By Lisa Tolin, published on July 1, 1997 - last reviewed on June 14, 2012
Contrary to popular belief, women who have abortions may experience little orno long-term psychological trauma. In a study meant to examine how such factors as race and ethnicity influence the psychological after-effects of abortions, psychologists Nancy Felipe Russo Ph.D.. of Arizona State University, and Amy Dabul, Ph.D., of Phoenix College, found that the best clue to a woman's mental well-being after an abortion is her state of mind before the pregnancy--in particular her level of self-esteem. In other words, those who found the procedure traumatic were generally troubled long before they showed up at an abortion clinic. In fact, Dabul and Russo contend that much of the stress experienced by women who get abortions may stem not from the procedure itself but from the simple fact that the pregnancy is unwanted.
In addition, the researchers found that women's religious affiliation had no effect on whether they had abortions; devout Catholics were just as likely to abort as women belonging to religions more tolerant of the procedure. Nor did religion affect women's long-term well-being after abortion, once education level, income, and initial self-esteem were taken into account.
Russo and Dabul offer one caveat to their findings: They conducted their research be. fore abortion clinic harassment had fully bloomed. No one is sure how the added stress of Operation Rescue activism and recent attacks on clinics and doctors will affect women who choose to abort.