#ShoutYourAbortion, and other positive abortion mantras, have taken over the post-Roe conversation in retaliation to abortion restrictions. There comes with it a denial or silence of traumatic abortion experiences. The APA will typically focus on the (short term) trauma of wanted abortions that were denied, rather than the long term trauma of forcibly receiving one. It is also not discussed whether abortions are truly “wanted” if they are done out of financial or social crisis.
However, this cultural gaslighting of post-abortive trauma has been and continues to be debunked. This is true whether it is shown through the misunderstood Turnaway Study and other research, or through lived experiences of women. One such study from 2021, Intervals and Outcomes of First and Second Pregnancies in Low-Income Women, combines both research and emotional response to abortion. It shows that not only is unwanted abortion a present reality, but can also increase risk of a rapid repeat pregnancy (RRP).
The cohort study defines RRP as the next pregnancy occurring within 24 months of the previous birth, natural miscarriage, or induced abortion. Any pregnancy conceived before 24 months is considered a risk, as numerous health complications are more likely to occur if pregnancies are not appropriately spaced.
Rapid conception after miscarriage shows no increased risk of pregnancy complications, as shared by Reardon in the study. They go on to state that there is little to no data on whether quick conception after induced abortion is the same. Due to this ambiguity, the study aimed to assess how often RRP occurred for each pregnancy outcome, as well as to introduce ways for professionals to help decrease risk of RRP and other risk factors related to these outcomes.
Women who gave birth showed the lowest risk of RRP at 23.1% by the second year postpartum. This is not a small number, but it is substantially lesser than the other outcomes. For women who experienced either miscarriage or induced abortion, the occurence of RRP at two years was significantly higher — post-abortive women carrying the highest risk at 37.5%.
Reardon and Craver recovered this data from adolescents and adult women receiving Medicaid, in the 17 states of the time that covered complete reproductive care. This meant they had access to birth control methods as well as induced abortion. So, the increased risk of RRP was partially related to a desire (whether conscious or otherwise) to replace the previous pregnancy that was lost. While birth control failure was a possibility, the increased risk of RRP after abortion gave researchers pause to other possible reasons.
As the paper explains:
“Similar desires [for a new pregnancy] may arise following an abortion, especially when certain risk factors are present, such as feeling pressured by male partners or parents to undergo an unwanted abortion, or there is a high level of attachment to the pregnancy, ambivalence, or moral conflict surrounding the abortion decision . In a survey of women who had sought post-abortion counseling, 29% reported seeking replacement pregnancy . In another study of metropolitan teens who terminated a first pregnancy, 27% had a second pregnancy within 12 months, 49.8% with-in 18 months, and 74.9% within 24 months . Another study of young women (aged 13-21) seeking prenatal care reported that 44% had become pregnant again within 12 months of a prior pregnancy outcome.”
The study also referred to repeat abortions as a possible “self-punishing” behavior included with other behaviors such as unsafe sex and drug abuse. Women are more likely to repeat (likely unwanted) abortions if the circumstances leading to their first abortion did not change, which leads an increase in psychiatric issues associated with abortion, including postpartum psychosis. Assuming that women get themselves pregnant again for a desire to “right” the wrong of a previous abortion, this post-abortion trauma is then worsened by another coerced abortion.
In short, the researchers connect a desire for repeat pregnancy to coerced abortion, explaining that women do not find the solutions they seek when pressured to abort by their social circle or circumstances. These women are also at increased risk of further abortions should they become pregnant again but are not removed from their coercive and unsupportive environment. Because of this conflict, Reardon and Craver implore providers to improve their screening of women in crisis pregnancies, so as to address these underlying issues and whether they are appropriate candidates for abortion versus other systems of help.
Emotion-based arguments are not a good argument for or against the morality of abortion. Even so, realizing how vulnerable women are not properly screened for abortion, and how it can be detrimental rather than helpful, can give better perspective to pro-life advocates. This perspective includes conversations on safe family planning, mental health support, and escaping financial instability, abuse, or other unsafe scenarios.
Most importantly, this study serves as a reminder that the abortion industry is not infallible, and no amount of pro-abortion positivity will fix that fact. The abortion industry does not aim to serve women (or their children!) first, and the consequences on maternal health are serious. So long as holistic responses to RRP and coercive abortions are ignored, more women and children will continue to needlessly suffer.