“At age 20,” my mother said, “I had no inkling of the mental and emotional darkness I was about to enter. I couldn’t have grasped the immense psychological toll abortion would take for years into the future–unrelenting tears, guilt, shame, and depression.” While taking full responsibility for her decision to have an abortion, my mother believes she was led to what she calls her “tragic, irreversible decision” by a series of lies and distortions: distortions about fetal development, doublespeak about choice and rights, and glorification of “planned” and “wanted” children. …

Stories like my mother’s are rarely spoken out loud. The pain and guilt of abortion are too deep. And, sometimes, those willing to speak do not find others willing to listen. Many people seem to assume that most women reflect positively on their choice and that they have experienced little emotional, psychological, or physical repercussions–and some of those people are reluctant to consider stories that challenge that view. Surely every woman’s experience is unique, and some women may feel they have suffered no ill effects from their abortions. But research on women who have had abortions suggests that my mother’s experience is not uncommon. Women who lose a child to abortion, many of whom do not progress through a normal grief process that would usually accompany a pregnancy loss, are at higher risk for everything from depression, to substance abuse, to suicide. Indeed research has shown that the experience of some women following abortion is a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

People in the pro-choice movement want women considering abortion to believe that the most difficult part of their choice will be the step through the door of the abortion clinic. For women like my mother, far more difficult was the step out the door–and every step after that for the next 20 years.