Forced Abortions In America
See the full report here.
In a national study of women, 64% of those who aborted felt pressured to do so by others.1 This pressure can become violent.2 65% suffered symptoms of trauma.1 In the year following an abortion, suicide rates are 6-7 times higher.3
Forced Non-Choice .... “I’ll blow her brains out.”
Intense pressure to abort can come from husbands, parents, doctors, partners, counselors, or close friends and family. They may threaten or blackmail a woman into abortion.
These are not idle threats. Coercion can escalate to violence. Women who resist abortion have been beaten, tortured and killed. One husband jumped on his wife’s stomach to force an abortion. A mother forced her daughter at gunpoint to go to the abortion clinic. A woman was forcibly injected by the baby’s father with an abortifacient drug.2
Unwanted Non-Choice ... Their Choice, Not Hers.
Reasons women give for having abortions:
• Forced by mother
• Father opposed
• Husband or boyfriend persuaded me
• No other option given
• Would have been kicked out
• Loss of family’s support
• Lack of support from society
• Clinic persuaded me4
In 95% of all cases, the male partner plays a central role in the decision.5 Of men interviewed at abortion clinics 45% recalled urging abortion, including 37% of married men.6 Many of these men reported being justified in being the primary decision maker in the decision to have the abortion.6
Coerced Choice ... Taken to the Clinic to Make Sure She Keeps the Appointment
A former abortion clinic security guard testified before the Massachusetts legislature that women were routinely threatened and abused by the boyfriends or husbands who took them to the clinics to make sure they underwent their scheduled abortions.7 Many women are also pressured by clinic staff financially rewarded for selling abortions.8
Forced Choice ... Threats Can Escalate to Violence or Murder — the Leading Killer of Pregnant Women
The pressure can escalate. Many pregnant women have been killed by partners trying to prevent the birth, and being pregnant places women at higher risk of being attacked.9
Murder is the leading cause of death among pregnant women.10 92% of women surveyed list domestic violence and assault as the women’s issue that is of highest concern to them.11
Pro-Choice Advocates Are Rightfully Concerned About Coerced Abortions
While citing a different statistic, noted pro-choice ethicist Daniel Callahan, director of the Hastings Center, has acknowledged the same basic problem:
That men have long coerced women into unwanted abortion when it suits their purposes is well-known but rarely mentioned. Data reported by the Alan Guttmacher Institute indicate that some 30 percent of women have an abortion because someone else, not the woman, wants it.14
The Aftermath. Women Coerced into Unwanted Abortions Pay a High Price.
• 31% had health complications afterwards.1
• 65% suffer multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.1
• 65% higher risk of clinical depression.15
• 10% have immediate complications, some are life-threatening.16
• 3.5x higher risk of death from all causes.17
• A 6-7x higher rate of suicide compared to women giving birth.3
Forced Abortions are Preventable
It would only take a few minutes for abortion counselors to inquire of a pregnant women: "Is someone else encouraging you to have this abortion? Do you want this abortion to satisfy your own needs or are you looking to do this to please someone else? Are you feeling pressured to have this abortion by any other person? Do you feel any attachment to this pregnancy or any desire to keep it?"
These questions could save countless women from unwanted abortions.
These questions can lead to referrals to family and intervention counseling, or shelters from abuse, which could help hundreds of thousands of women to avoid unwanted abortions.
These questions can help save lives. By helping women avoid unwanted abortions we are helping them to welcome an unexpected baby into the world, one that she wants, even if her loved ones don't. But also, with good referrals we can also help her find the resources and counseling she needs to convince her boyfriend, husband, parents, or other pressuring parties that they should respect her desires and welcome her child into their lives too. With time, most people can adjust and welcome an "unexpected" baby into their lives.
But today, abortion providers are free to ignore these questions. And sadly, to save time during patient intake, most do.
The sad reality is that many abortion providers simply do abortions on request, no questions asked. Whenever they fail to screen for coercion or other risk factors, they are neglecting their obligation to their patients and missing the opportunity to help women in the ways they want and deserve.
The Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortions Act simply defines that it is an act of medical negligence not to make at least a good faith effort to screen for evidence of coercion. It further provides that only the woman can hold the abortion provider accountable for any failure to do proper screening. This act does not interfere with the private decision of a woman and her doctor. But it does allow women to better hold doctors accountable for providing adequate screening and counseling.
American Voters Are Concerned About Coercion
Even though Americans have been kept in the dark about unwanted abortions, nearly half of voters believe coerced abortion is common.13 Voters support candidates who advocate legislation holding abortionists liable for failing to screen for evidence of coercion.13
1. VM Rue et. al., “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10(10): SR5-16 (2004).
2. See the special report, Forced Abortion in America.
3. M Gissler et. al., “Pregnancy Associated Deaths in Finland 1987-1994 -- definition problems and benefits of record linkage,” Acta Obsetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 76:651-657 (1997); and M. Gissler, “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000,” European J. Public Health 15(5):459-63 (2005).
4. Frederica Mathewes-Green, Real Choices (Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1997).
5. Mary K. Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion (New York, Prager Publishers, 1977).
6. Arthur Shostak and Gary McLouth, Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses, and Love (New York: Preager Publishers, 1984).
7. Brian McQuarrie, “Guard, clinic at odds at abortion hearing,” Boston Globe, April 16, 1999.
8. Carol Everett with Jack Shaw. Blood Money (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1992). See also Pamela Zekman and Pamela Warwick, “The Abortion Profiteers,” Chicago Sun Times special reprint, Dec. 3, 1978 (originally published Nov. 12, 1978), p. 2-3, 33.
9. Julie A. Gazmararian et al., “The Relationship Between Pregnancy Intendedness and Physical Violence in Mothers of Newborns,” Obstetrics & Gynecology, 85 :1031 (1995); Hortensia Amaro et al., “Violence During Pregnancy and Substance Use,” American Journal of Public Health, 80: 575 (1990); and J. McFarlane et al., “Abuse During Pregnancy and Femicide: Urgent Implications for Women’s Health,” Obstetrics & Gynecology, 100: 27, 27-36 (2002).
10. I.L. Horton and D. Cheng, “Enhanced Surveillance for Pregnancy-Associated Mortality-Maryland, 1993-1998,” JAMA 285(11): 1455-1459
(2001); see also J. Mcfarlane et. al., "Abuse During Pregnancy and Femicide: Urgent Implications for Women's Health," Obstetrics & Gynecology 100: 27-36 (2002).
11. “Is Your Mother’s Feminism Dead? New Agenda for Women Revealed in Landmark Two-Year Study,” press release from the Center for the Advancement of Women (www.advancewomen.org), June 24, 2003; and Steve Ertelt, “Pro-Abortion Poll Shows Majority of Women Are Pro-Life,” LifeNews.com June 25, 2003.
13. “National Opinion Survey of 600 Adults Regarding Attitudes Toward a Pro-Woman/Pro-Life Agenda,” Scott Rasmussen Public Opinion Research commissioned by the Elliot Institute, conducted in Dec. 2002.
14. Daniel Callahan, "An Ethical Challenge to Prochoice Advocates," Commonweal, Nov. 23, 1990, 681-687, 684.
15. JR Cougle, DC Reardon & PK Coleman, “Depression Associated With Abortion and Childbirth: A Long-Term Analysis of the NLSY Cohort,” Medical Science Monitor 9(4):CR105-112, 2003.
16. Frank, et.al., "Induced Abortion Operations and Their Early Sequelae," Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners 35(73):175-180, April 1985; Grimes and Cates, "Abortion: Methods and Complications", in Human Reproduction, 2nd ed., 796-813; M.A.
Freedman, "Comparison of complication rates in first trimester abortions performed by physician assistants and physicians," Am. J. Public Health 76(5):550-554, 1986).
17. DC Reardon et. al., “Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women,” Southern Medical Journal 95(8):834-41, (2002).