The Sexes: Abortion on Demand

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Psychiatrist Theodore Lidz feels that abortion is always "a potential major trauma," and Washington, D.C., Psychiatrist Julius Fogel believes that "a psychological price is paid. It may be alienation, it may be a pushing away from human warmth." In the experience of Los Angeles Psychoanalyst Ralph Greenson, abortion is often followed by a delayed reaction of depression. Oddly enough, the father is more likely to feel guilty than the mother.

Many experts find that the emotional aftermath of abortion depends somewhat on circumstances (abortion is harder on single women for example, than on married ones) and greatly on emotional health. A study by Psychiatrist Norman Simon found that reactions were mild and transient in women who were relatively stable before their pregnancy was terminated.

In the experience of Psychiatrist Carol Nadelson of the Pregnancy Counseling Service in Boston, giving up a child for adoption "is a much more major trauma than abortion." Psychologist David points out that while psychosis after childbirth develops in 4,000 U.S. mothers each year, there are few cases of post-abortion psychosis. Nor is there much evidence even of less serious emotional trouble.

According to a team of Harvard psychiatrists who have studied 100 cases, "the vast majority of women do not experience mental anguish." Quite the contrary: they feel great relief when the abortion is over, and their mental health becomes and remains better. In fact, after surveying 75 of his colleagues in the U.S. and abroad, Psychiatrist Jerome Rummer concluded that the notion of post-abortion mental illness is probably myth: "Abortion, far from being a precipitator of psychiatric illness, is actually a defense against it in women susceptible to mental illness."

Kummer is not alone in his positive view. For many women, according to Psychiatrist Nadelson, the experience "can produce psychological growth." Feminist Moore concurs: "For the woman who has let her life wash over her, who has let her life be directed by forces outside of herself, to make a decision to take charge of her life can be an extremely liberating, positive experience. For the first time in her life, she is the master of her destiny."

Catholic author Sidney Cornelia Callahan disagrees: "That was Raskolnikov's argument in Crime and Punishment: that to kill somehow gave him a sense of growth. I would say everything you have said for contraception, but not for abortion." Nevertheless Moore is convinced that she is right-and from her own experience even concludes that it can sometimes be wrong not to end a pregnancy: "It would have been extremely immoral for me not to have an abortion when I did. There were circumstances having to do with my family, my studies, my future, my health. Taking these factors into account, it would have been grossly unfair to me, to the child and to my family to have carried a pregnancy to full term."

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