A Survey of Aborted Women

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This article is based on information from Aborted Women: Silent No More by David Reardon (©1987, Crossway Books, Westchester IL).

Survey Methodology

Mr Reardon's landmark study of the emotional and psychological effects of abortion on women is unusual, if not unique, for two reasons:

First, it is one of the few such studies which was not done by a pro-abortion person or organization. Even if we assume that there is no deliberate attempt to shade the evidence, a researcher's preconceived ideas can subtly affect what facts they discover.

Second, it is probably the only such study which did not find its "subjects" from names and addresses supplied by abortionists. This is important, because, a) the longer it has been since the woman had the abortion, the more difficult it can be to find her from such information, thus biasing the study toward short-term effects; and b) the abortionist has an obvious vested interest, and may deliberately or subconsciously weed out names that do not make "positive" case studies.

Mr Reardon found his subjects for this study through Women Exploited by Abortion (WEBA), a support group for women who have had abortions. Clearly, this is not a random sample of aborted women: A woman who is completely satisfied with her decision to abort, who has no regrets or feelings of guilt, is unlikely to join a support group. (For example: 94% of the women in this study said they experienced "negative psychological effects". It would not be fair to say that this means that 94% of ALL aborted women experience negative psychological effects.) But the value of Mr Reardon's study is that his sampling technique is very different from that of other studies. By putting his study together with others we may hope to arrive at a more complete understanding of the truth.

One side note: Pro-abortionists routinely claim that there are NO adverse psychological side effects to abortion, that "Post Abortion Syndrome" is a myth created by pro-life propagandists. The very existence of a group like WEBA, with tens of thousands of members, proves that this is not true. The serious question is how widespread it is.

The survey was distributed through WEBA chapters to 252 women in 42 states. It consisted of two sections: background information and the actual survey questions. The instructions read as follows:

ABORTION EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
This survey is being conducted to review the decision-making processes of women who have had abortions, and their subsequent satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their decisions. Please answer the questions as honestly as possible. If you wish to elaborate, please feel free to write further explanations or comments on separate sheets of paper. (If possible, please number your explanations according to the number of the question which prompted your comment.) Your written comments may be used in published results of this study. Names and addresses will not be used and will remain confidential unless written permission for use is requested and granted. If you know of anyone else who has had an abortion and may be willing to answer this survey, please make a photocopy of this form for them, or write to the survey address for an additional copy.

Survey Participants

The first section of the survey requested a variety of background information. Tabulation of the background information yielded the following results:

AGE DISTRIBUTIONS
Age at time of abortion <15 yrs 15-19 20-24 25-29 >30
3% 42% 33% 14% 8%
Average age at time of abortion: 21.2 yrs
Low age at time of abortion: 12 yrs
High age at time of abortion: 40 yrs
Age at time of survey: <20 20-24 25-29 30-34 >34
1% 11% 33% 35% 20%
Average age at time of survey: 31.2 yrs
Low age at time of survey: 16 yrs
High age at time of survey: 64 yrs
Average time since abortion: (Survey age - abortion age) 10.0 yrs
Greatest time since abortion: 36 yrs
Least time since abortion: 7 months
RACE OR ETHNIC ORIGIN
White 87%
Other 13%
LEGAL AND ILLEGAL ABORTIONS
Legal 92%
Illegal 8%
EDUCATION LEVEL
Degree Equivalent
No Answer Under 12 yrs High School (12 yrs) Associate or Trade (13-14) Bachelors (15-16) Masters (17-18) Ph.D. (>18)
5% 6% 39% 26% 19% 4% 1%
WEEKS PREGNANT AT TIME OF ABORTION
<5 wks 5-6 7-8 9-10 11-12 13-24 >24
2% 13% 23% 18% 24% 19% 0%
Average gestation at time of abortion: 10.2 wks
Low gestation at time of abortion: 4 wks
High gestation at time of abortion: 23 wks
MARITAL STATUS
Single: 65%
Engaged: 8%
Married: 17%
Separated: 11%
NUMBER OF CHILDREN
Number of children: 0 1 2 3 >3
73% 14% 9% 4% 1%
INCOME LEVEL
Under $5,000 per year: 33%
$5,000 to $10,000: 25%
$10,000 to $15,000: 14%
$15,000 to $20,000: 7%
Over $20,000: 21%

