In a collection of stories by women who have undergone abortions, a woman named Danielle shared her story of being pressured into an abortion and how it led her to attempt suicide.
When Danielle became pregnant, she was dating a man 17 years her senior. Her boyfriend had three children from a previous relationship who lived with their mother. When she told her boyfriend about the pregnancy, he told her to abort. He said he wouldn’t give her any support if she had the baby. Danielle explained:
He was the first person I told, and his exact words were, ‘So? Just abort it.’ Like it was so simple. I asked if maybe I should keep it. ‘If you do, I will deny being the father and won’t help you out in any way,’ was his blunt reply. This was not the man I thought I knew.
Danielle went to the local community health center and told the “counselor” there about her predicament. The counselor asked her if having a child fit into the plans she had for the future. Danielle admitted it didn’t. She told the counselor she hadn’t planned on having a baby. Danielle said the counselor then “questioned me vigorously” about future plans and life expectations. The counselor told her all her plans would be disrupted if she had the baby. The counselor asked Danielle if she was truly ready to raise a baby. Danielle replied that she wasn’t sure. The counselor also told Danielle that choosing adoption would be more traumatic for her than abortion.
“She told me that adoption … was more emotionally painful than abortion, which would be easy and effective,” said Danielle. “She also told me… the child was not really a child yet.”
Danielle said she left the counselor with “all she had said spinning through my mind.” Her boyfriend kept hounding her, day and night, about getting an abortion. Her mental health began to suffer. “I became irritable and would fly off the handle with little provocation,” she explained. “I stopped attending school regularly and began drinking heavily every day. I would sleep for 12 hours at a time to try not to have to face the day.”
Danielle went to a psychiatrist, who didn’t listen to her when she told him her problems were caused by her boyfriend and the pressure he was putting her under to have an unwanted abortion. Instead, he diagnosed her with clinical depression.
“[I] went to my doctor and he put me on antidepressants,” she said. “He then told me I was in no condition to raise a child and would never cope. I told him that I was only so depressed because people kept telling me to abort the child and he said that was an effect of my depression, not the cause itself. He told me straight out I was too young and totally incompetent as far as raising a child was concerned.”
Having been encouraged to abort by two medical professionals and under pressure from her boyfriend, Danielle gave in. She shared, “After a painful night of thinking I came to the conclusion that the professionals are trained in these matters and know more than me who hadn’t even finished school yet. I chose to get an abortion.”
After the abortion, Danielle had a complete emotional breakdown:
I withdrew, rarely talking to anyone, barely leaving the house. I quit my part-time job and left school. I continued to drink myself into a stupor every day. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I felt as though part of me had died. I felt guilt at destroying what I had created. I stopped eating, guilty at wanting to when my baby couldn’t.
She even began to cut herself:
I cut off all my long hair I had loved so much and began to slash my arms and legs with a razor blade. I felt I should suffer for my actions and I hoped that the physical pain would draw my focus away from the pain and anguish I constantly felt inside. It gave me something else to focus on.
Danielle felt she wasn’t worthy of happiness, saying, “I felt I didn’t deserve to have any semblance of a good life, as I had taken the opportunity for life from another.”
Shortly after her abortion, Danielle attempted to kill herself by taking an overdose of pills. She was found by a friend, who took her to the hospital. She survived her suicide attempt, but she continued to struggle with suicidal feelings for a long time after her abortion.
Studies show that Danielle is not alone. According to the Population Research Institute, as many as 73.8% of women who have undergone an abortion report feeling pressured to do so. Women who undergo abortions, especially unwanted abortions, are at an increased risk of suffering trauma from the abortion that leads to depression, alcohol and drug use, suicidal thoughts, and suicide.
Editor’s Note: For post-abortion help, contact the International Helpline for Abortion Recovery.
Source: Melinda Tankard Reist Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s Stories of Grief after Abortion (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2007) 58 – 59
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