Having an Abortion: Stacy’s Story

y boyfriend, Jeff, and I had been sexually active for about two years and were using /v (s condoms for protection. However, one night after a party, we had been drinking and for­got to use a rubber About three weeks later, my period was late. . . . When I found out my preg­nancy test was positive, I couldn’t stop crying.

We talked about our options, but deep down I knew what would happen. I would not be able to keep this baby.

When it was time for the proce­dure, Jeff drove me there. I did my best to be brave, but honestly I didn’t feel brave that day. I was in a group of about five other girls; they talked to us about exactly what would happen in the procedure and what instruments they would be using. We had to talk about ourselves and how we felt about our decision. The nurse asked me if I was sure about my decision to have an abor­tion. Neither Jeff nor I felt that we could handle a baby at that point in our life.

Soon afterward, we went into the preparation room. I was given some medicine to make me kind of drowsy, but I still was aware of what was going on. After about an hour, a nurse came and took me into the

exam room. There they put me on a table and helped put my feet in stirrups. The doctor stuck something in me to open me up and then started this vacuum thing. I don’t remember going to the recovery room. I just remember lying there, feeling like I was in shock. Finally, a nurse came to me with a list of people I could call for counseling. She told me that she really felt I should talk with some­one about the abortion. … I remember feel­ing extremely faint when I started to walk. Jeff was there, and I just started crying again when I saw him.

Jeff was great. He didn’t leave my side—taking care of me and getting me whatever I needed. The next morning I was still in a daze. Jeff was really con­cerned because I wouldn’t talk to him. All I could do was lie there.

Today when I see babies, I wonder what mine would have looked like. What would he or she be like? It seems so long ago that all of this happened, but I still feel the guilt. I don’t know how I finally decided to talk to someone, but it was really good for me. It was painful at first, but I’m still work­ing on it.

Source: Author’s files.

similar, but this will be an area of research that will continue to grow as interest in med­ical abortion increases.

The majority of evidence from scientific studies indicates that most women who un­dergo surgical abortion have very few psychological side effects later on (Adler et al., 1992; Zolese & Blacker, 1992). In fact, relief is the more prominent response for the ma­jority of women. However, although relief may be the immediate feeling, some re­searchers point out that there are actually three categories of psychological reactions to abortion. Positive emotions include relief and happiness; socially based emotions in­clude shame, guilt, and fear of disapproval; and internally based emotions include regret, anxiety, depression, doubt, and anger, which are based on the woman’s feelings about the pregnancy (Thorp et al., 2003). A woman may cycle through each of these reactions— feeling relief one minute, depression and/or guilt the next.

Some women experience intense, negative psychological consequences that include guilt, anxiety, depression, and regret. In 10% of these cases, these feelings are severe (Zolese & Blacker, 1992). Other possible negative psychological symptoms include self­reproach, increased sadness, and a sense of loss.

Certain conditions may put a woman more at risk for developing severe psycholog­ical symptoms. These include being young; not having family or partner support; being persuaded to have an abortion when a woman does not want one; having a difficult time making the decision to have an abortion; blaming the pregnancy on another person or

on oneself; having a strong religious and moral background; having an abortion for med­ical or genetic reasons; having a history of psychiatric problems before the abortion; and having a late abortion procedure (Dagg, 1991; Mueller & Major, 1989; Zolese & Blacker,

1992) . In addition, women who decided to tell no one about their decision to abort, be­cause they anticipated a lack of support, were found to have more negative psychologi­cal symptoms following the procedure (Major et al., 1990).

Thus, although discovering an unplanned pregnancy and deciding to abort are very stressful decisions, in the majority of cases the emotional aftermath does not appear to be severe (Burnell & Norfleet, 1987; Major et al., 1985; Mueller & Major, 1989). Still, it is very beneficial for a woman (and her partner) who is contemplating an abortion to discuss this with a counselor or nurse. When looking for a reliable abortion clinic, check with someone you trust. In the last 5 years, several “fake” abortion clinics have been set up; although these appear to provide full health care for women, they only provide a pregnancy test and strong antiabortion information.