The researcher notes: "Though the above figures tend to show that the women surveyed generally had low incomes at the time of their abortions, these numbers should be interpreted with caution. These figures are not necessarily indicative of the general incomes or social classes of these aborters. At the time of their abortions, most of these women were in their early twenties or late teens; many were college students. While some respondents elsewhere indicated that they were from middle- or upper-class families, they considered themselves independent at the time of their abortions (whether working or attending college) and so reported only their personal incomes. Thus, the income potential of many of these aborters may have been significantly higher than the above figures indicate. Moreover, these income levels are not adjusted for inflation."

SUBSIDY OF ABORTION
"This question was meant to identify government subsidized abortions (i.e. through federal or state Medicare programs). Another frequent response, however, was that insurance (usually the insurance policy of the woman's parents or college insurance) covered the costs of the abortion. Responses such as 'paid for by boyfriend,' or 'parents' were tallied as being abortions that were not subsidized."
Subsidized: 23% Government subsidy: 64%
Insurance subsidy: 36%
Unsubsidized: 77%

Survey Results

Following the background questions was a list of 58 questions which were to be answered on a scale of 0 to 5. According to the directions for this final section:

Instructions: Unless otherwise indicated, most questions require answers on a scale where 1=Not At All, ranging up to 5=Very Much. Unsure is always indicated by circling 0.
In practice, most of the women did not answer any question which they felt was not applicable to their circumstances. If, for example, they had not consulted with their parents before their abortions, they simply did not circle a response to the question as to whether or not their parents influenced their decisions. Since computer tabulation of the results would have been overly complicated by unanswered questions, all unanswered questions were recorded as a "0" response. Therefore, all "0" responses include those respondents who were unsure of their response to a particular question, as well as those who were sure that the question was "Not Applicable" (N/A) to their particular circumstances.

The following is a complete listing of the questions asked, with answers recorded according to the percentage of respondents falling in each category.

