Is So-Called Post-Abortion Trauma Syndrome a Myth?

Profile of a young woman with her dog at sunsetOne of the points that groups opposing abortion have long argued is that abortion has a negative effect on women’s lives, undermining relationships and mental health. It makes intuitive sense that ending an unwanted pregnancy could be traumatic, particularly for women who may have had mixed feelings about the pregnancy or who wished to carry the pregnancy to term. According to newly released study results, though, there is no evidence of post-abortion syndrome among the one in three women who have undergone an elective abortion in the United States.

Is Post-Abortion Trauma Syndrome Real?

In the group of studies, known collectively as the Turnaway Study, researchers looked at 1,000 women who sought abortions at 30 abortion clinics between 2008 and 2010. Some of the women underwent abortions, while others were turned away due to legal or other restrictions on abortion. This provided researchers with two study groups. Researchers conducted follow-up interviews with participants every six months after the study, and their data provides insight into the mental health effects of abortion.

Researchers didn’t find any significant differences in mental health between women who had abortions and those who did not. In both groups, depression tended to decrease over time. Women did experience a range of reactions to their abortions, from grief to relief, but the study does not suggest that women who seek abortions struggle with emotional well-being. 

Other Findings From the Turnaway Study

The Turnaway Study’s findings weren’t limited to the mental health effects of abortion. Researchers also tracked how abortion affected relationships. Women in abusive relationships saw a decrease in violence following an abortion, while women who carried their pregnancies to term were more likely to experience an increase in abuse. The study’s authors argue that this is because pregnancy tied women to abusive partners, leaving little hope of escape.

Abortion didn’t undermine other romantic relationships, contrary to popular wisdom. Researchers found that two years later, women in both groups were equally likely to still be with their romantic partners. About one in three women in both groups were still involved with the same partner.

You can learn more about the Turnaway Study on its website. Researchers will continue conducting research and analyzing data through the end of 2015.


  1. Mauldon, J., Foster, D. G., & Roberts, S. C. (2014, September 8). Effect of abortion vs. carrying to term on a woman’s relationship with the man involved in the pregnancy. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 1(47), 11-18. doi: abs/10.1363/47e2315
  2. McDonough, K. (2014, September 29). Study on reproductive rights and domestic violence: Being denied an abortion “tethered women to violent men”. Retrieved from
  3. Turnaway study. (2014). Retrieved from

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  • camille

    October 6th, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    I must admit that it would be very difficult for me and my partner to make the decision to terminate an abortion, but that does not mean that I still don’t want to have that right to do so if this is indeed the choice that I would make. I think that there are many women who will struggle with this when they have an abortion or even afterwards but I still think that they would rather have that choice of what they want to do instead of having that taken away and having to deal with the issue in a way that might not be as positive for them in the long term,.

  • Jetta

    October 6th, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    I think that any woman who has lost a child is going to feel a sense of loss and regret over what might have been but that does not mean that it lessens the life that they live today.
    There could be sadness for almost anyone who has lost a child, and in any way.

  • Ernie

    October 7th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    I wouldn’t say that I think that it is a myth but we have to remember that what is true for one person is not going to necessarily be true for another. With that being said, yes there sound be some women who very much experience this kind of post abortion trauma and who have a difficult time dealing with the consequences of the choice that they made. However there are more women who feel confident that they have made the right choice and they actually feel good about the opportunities that this choice could now afford them. It is never an esy decision I am sure for a woman or a family to make this kin dof decision, as nothing ever is. But we have to understand that this is not an across the board thing, and that it is very much going to be up to the individual how they process the events in their lives.

  • Theresa B.

    October 7th, 2014 at 5:06 AM

    I always wonder when I see these where they get the women they use. Perhaps the study should have included groups like Operation Outcry, Silent No More and all the ministries doing work with women suffering greatly after abortion. We are never contacted.
    It is a grave injustice to the millions of women suffering silently to deny abortions impact on their lives. Thank goodness we are here to tell them their feelings are understandable and that they can heal.

  • William

    October 7th, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    My thoughts on this would be that there are certyain people in our society for whom it would actually be beneficial to push this belief that there is trauma experienced on a physical and emotional level by any woman who seeks out an abortion. I hate for all of this to turn political but there are definitely going to be those who have an agenda to push and this sounds like one that could very easily fit into this category.

  • Hope

    October 9th, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    Not sure that this was the most objective study out there. I would like to compare the conclusions with those of a faith based organization and see how there are differences because I can assure you that there would definitely be some differences in the findings

  • Audry

    September 8th, 2016 at 4:53 PM

    I have never recovered from my abortion. Years of therapy have not helped. I joined a mega-church and attend weekly services and cry in the dark while the Christian Rock blares.

  • Julia K.

    September 1st, 2018 at 4:12 PM

    There is nothing good about this. Post-abortion trauma is absolutely a thing. I experienced it myself and I am now a therapist who helps other women who experience it. The symptoms are the same as those of PTSD. Abortion is traumatic. To not experience significant emotional distress means convincing yourself that the baby that was aborted was somehow not human which, of course, is not true. You can turn off all sense of morality and the knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong. You can try to convince yourself that, because abortion is legal, it is fine. Again, not true. Roe v. Wade was based on old science. We now know for an absolute fact that life begins at conception. To place less value on that life would be the same as saying that the life of a 2-year-old is less valuable than that of a 12-year-old or a 22-year-old. All are equally valuable. Another option that many women choose is to medicate those feelings away, either with illicit drugs and alcohol, or the more popular choice of psychotropic medications. Any woman who allows herself to feel, who listens to her conscience, and who knows science will experience regret. She will know that she chose to end a life. And her life will never be the same again after it.

  • julia

    September 8th, 2020 at 6:55 PM

    i saw your comment while researching people to talk to after an abortion. i completely agree on you’re view of this article. it is different for every woman and i saw that you said you know are a therapist that helps woman deal with abortions. i was hoping you could reach out to me by email so i could reach out to you directly to possibly schedule a time to talk. thank you in advance.

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