Issue Analysis

In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court wrote, “… abortion in early pregnancy, that is, prior to the end of the first trimester, although not without its risk is now relatively safe.” The opinion goes on to say that “[m]ortality rates for women undergoing early abortions, where the procedure is legal, appear to be as low as or lower than the rates for normal childbirth.” This claim is repeated incessantly by the abortion industry.

Relative safety and a newly discovered “right to privacy” were the main justifications for striking down all state laws forbidding abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy as unconstitutional. In the nearly forty years since the Court’s decision, a substantial amount of evidence contradicting the assertion of “relative safety” has been documented.

This simple truth remains: Abortion Harms Women


A 2011 article published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reviewed 22 major studies between 1995 and 2009 that examined the psychological effects of abortion on women. The results of the survey were alarming. Compared to women who carried their babies to term, women who obtained abortions were:[1]

  • 81% increased risk for mental health problems, 10 percent of which is directly attributable to the abortion.
  • 27% more likely to use marijuana.
  • 21% more likely to display suicidal behaviors.
  • 35% more likely to commit suicide.

Despite the obvious risks and harms of abortion, those who support abortion on-demand still claim that abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. A study released in 2012 was touted as supporting this often-repeated statement. However, a closer look at the methodology and information used in the study, and also who was behind the study, reveals it is completely misleading and speculation at best.

The study was conducted by Dr. David Grimes who is a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. In the study, Dr. Grimes attempts to compare the risk of death associated with full-term pregnancy and delivery, to the risk of death associated with an abortion. The first obvious problem is that he is comparing a very accurate number in the reported deaths associated with full-term pregnancy and live birth (95% of live births occur in hospitals, and hospitals are mandated to report all live births as well as all associated deaths), to a very inaccurate number in deaths associated with abortion (abortions, as well as abortion mortality, are not systematically collected). Because abortion reporting is so haphazard across the United States as a whole and because there is no mandatory reporting of abortion deaths or complications, it is impossible to accurately make the comparison that Dr. Grimes attempts to make. Doing so allows for any “interpretation” to be made according to a particular bias.[2]

The second problem with the study is who is behind it. Dr. Grimes is an avid abortion activist and has been affiliated with Planned Parenthood of America. Additionally, much of the information he relied upon in his study was supplied by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood. Clearly, it is in the interest of Dr. Grimes and Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, for such a study to claim abortion is safe. Try as they might to prove otherwise, the reality is that abortion harms women and ends the life of a preborn child.

Furthermore, there have been comprehensive studies in both Finland and Denmark that show the exact opposite results from Dr. Grimes’ research. The conclusion of the study in Denmark states, “Compared to women who delivered, women who had an early or late abortion had significantly higher mortality rates within 1 through 10 years.”[3]The following is an overview of the physical and psychological issues which plague women who have chosen abortion to solve their “problems,” frequently without having been warned of the potential consequences.

Psychological Effects of Abortion


Abortion doubles the risk of alcoholism in women.[4] Studies have shown an increased risk of alcohol abuse during subsequent pregnancies following an abortion.[5]

Child Abuse

Abortion is linked to depression, violent behavior, and difficulty in bonding to children born subsequent to an aborted pregnancy. One study indicated that women who had an abortion history reported more frequent slapping, hitting, kicking or biting, beating, and use of physical punishment compared to women without an abortion history.[6]

Divorce and Relationship Problems

Many post-abortive women have trouble forming lasting bonds and report substantial conflict within their relationships.[7]

Drug Abuse

Abortion is linked to subsequent drug abuse. One study found that the use of illicit drugs among post-abortive women is 6.1 times higher than for those without a history of abortion.[8] Another study showed that post-abortive women were 4.5 times more likely to abuse drugs during subsequent pregnancies.[9]

Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS)

At least 19 percent of women who have had abortions suffer from PAS. About half of women who have had abortions suffer from many, but not all, of the symptoms of PAS. The symptoms include anxiety attacks, irritability, outbursts of rage, sleep difficulties, flashbacks of the abortion experience, reactions of intense grief on the date of abortion or the baby’s due date, nightmares about the abortion, and drug or alcohol abuse.[10] The best evidence regarding negative effects of abortion indicates that 10-30 percent will experience serious psychological problems.[11]

