No matter the situation, abortion is never an easy choice. Women who find themselves in a position where they need an abortion can be of any age, and any socioeconomic background. They may be in committed relationships, or their pregnancy may have been the result of a violent interaction. The fetus may be perfectly healthy, or it may have a genetic anomaly guaranteeing them a short, painful life if they were to come to term. It is no wonder there is so much stress involved with this monumental choice. Here is a look at some of the major emotional side effects:
Public shaming seems to be a popular way to treat women who find themselves in this situation. Despite years of advances in regard to women’s rights, when it comes to an unexpected pregnancy, blame continues to be placed primarily on the woman. She should have dressed better, made better choices, and held off the boys who are expected to sew their wild oats. The shaming only gets worse if she shares her choice to terminate a pregnancy. This can make a woman feel worthless, humiliated, and alienated from any form of support.
Guilt, Grief and Second Guessing
Not all of the shaming involved with an abortion is external. The guilt of wondering what would have happened if you had allowed the pregnancy to come to term is often neverending. This is true whether the fetus had a terminal birth defect, whether you chose to finish your ivy league degree before having children, or even if you are the victim of a violent sexual assault. Unfortunately, this same second guessing about the other path of life is also true if you bring the child to term in most cases. It is part of being human.
Many people who go through trauma and feel that it is their fault will re-label themselves as bad, and remove themselves from the company of people who they feel are better than them. In some cases, the public shaming of an abortion will create a social stigma around the woman, adding to her loneliness. In other cases, she makes the choice herself, deciding she is unworthy. In many cases, this means socially separating themselves from people who can be good influences, because they see themselves as so much worse than those other people. This can create social isolation or compel a woman befriend people who put her into risky or unfulfilling situations. Often, this will only compound the loss of self esteem.
Helping Stop the Problem
Whether or not you agree with the choice that a woman has made, your support and acceptance of her and her choice can do wonders to help her work through the feelings that come afterward. If speaking about it makes you uncomfortable, you can still treat her with gentle acceptance and encourage her to speak with a qualified counselor. If she is nervous, offer to sit in the sessions with her. Keeping quiet and allowing her to speak will also help you to better understand her and her needs.
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Mohammed Looti, PSYCHOLOGICAL SCALES (2023) The Emotional Side Effects of Abortion. Retrieved from https://scales.arabpsychology.com/terms/the-emotional-side-effects-of-abortion/. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.31575.96163