ATTENTION: National &
New Study Links Abortion to
Increased Risk of Child Abuse
Authors Say Emotional Healing After Abortion
Will Increase Likelihood of "Violence Free" Families
Springfield, IL (October 24, 2005) --
A new study published in the medical journal Acta Paediatrica
has found that women who have had an abortion are 2.4 times more
likely to physically abuse their children.
The study, led by Priscilla Coleman of
Bowling Green State University, looked at data taken from a
survey of 518 low-income women in Baltimore who were receiving
Aid to Families with Dependent Children and who had at least one
child aged 12 years or younger. The data compared rates of child
abuse and neglect among women who had experienced either an
involuntary (miscarriage or stillbirth) or voluntary (induced
abortion) pregnancy loss.
The results showed that women with a
history of one induced abortion were 2.4 times more likely to
physically abuse their children than women who had not had an
abortion. In addition, the increase in risk among women who had
experienced an abortion was more significant than the increase
among women who had experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth.
The authors suggested that "emotional
difficulties and unresolved grief responses" from pregnancy
loss, whether voluntary or involuntary, could have a negative
impact on women's mental health and lead to unhealthy parenting
responses. Past studies have linked pregnancy loss to an
increase in grief reactions, anxiety, depression, sleep
disturbances, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,
all of which can have a negative impact on parent/child
In addition, induced abortion has been
linked to an increased risk of substance abuse and suicidal
thoughts, and a 2002 study published in the Journal of Child
Psychiatry and Psychology found that children whose mothers
had a history of abortion tended to have less supportive home
environments and more behavioral difficulties.
The current study showed that although
a single involuntary pregnancy loss did not significantly
increase the risk of child abuse or neglect, physical abuse was
more common among women who had experienced multiple involuntary
pregnancy losses. However, women who had repeat abortions were
not more likely to abuse their children than women who had one
abortion, although abortion increased the risk of physical abuse
In addition, neither form of pregnancy
loss was linked to child neglect, leading the authors to
speculate that mothers with unresolved losses may be able to "go
through the motions" of meeting their children's basic needs but
have difficulty coping with issues such as anger or parent/child
"Regardless of the specific mechanisms
at play, maternal history of one induced abortion does appear to
be a marker for increased risk of physical abuse," the authors
They also noted that while emotional
difficulties related to miscarriage or stillbirth are usually
resolved within a few years, women who have abortions are often
not given an opportunity to resolve feelings of grief or other
related emotions. According to Elliot Institute director Dr.
David Reardon, who has worked on more than a dozen published
studies documenting abortion's negative impact on women, many
women either feel a need to keep the abortion a secret or are
told to simply "move on" when they try to discuss their pain.
Reardon said that greater attention
needs to be focused on the long-term effects of abortion on
women and their families.
"The common perception seems to be
that abortion solves the immediate problem of a crisis pregnancy
and that therefore it must be a positive thing for women," he
said. "However, more and more studies such as this one show that
abortion can have a severe and lasting impact on women's lives,
shaping their futures and the futures of their families for
years to come."
The current study is one of the first
to compare rates of child abuse among women who had experienced
an involuntary pregnancy loss as opposed to those who
experienced a voluntary loss. However, the authors noted that
the findings were limited by the size of the study and called
for more research to be done using larger groups of women.
"In the event that such a large scale
effort yields robust findings consistent with those described
... more efforts should be directed toward helping women restore
their emotional health following abortion," the authors wrote.
"Investment in such programs is likely to improve the quality of
their lives and increase the likelihood that their future
families will be violence free."
Priscilla K. Coleman, Charles D. Maxey, Vincent M. Rue, and
Catherine T. Coyle, "Associations between voluntary and
involuntary forms of perintal loss and child maltreatment among
low-income mothers," Acta Paediatrica 94, 2005.