Psychological Impairment

Women with a history of abortion are 81 percent more likely to encounter psychological health problems.[12] This includes a 34 percent greater risk of anxiety issues and a 37 percent higher rate of depression.[13]

Repeat Abortions

Studies indicate that nearly half of all abortions are repeat abortions that carry risks such as substance abuse and premature birth in subsequent pregnancies.[14] Women who have undergone repeat abortions are also 80 percent more likely to experience vaginal bleeding in subsequent pregnancies, greatly increasing the risk of perinatal mortality.[15]

Sleep Disorders

Women who underwent abortions were twice as likely to seek treatment for sleep disorders in the first six months after pregnancy than women who had given birth. The higher risk for sleep disorders persisted for four years following an abortion, although not at as high a level.[16]


One study of post-abortive women in California found that those who elected to have an abortion were 2.6 times more likely to die of suicide compared to those that carried their babies to term.[17]

Thoughts of Suicide

A study published in 2009 indicated that post-abortive women are 60 percent more likely to experience thoughts of suicide following the procedure.[18]

Physical Effects of Abortion

Note: Good statistical information regarding deaths and complications after abortion is difficult to obtain. The information made available by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is incomplete and misleading, as mentioned previously. For example, a reporter searched through autopsy records in Los Angeles County and found 29 abortion deaths between 1970 and 1987. “Four of these deaths occurred during a one-year period in which the CDC reported zero abortion related deaths for the entire state of California and only 12 deaths in the whole country.”[19] In 2011, the CDC failed to publish the most recent abortion statistics until months after its scheduled release date and only did so in response to mounting public pressure.[20] Moreover, the abortion industry is reluctant to report complications and rarely identifies abortion as the cause of death. Women who show up in the emergency room with complications like severe bleeding are often classified based on their symptoms, with no mention that abortion is the cause of those symptoms.


Officially, legal abortion is the fifth leading cause of maternal death in the United States. Infection, hemorrhage, pulmonary embolism, and anesthetic complications are the most frequent causes of death following an abortion.[21] An older, comprehensive study of pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland that compared women who aborted to those who gave birth showed a pattern of self-destructive and risk-taking behavior among post-abortive women which substantially increases risk of death beyond the immediate physical risks of the abortion itself.[22]

Immediate Complications

About 20 percent of women suffer complications after abortion.[23] Complications include infection, excessive bleeding, embolism, uterine perforation, cervical injury, and shock.[24] Minor complications include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding. The risks of toxic shock, hemorrhaging, and death exist regardless of whether the abortion is surgical or by pill, and evidence suggests these risks are actually higher for medication than surgical abortion.[25] It should also be noted that 20.3 percent of patients with medical abortions needed a post-abortion surgical procedure to complete the abortion process according to one study.[26]

Breast Cancer

A 2009 study released by the American Association for Cancer Research revealed that women who have had abortions face a 40 percent greater risk for contracting breast cancer.[27] The same study showed that the use of oral contraceptives by minors was linked to a 270 percent increased risk for triple-negative breast cancer, an extremely aggressive form of cancer associated with high mortality rates.[28]

Ectopic Pregnancy

Medication abortion increases the risk of future ectopic pregnancies.[29] Ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening and, at a minimum, can also cause reduced fertility.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and Endometritis – Women seeking abortions who have chlamydia infections are at particular risk of developing more serious infections like PID and endometritis. Some women without chlamydia infections will also develop PID or endometritis after an abortion.[30]

Placenta Previa

Several studies have discovered a link between abortion and uterine bleeding in subsequent pregnancies, later diagnosed as placenta previa. One of these studies indicated that the risk for placenta previa is 70 percent higher for women who underwent an abortion.[31] The risk climbs to 200 percent for women who have had three to four induced abortions and 300 percent for five or more abortions.[32]

Uterine Perforation

One or two out of every 100 women getting a surgical abortion suffer from a perforated uterus. Uterine perforation can also lead to bowel and bladder injuries.[33]


Teenagers who have previously undergone an abortion are 3.3 times more likely to have a stillborn first child than those women who have never had an abortion.[34]

Premature Delivery

At least 127 peer-reviewed studies[35] have reported a link between abortion and premature delivery. These studies show that post-abortive women can have twice the risk of premature delivery in subsequent pregnancies, and that the risk increases with more induced abortions.[36]

Low Birth Weight

Women who undergo an abortion are 2.7 times more likely to give birth to a child with very low birth weight.[37]


Abortion increases the risk of subsequent miscarriages by 60 percent. [38]

Talking Points

Pro-lifers stand against abortion because it devastatingly impacts two lives: the terminated life of the preborn child, and the women who are physically harmed and emotionally traumatized by the dangerous procedure. Countless studies have found that women experience a number of physical and psychological effects from having an abortion.