N/A or Unsure Not at All Very Much
0 1 2 3 4 5
1. Were vou satisfied with the abortion services you received? 10% 44% 8% 18% 10% 8%
2. Were you satisfied with your choice at the time? 8% 42% 14% 13% 10% 14%
3. Are you satisfied with your choice today? 3% 95% 0% 1% 0% 1%
4. Was the decision made for reasons of:
mental health? 40% 34% 4% 6% 6% 11%
physical health? 41% 48% 2% 3% 1% 6%
financial limits? 32% 27% 5% 9% 5% 23%
social acceptance? 20% 12% 3% 7% 10% 47%
family size? 42% 48% 1% 2% 1% 6%
career goals? 41% 30% 4% 7% 5% 13%
Iong-term needs? 43% 22% 4% 7% 6% 18%
short-term needs? 41% 14% 2% 5% 9% 28%
other? 54% 2% 0% 3% 2% 39%
5. Do you feel you were "forced" by outside circumstances to have an abortion? 4% 12% 10% 10% 10% 54%
6. Were you encouraged to have an abortion by:
parents? 34% 35% 2% 6% 2% 21%
other family members? 41% 39% 3% 3% 2% 12%
husband? 54% 33% 1% 1% 2% 9%
boyfriend? 27% 27% 2% 4% 7% 33%
social worker? 52% 32% 2% 0% 4% 10%
abortion counselor? 39% 20% 2% 4% 8% 27%
doctor? 41% 27% 3% 6% 5% 18%
friends? 38% 28% 2% 7% 6% 18%
other? 77% 5% 0% 2% 3% 13%
7. Would your choice have been different if any or all of the above had encouraged you differently? 8% 4% 2% 3% 7% 76%
8. Do you feel you were "forced" by others to have an abortion? 4% 23% 10% 10% 14% 39%
9. If abortion had not been legally available, would you have sought an illegal abortion? 16% 72% 3% 4% 2% 4%
10. Would you have attempted a self-induced abortion? 4% 87% 2% 2% 2% 3%
11. Did you feel rushed to have an abortion? 3% 8% 3% 5% 12% 69%
12. How long did you take to decide?
1-4 days 51%
1 wk. 24%
2-3 wks. 12%
4-6 wks. 6%
longer 6%
13. Do you feel your decision was well thought out? 1% 74% 8% 9% 2% 6%
14. Do you feel you had all of the necessary information to make the decision? 2% 88% 5% 3% 1% 2%
15. Have you had more than one abortion? Yes 24%, No 76%
How many?
1 76%
2 20%
3 3%
>3 2%
16. Would you ever have another abortion? 4% 95% 1% 0% 0% 0%
17. Were there any physical complications following the procedure? Yes 47%, No 44%, Unsure 9%
18. If so, were they severe or minor? (minor-1; severe-5) 47% 15% 6% 14% 4% 15%
19. Was there any permanent damage? Yes 18%, No 47%, Unsure 35%
20. Have any subsequent pregnancies resulted in miscarriage or premature birth? Yes 23%, No 67%, Unsure 10%
If so, does your doctor attribute it to your previous abortion? Yes 5%, No 5%, Unsure 88%

N/A or Unsure Not at All Very Much
0 1 2 3 4 5
21. Were there any negative psychological effects you attribute to your abortion? Yes 94%, No 2%, Unsure 4%
22. If so, were they minor or severe? (minor-l; severe-5) 6% 4% 3% 14% 19% 54%
23. Did they persist:
1-6 mos. 8%
1-2 yrs 10%
over 3 years 82%
24. Do they still persist? 7% 25% 23% 19% 8% 18%
25. Was post-abortion counseling available through the clinic or referral agency? 16% 76% 4% 1% 1% 2%
26. Did you require professional counseling and/or treatment? 8% 45% 4% 6% 6% 31%
27. Were you using a form of birth control when you conceived? Yes 23%, No 74%, Unsure 3%
28. Were you familiar with the available forms of birth control? 1% 7% 8% 15% 7% 63%
29. Knowing where your life is today, would you still have chosen abortion? 4% 94% 1% 0% 0% 1%
30. Did you discuss your decision with others? 1% 25% 28% 19% 10% 18%
31. When you went to the clinic or counselor, was your decision already firm? 5% 30% 9% 16% 10% 31%
32. Were you still looking for options? 9% 29% 9% 7% 8% 36%
33. Did the clinic, doctor, or counselor help you to explore your decision? 2% 84% 7% 3% 1% 3%
34. Do you feel their opinions were biased? 23% 6% 3% 3% 7% 59%
If so: for abortion 79%
or against abortion 1%
n/a 20%
35. Were you adequately informed about the procedure? 4% 49% 17% 15% 10% 6%
36. Were you given information about the biological nature of the fetus? 4% 90% 3% 2% 0% 2%
37. Were you well informed about the procedure and fetus through other sources before seeking an abortion? 1% 83% 7% 5% 0% 4%
38. Was your decision made in consultation with your doctor? 2% 70% 4% 5% 6% 14%
39. Were you encouraged to ask questions? 6% 64% 16% 8% 3% 2%
40. Were your questions thoroughly answered to your satisfaction? 19% 52% 12% 8% 4% 4%

