This was the Alliance`s first conference in London and the subject attracted a lot of interest. The question of the harm done to women by abortion has been insufficiently discussed. The subject should not be viewed from a religious perspective alone as it is first and formost a human question.
It was evident from the discussion that many of the participants were speaking from personal or professional knowledge.
Listening to doctors referring to their own patients and hearing reports of research and the actual experience of the women affected, no one could be left in doubt of the reality of post abortion trauma. This is despite denial in some quaters and social disapproval of the whole subject.
In view of inadequate counselling there will be occasions when women will seek damages. Although this would be salutary and may lead to less abortions, any such action should only be brought by the injured woman on her own behalf.
At a well attended conference in London on 11th February concerning CONSENT TO ABORTION;CURRENT PRACTICE LEGAL OR ETHICAL? the myth that there is no significant post abortion trauma was challenged by a lawyer,psychiatrists and a self help group of women who had suferred from it. The "abortion industry" had long tried to deny it`s existence but an increasing number of successful legal actions for damages in the United States and elsewhere are now making that denial untenable.
Mr C McNicholas (barrister)
Making Abortion Rare;How the abortion industry is harming woman and what should be done
1 in 3 women today experience an abortion in Britain. In the United States 28 million legal abortions had been carried out. Pro Abortion groups had been adamant that abortion was "psychologically safe" and this idea had been exported to this country. It was also not "politically correct" to question this view but an increasing body of research was revealing that many women were showing significant psychological symptoms as much as 8-10 years after
A careful review of the data showed 18% of women suffering symptoms 3 or more years later if proper psycological instruments are used to measure it. Women who had psychological problems before being particularly vulnerable with abortion exacebating pre exsisting psychopathology.
Most women had no or inadequate pre abortion counselling. This renders doctors liable to litigation for damages. A successful action brought women relief and enabled them to work through their feelings of grief and loss.
Litigation was difficult because women found it very hard to reveal the way they were suffering which was necessary for the legal action.There was
resistance to their reliving their experience. This was part of the post abortion trauma. It was essential that the action be brought only at the
request of the woman who needed to have her own secure support system to help her through the legal process.
Heradvocate needed to be well informed and specialised in order to refute defence expert witnesses who deny that post abortion trauma exsisted. They site conclusions from studies which on closer examinationare at variance with there own findings. A database of all these studies and there correct interpretation had now been built up by lawyers who practice in this field.
It was also essential to have an expert medical witness who can correctly recognise the symptoms of post abortion trauma and explain them to the court.
A file setting out the criteria required for the case to suceed had now been produced by specialist litigators. Success in court had now led to many more out of court settlements.
Dr Pravin Thevathasan (consultant psychiatrist)
Post Abortion Syndrome
"Psycological consequenses of abortion" or alternatively "post abortion trauma" was well known to him in medical practice. Abortion was a mojor tressful event which has a long latency period during which the person may seem all right then begin to suffer flashbacks to the time of the abortion, nightmares, sleep disoerders. anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Sadness, guilt, disgust and weeping were common as were alcohol and substance abuse.
Because of the difficulty in communicating these feelings relationships may break down particularily with the father. These feeling were exacebated when there had been an element of coercion in the abortion.
He described the coping mechanisms which included rationalisation, suppression of feelings, repression or denial and compensation perhaos by another pregnancy the so called "atonement baby".
He sited studies which showed between 7% and 40% of women showing post abortion trauma. Many of the commonly quoted studies were flawed by to short a follow up, excessive numbers being lost to longer follow up. Short term follow
up not surprisingly show initial relief at the end of a crisis pregnancy but this is not adequate.Somtimes symptoms appear at anniversaries or after subsequent births which because of the denial the woman herself may not connect with the abortion.
He agreed with other psychiatrists that there are no psychological diseases that can be relieved by abortion. Adolescents in particular are vulnerable and abortion for medical(eugenic)reasons also are associated with an increased risk of mental sequelae. Paradoxically the so called "hard cases" such as post rape, make women particularly vulnerable to post abortion trauma.
He concluded by saying that there was a shortage of professionals willing to counsel for post abortion trauma. The counsellors need to be pro life and pro woman. The feelings of guilt were the beginning of the healing process.Difficulties were compounded by medical and social denial and there were no social coping mechanisms such as mourning. The whole problem being
generally frowned upon by society.
Margaret Cuthill (British Victims of Abortion)
Victims of Abortion
Reffered to her own experience as a cousellor and a woman who had had two abortions 10years appart . She talked of the child as the first victim, the woman as the second and then how it widens out to affect fathers ,parents and society itself.
She called abortion a "death experience" which was unnatural and outside normal experience. Her client women were not counselled in a balanced way before the abortion. Life was not being addressed and the compassion shown was "false". In the provider situation counselling was only "for abortion".
In a crisis pregnancy women react in fear and panic without being able to ask the relevant questions. The quick fix solution is appealing. There is no balance in what is a true life changing decision.
She confirmed the symptoms mentioned by the earlier speakers and that the women experiencing trauma will not return to the doctors associated with the abortion. Some avoid doctors altogether as it brings back their crisis
Dr Jafer Qureshi (consultant psychiatrist)
Muslim Perspective on Abortion
Islam takes it`s lineage from Abraham, Moses and Jesus as well as the Prophet. Scolars had also blended in many Hellenistic philosophers such as Hippocrates whose teachings had now become embedded into Islam. Muslims were also an intergral,if minority, community in modern Europe.
All life was created by Almighty God and was to be protected from conception to the time of natural death. In Islam the doctor was both a scolar and a clinician and a person to be respected. The medical profession by participating in the "killing machine" had lost respect.
He referred to his experience as a psychiatrist working in Bosnia with the victims of serial rape. The Imams having established a system of support, were adamant that rape did not justify abortion and that most of the women had proceeded to term and accepted their babies.
The only exception in the teaching of Islamic scholars was if the womans life was genuinely at risk. This had to be agreed on a case by case basis by scholars and jurists.