There is no such thing as a “safe” abortion. The very nature of abortion makes the old adage of the procedure being “safe, legal, and rare” impossible.

Women who get an abortion are likely to experience complications or death every year after an abortion over the following ten year period.

Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry don’t stand for women. The physical and mental consequences of abortion are clear. Advocating for this dangerous and deadly procedure does puts women’s lives at risk.


Advocates of legalized abortion downplay or deny the health risks associated with abortion. Moreover, they skew and “interpret” information as a way to “prove” abortion is safe. However, as indicated above, a substantial amount of research indicates that abortion isolates women and can often cause both short-term and long-term physical and psychological harm. Women considering abortion need and deserve to be told the facts about these risks.

© January 2014 Center for Arizona Policy, Inc. All rights reserved. Adapted with permission. Read the original article here.

This publication includes summaries of many complex areas of law and is not specific legal advice to any person. Consult an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation or believe your legal rights have been infringed. This publication is educational in nature and should not be construed as an effort to aid or hinder any legislation.


[1] Priscilla K. Coleman, Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009, 199 Brit. J. of Psychiatry 180, 183 (2011).

[2] Elizabeth G. Raymond & David A. Grimes, The Comparative Safety of Legal Induced Abortion and Childbirth in the United States, 119 Obstetrics & Gynecology 215 (2012).

[3] Priscilla K. Coleman & David C. Reardon, Short and long term mortality rates associated with first pregnancy outcome: population register based study for Denmark 1980–2004, 18 Medical Science Monitor 71-76 (2012), available at

[4] Priscilla K. Coleman, Induced Abortion and Increased Risk of Substance Abuse: A Review of the Evidence, 1 Current Women’s Health Rev 21, 22 (2005).

[5] Priscilla K. Coleman, David C. Reardon, and Jesse R. Cougle, Substance use among pregnant women in the context of previous reproductive loss and desire for current pregnancy, 10 Brit. J. of Health Psychol. 255, 265 (2005).

[6] Priscilla K. Coleman, et al, Induced Abortion and Child-Directed Aggression Among Mothers of Maltreated Children, The Internet Journal of Pediatrics and Neonatology, (last visited Sept. 26, 2013).

[7] William Fisher, et al., Characteristics of women undergoing repeat induced abortion, 172 Can. Med. Ass’n. J. 637, 639 (2005).

[8] Coleman, supra note 3.

[9] Fisher, supra note 7.

[10] Emily Bazelon, Is There a Post-Abortion Syndrome?, N.Y. Times. January 21, 2007, at A1; Anne Speckhard, Post-abortion Syndrome: An Emerging Public Health Concern, 48(3) Journal of Social Issues 95, (1992).

[11] Priscilla K. Coleman, The Psychological Pain of Perinatal Loss and Subsequent Parenting Risks: Could Induced Abortion be more Problematic than Other Forms of Loss?, 5 Current Women’s Health Rev. 88, 92 (2009).

[12] Coleman, supra note 1.

[13] Id.

[14] Susan A. Cohen, Repeat Abortion, Repeat Unintended Pregnancy, Repeated and Misguided Government Policies, Guttmacher Policy Review (2007), (last visited Sept. 26, 2013); Brent Rooney & Michael Calhoun, Induced Abortion and Risk of Later Premature Births, 8 J. of Am. Physicians and Surgeons 46, 47 (2003); Priscilla K. Coleman, Induced Abortion and Increased Risk of Substance Abuse: A Review of the Evidence, 1 Current Women’s Health Reviews 21, 23 (2005).

[15] Arie Koifman, et al., The clinical significance of bleeding during the second trimester of pregnancy, 278 Arch Gynecol Obstet 47, 50 (2008).

