal, relationship, and social consequences.

Unfortunately, none of Priscilla Coleman’s “questions” of interest are subjected to much scientific inquiry, yet as an associate professor at a university, she’s given some degree of credibility. The “scientists” who pursue the myth of post-abortion syndrome are scientists of the most dangerous kind: those who use faulty, manipulated research as a means to a political end.

In response to Priscilla Coleman and other quacks like her (see David Reardon, Vincent Rue), the American Psychological Association assembled a task force on mental health and abortion and reported last year that post-abortion syndrome does not exist. (Full report here.)

Unfortunately, the myths sown by the pro-life movement have been codified by some states. Thanks to anti-abortion legislators, doctors are required to give women medically false information.

In 1987, President Reagan asked his surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, to issue a report on abortion’s psychological effects. Koop, who was pro-life, refused because he saw the tactic as a sham:

“As soon as you contaminate the morality of your stand by getting worried about the health effects of abortion on women, you have weakened the whole thing,” he said at the time in an interview with the Rutherford Institute, a conservative law center.


Priscilla Coleman, LifeSiteNews, and the pro-life movement must be honest about their motivations and goals. They’re not interested in saving women from psychological suffering. The “pressure to abort” mentioned by Coleman is nothing compared to the demonization of women who choose to have abortions and of those who support them. The pro-life movement has created a climate of fear around abortion so that some women, in certain times or places, don’t even feel comfortable mentioning it. It has used legislation to make it difficult for women to have abortions. And, if the women make it that far, it meets them at the clinic door with harassment. Anti-abortion crusaders know all about women’s psychological distress: it’s their original weapon.

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