Each year there are about 1.1 million abortions in the United States. (Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011)
Eighteen percent of abortions in the United States are performed on teenagers. More than 50 percent of abortions are for women in their twenties. (Guttmacher Institute)
In 2011, 186,200 abortions were performed on older adolescents, 540,000 on young women in their early twenties. (American College of Pediatricians)
The American College of Pediatricians states that these abortions, “occur annually on US adolescent/young adults prior to full brain maturation. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area used in complex decision-making, is not fully mature until about age 25.” The prefrontal cortex of the brain, is the area of advanced reasoning: controls planning, chooses priorities, organizes thoughts, suppresses impulses and weighs consequences of inappropriate actions. (Catalyst for Children)
The Guttmacher Institute, which is the former research arm of Planned Parenthood has found that “one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.”
Pamela Durham, the Care Net Director of Abortion Recovery for Care Net Pregnancy Services of the Treasure Coast in South Florida, states that Guttmacher’s numbers are accurate.
Teens and young adults who choose to undergo an abortion will often later become responsible adults who will carry the memory of that decision and act. This burden begins to affect the mind. Pamela Durham states that “Women don’t realize areas in their lives are still affected by abortion.” She adds, “The fallout is similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: addictions (American College of Pediatricians), bulimia, anorexia, nightmares, depression (North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology), anxiety, cutting (PubMed.gov), anger issues, irrational fears and suicide.” (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry)
In a 1985 study of adolescents in Minnesota, Barry Garfinkel, MD found a relationship between abortion and suicide. The suicide was 10 times more likely to occur if a teen had undergone an abortion within the past six months.
Since Roe versus Wade in 1973, there have been more than 50 million abortions in the United States. (Guttmacher Institute) Many women have been affected mentally by abortion. Mental illness is defined as “a health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior (or all three) and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning.” (National Institute of Health: “Information about Mental Illness and the Brain") The rippling effect extends to those around these women, primarily their families.
Mental issues also affect one’s ability to work and be successful in life. In much of American society, this is a twice born stigma — to have had an abortion, and to bear a mental problem because of it.
Pamela Durham understands this firsthand. As a child, she was molested by her mother’s boyfriend, her grandfather, and then later by her step-father. At age 13, she was taken by her parents to have a second-trimester abortion. This in turn affected her teen years. Later, she found forgiveness through her faith and healing through Care Net Pregnancy Services. Pamela states that “without targeted healing, like radiation targeting a tumor, the mental wound that abortion causes is covered over, but it lies festering underneath the radar.” She continues, “Most women make no association between their mental issues and a past abortion. Many women in the church believe that they are ok, but they are not. They’ve simply blocked the experience emotionally. For many women, the abortion is shame and even loss; it takes them between five and ten years before they are able to open up about it. Women are typically able to enter abortion recovery between the ages of 32 and 60 years old.”
These women are seeking forgiveness, peace, riddance of guilt and perhaps even a compassionate place to grieve. Many women who abort do not allow themselves to express their true emotions. This is a part of where mental problems begin.
In 2014, Guttmacher Institute reported that 37 percent of women who choose to abort are Protestants, 28 percent were Catholics. These women were taught since their younger years that abortion is wrong, but they have chosen to abort anyway. This is another part of the beginning of mental issues, perhaps even beginning prior to the abortion, as it involves decision-making according to morals. They feel guilt which surfaces as: fear of God’s punishment, nightmares about killing or saving babies, self-punishing behaviors, indiscriminate sex, abusive partners, or the blocking out of the experience. In later years, women begin to think about the “Why” of the matter: “Why didn’t I keep the baby? Why didn’t I give him up for adoption? Why did I care about what others thought?” This is blaming of the self and others.
The blaming of the self (guilt, regret and shame) leads to depression, and of others, to bitterness. Both are heavy mental burdens. Mental illness, in which depression is categorized, is the number one predictive factor of suicide. The signs of problems need to be recognized and dealt with early on. Depression’s symptoms include: irritability, restlessness, frequent crying, fatigue, sleeping and eating disturbances, thoughts of suicide, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, poor work or school performance, lack of care regarding physical appearance/hygiene, excessive guilt or anger, and feelings of worthlessness.
There is a way out: Abortion Recovery. As Director of Abortion Recovery at Care Net Pregnancy Services of the Treasure Coast, Pamela Durham uses the Forgiven and Set Free Study by Linda Cochrane. The study is biblically based. Women meet in small groups or one-on-one with her once a week, for only ten weeks. The classes are free and confidential. The study is specifically aimed at the woman’s understanding of forgiving herself and others, and the breaking down of mental strongholds after an abortion. Old bad memories are thrown out or rebuked as they arise and have been dealt with. Only then will the woman see herself progressing, being set free of the binds holding her and have an amazing transformation.
Pamela Durham has worked with Care Net Pregnancy Services for more than 20 years. This local Care Net is an affiliate of Care Net National located in Virginia. There are over 1100 Care Net affiliates nationwide. The national organization “supports one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in North America and runs the nation’s only real-time call center providing pregnancy decision coaching.” Care Net centers also provide free pregnancy tests, options counseling, information on abortion procedures and risks, STD/STI testing, limited ultrasound services, maternity/baby supplies, and job and housing assistance.
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