[16] David C. Reardon and Priscilla K. Coleman, Relative Treatment Rates for Sleep Disorders and Sleep Disturbances Following Abortion and Childbirth: A Prospective Record Based-Study, 29 Sleep 105 (2006).

[17] David C. Reardon, et al., Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women, 95 S. Med. J. 834, 838 (2002).

[18] Natalie Mota, et al., Associations Between Abortion, Mental Disorders, and Suicidal Behavior in a Nationally Representative Sample, 55(4) Can. J. of Psychiatry 239, 243 (2010).

[19] David C. Reardon, The Cover-Up: Why U.S. Abortion Mortality Statistics Are Meaningless, Elliot Institute (June 3, 2000), (last visited Sept. 26, 2013).

[20] Jeanne Monahan, An Overview of CDC’s Most Recent Abortion Data, Family Research Council (March 24, 2011), (last visited Sept. 26, 2013).

[21] Linda A. Goodrum, Maternal Mortality: Strategies in Prevention and Care, Hospital Physician (January 2001), (last visited Sept. 26, 2013).

[22] Mika Gissler, et al., Pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland 1987-1994 – definition problems and benefits of record linkage, 76 Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 651, 655 (1997).

[23] Maarit Niinimaki, et. al., Immediate Complications After Medical Compared With Surgical Termination of Pregnancy, 114 Obstetrics & Gynecology 795, 799 (2009).

[24] Possible Physical Side Effects, American Pregnancy Association (September 2007), (last visited Sept. 26, 2013).

[25] Ralph Meich, Pathophysiology of Excessive Hemorrhage in Mifepristone Abortions, 41 The Annals of Pharmacotherapy 2002 (2007); Margaret M. Gary and Donna J. Harrison, Analysis of Severe Adverse Events Related to the Use of Mifepristone as an Abortifacient, 40 Annals of Pharmacotherapy 191 (2006).

[26] H Liao, et al., Repeated medical abortions and the risk of preterm birth in the subsequent pregnancy, Arch Gynecol Obstet 284 (2011): 579-586.

[27] Jessica Dolle, et al., Risk Factors for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in Women Under the Age of 45 Years, 18 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 1157, 1158 (2009); see also Janet Daling, et al., Risk of Breast Cancer Among Young Women: Relationship to Induced Abortion, Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1584-1592 (1994), (last visited Oct. 3, 2013).

[28] Id. at 1159.

[29] Jean Bouyer, et al., Risk Factors for Ectopic Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Analysis Based on a Large

Case-Control, Population-based Study in France, 157 Am. J. of Epidemiology 185 (2003).

[30] Sharon L. Achilles and Matthew F. Reeves, Prevention of Infection after Induced Abortion, 83 Contraception 295, 299 (2011); Erik Qvigstad, et al., Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Associated with Chlamydia trachomatis Infection after Therapeutic Abortion, 59 British J. of Vener. Dis. 189 (1983), available at

[31] John M. Thorp, et al., Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced

Abortion: Review of the Evidence, 68 Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey 67, 70 (2002).

[32] TH Hung, et al., Risk factors for placenta previa in an Asian population, 97 Int’l J. Gynecol & Obstet 26 (2007).

[33] Justin Diedrich and Jody Steinauer, Complications of Surgical Abortion, 52 Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 205 (2009) (noting a rate of 15 women with perforated uterus per every 1000 abortions).

[34] Birgit Reime, et al., Reproductive outcomes in adolescents who had a previous birth of an induced abortion compared to adolescents’ first pregnancies, 8 BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 1, 4 (2008).

[35] Byron Calhoun, Abortion and Preterm Birth: Why Medical Journals Aren’t Giving Us The Real Picture 6,7 (April, 2013), (last visited October 3, 2013).

[36] Thorp, supra note 31, at 70; P.S. Shah & J. Zao, Induced termination of pregnancy and low birth weight and preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis, 116 BJOG 1425 (2009).

[37] Reime, supra note 34.

[38] N. Maconochie, et al., Risk factors for first trimester miscarriage — results from a UK population-based case-control study, 114 BJOG: An Int’l J. of Obstetrics & Gynecology 170 (2007); Yuelian Sun, et al., Induced abortion and risk of subsequent miscarriage, 32 Int’l J. of Epidemiology 449 (2003).

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