I am writing to respond to a quote and a statement about post-abortion syndrome in Barbara Solow's article "Medicine or Ministry?" [June 18]. Over the past six years, I have been leading post-abortion healing and support groups at Pregnancy Support Services. I have heard women tell their stories and witnessed them work through considerable unresolved pain, grief, anger and guilt directly related to their abortions.
These are women who seek out help despite fear, shame and powerful reasons to repress or deny what they feel. When I read the quote by Paige Johnson that post-abortion syndrome is something that exists only in the minds of anti-abortion activists, I cringed.
There may not yet be a universally accepted term for the ways abortion can traumatize a person's soul and spirit. But how many stories have to amass before there is some agreement that there is no easy way for many to live with the decision to end a life? I have seen women greatly helped by being able to hear another post-abortive woman describe what is going on inside, simply because it is so familiar--syndrome or not. They don't need a clinical label; they need to be listened to, believed and received. Perhaps Ms. Johnson did not mean to sound so dismissive, but the implication was there. Additionally, many anti-abortion individuals are post-abortive they want to spare others their experience if they can.
Seventy percent of women having an abortion say they believe it is immoral. Doing something against one's own convictions causes inner turmoil and sometimes a splitting off of the experience. If psychological and spiritual pain can result from abortion, those are risks that women considering abortion need to be told about, not just so that they won't abort, but so that if they do and then experience ambivalence, regret or worse, they know they aren't crazy and can find peace with themselves and God.
As for Solow's parenthetical assertion that no scientific or medical authority has recognized post-abortion syndrome, that isn't exactly true. The Elliot Institute (www.afterabortion.org) has been doing and compiling research on the effects of abortion on women for over a decade. David Reardon, its founder, has participated in panel discussions at the American Psychological Association. A study in the Annals of Psychiatry in 1992 acknowledged the existence of post-abortion syndrome in a small percentage of participants. (Post-abortion stress, post-abortion trauma, and impacted grieving are other terms used to describe the wide range of possible effects of abortion.) Studying the effects of abortion is admittedly difficult, because typically 50 percent of women drop out of studies because they "don't want to talk about it." Other studies have shown a time delay of five years or more for negative reactions to surface. The women in the healing and support groups and Pregnancy Support Services have been 5-25 years post-abortive, with one exception. The average has been about 10 years.
In my observation, abortion results in ambivalence. The positive side of the ambivalence (relief, freedom, privacy, etc.) can last as long as the immediate reasons for the abortion are in place, such as the desire to delay parenting, to finish school, to preserve a relationship, to secure a better financial situation, etc. But many women are surprised to find, when they want to parent, become pregnant under better circumstances, have the degree or career, no longer are in the valued relationship, experience a change in spiritual convictions, or are grieving the death of a loved one, uncomfortable memories and feelings about the abortion(s) surface.
Women experience abortion differently and the same woman can experience the same abortion differently over time. Some do not struggle, but those who do must not be told that "it's all in their head" or that someone else has put it there. That dishonors women and minimizes the gravity and significance of their choices.
Surviving the changes
I agree with some of the points made in the article, "Fourth and 11" [July 9]. However, I have to wonder if Wake had voted against expansion, and FSU, GT and Clemson left the ACC as many believed they would, and the ACC had lost its BCS spot, would those pillars of academic integrity, i.e. Duke and UNC, have stuck by Wake or would they have abandoned us as soon the SEC or the Big East came calling? I don't care much for expansion, but I have no doubt that Mr. Hearn did what he felt was best for Wake Forest and its survival as a Division 1 athletic program.
Johnny M. Wiles
Depends on your definition of 'is'
Contrary to the title of July 2's cover story, dissent is inherently neither patriotic nor unpatriotic. It is possible to dissent in an unpatriotic way. Fiona Morgan's article would more accurately be titled "Dissent Can be Patriotic."
A house divided
I read "Dissent is Patriotic" in The Independent [July 2], which is full of historical supporting quotes, but it overlooks an important lesson from one of our wisest founding fathers:
"A nation, while it holds together, is strong against its enemies, but, breaking into parts, it is easily destroyed." --Thomas Jefferson
talk back Got something to say about an Independent article? Send no more than 300 words to email@example.com; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include your name, phone number and mailing address for verification; we cannot publish a letter without confirmation from the writer. We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style and clarity.