N/A or Unsure Not at All Very Much
0 1 2 3 4 5
41. Do you believe there was information you were not given, or were misinformed about? 8% 10% 1% 4% 4% 73%
42. Were risks and dangers discussed? 7% 65% 16%5% 4% 4%
43. What was your opinion about the nature of the fetus?
no answer 4%
human 26%
non-human 30%
other 40%
What is your opinion about the nature of the fetus?
no answer 3%
human 97%
non-human 0%
other 0%
44. If counseling a friend who was in a situation such as yours, would you encourage her to choose an abortion? 1% 98% 0% 0% 0% 1%
45. Was your self-image improved or worsened by your decision?
(worsened-1; improved-5)
2% 89% 4% 3% 1% 1%
46. Is your life today better or worse because of your decision?
(worse-l; improved-5)
21% 60% 6% 8% 1% 4%
47. Was the period of your pregnancy before the abortion emotionally traumatic? 4% 11% 6% 10% 11% 60%
48. Did you feel in control of your life when making your decision? 3% 65% 8% 9% 6% 10%
49. Did you feel your life was controlled by others? 4% 16% 8% 12% 14% 47%
50. Did the knowledge that abortion was legal influence your opinion about the morality of choosing abortion? 11% 12% 1% 6% 12% 58%
51. Did you consider carrying the pregnancy to term? 5% 19% 12% 15% 12% 38%
52. Did you consider keeping the baby? 6% 23% 10% 13% 10% 49%
53. Did you consider adoption? 4% 62% 13% 7% 6% 8%
54. Under better circumstances, would you have kept the baby? 10% 1% 2% 3% 3% 81%
55. After your abortion, did you hope to have children at a later time? 6% 6% 1% 2% 1% 84%
56. Were there periods when you felt good or excited about your pregnancy? 9% 23% 8% 6% 10% 43%
57. What were your feelings about abortion prior to becoming pregnant?
(negative-1; positive-5)
21% 33% 8% 20% 6% 12%
58. What are your feelings about abortion today?
(negative-1; positive-5)
1% 98% 1% 0% 0% 0%

Planned Parenthood Clients

Because Planned Parenthood has a reputation as one of the best, most professional, abortion providers, the researcher separted out those survey respondents who received counseling and/or their abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics. He then tabulated their answers separately. A total of 53 respondents (21% of all respondents) fell into this subgroup. Their answers to the following questions were selected to provide a comparison of Planned Parenthood services to those of abortion providers as a whole.

N/A or Unsure Not at All Very Much
0 1 2 3 4 5
1. Were you satisfied with the abortion services you received? 11% 45% 11% 13% 8% 11%
6f. Were you encouraged to have an abortion by (your) abortion counselor? 26% 10% 2% 2% 12% 48%
28. Would your choice have been different if any or all of the above had encouraged you differently? 8% 0% 0% 0% 13% 80%
31. When you went to the clinic or counseior, was your decision to abort already firm? 26% 36% 11% 23% 4% 25%
32. Were you still looking for options? 11% 19% 6% 9% 9% 45%
33. Did the clinic, doctor, or counselor help you to explore your decision? 2% 85% 13% 0% 0% 0%
34. Do you feel their opinions were biased? 19% 4% 2% 4% 6% 66%
If so, for 89%
or against abortion 0%
no answer 12%
35. Were you adequately informed about the procedure? 2% 43% 15% 23% 11% 6%
36. Were you given information about the biological nature of the fetus? 2% 85% 8% 4% 0% 2%
37. Were you well informed about the procedure and fetus through other sources before seeking an abortion? 2%81% 4% 6% 0% 8%
38. Was your decision made in consultation with your doctor? 2% 89% 2% 2% 0 % 6%
39. Were you encouraged to ask questions? 4% 60% 19% 11% 4% 2%
40. Were your questions thoroughly answered to your satisfaction? 17% 53% 11% 13% 2% 4%
41. Do you believe there was information you were not given or were misinformed about? 4% 13% 0% 4% 6% 74%
42. Were risks and dangers discussed? 6% 62% 19% 8% 4% 2%


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Posted 9 Sep 2000.

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