by Father Frank Pavone
November 24, 2004
LifeNews.com Note: Father Frank Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life. The following is a two part article, written on separate occasions but combined here.
IN OUR BAPTISMAL VOWS, we promise to renounce Satan, all his works, "and all his empty promises."
One of his empty promises in unleashing abortion upon our nation was that somehow the availability of this procedure would decrease the incidence of child abuse. The reasoning went something like this: if unwanted children are aborted, then only wanted children will be born, and since wanted children are less likely to be abused, then child abuse will decrease in a land of abortion on demand.
Yet it was an empty promise. Exactly the opposite has happened. Since the legalization of abortion, child abuse has increased.
The promise had a fatal flaw in it, namely, the assumption that unwanted children are more likely to be abused. As E.F. Lenoski reported as early as 1976, the opposite is actually true. Abuse is more likely to occur among "wanted" children.
Canadian psychiatrist Philip Ney reports the same findings.
He writes, "When I investigated the relationship between child abuse and abortion and reported a direct correlation, people were angry and astonished. It appeared that the rate of child abuse did not decrease with freely available abortions. In fact, the opposite was true. In parts of Canada where there were low rates of abortion there were low rates of child abuse. As the rates of abortion increased, so did child abuse…Indeed, it is a vicious cycle. That is, parents who have been involved in abortion are more likely to abuse and neglect their children. Mothers and fathers who were abused as children are more likely to abort their child" (Deeply Damaged, p.91).
The first thing that has to be noted when examining the relationship between
abortion and child abuse is that abortion is child abuse. Dismembering a born child would certainly be considered among the worst possible forms of abuse.
Medical textbooks and court testimonies use the very same word, "dismemberment," to describe what is done to an unborn child by abortion. How, then, is this not child abuse?
Allowing the abuse of an unborn child, then, creates an atmosphere in which —
more quietly and secretly — we justify the abuse of born children. The child
becomes the scapegoat for our unresolved conflicts. As the Israelites in the Old Testament placed their sins upon the goat, who was then led out into the desert, we allow the child, particularly when still in the womb, to suffer for our sins
The two forms of child abuse — on the unborn (abortion) and on the born —
reinforce each other by a mutual causality. Abortion results in more postpartum depression, which inhibits bonding with subsequent children. Conversely, the wounds of abuse are echoed in the essentially self-destructive act of abortion later in life.
In subsequent columns we will examine these connections more fully. It should be noted that we are talking here about psychological dynamics and statistical
correlation, and that does not mean that every woman who has had an abortion will be a poor mother.
There is a significant statistical association between child
abuse and abortion – a mutual relationship, whereby having an
abortion makes the abuse of subsequent children more likely, and
being abused as a child makes having an abortion later in life
Obviously, and first of all, abortion itself is the worst form of
child abuse. Secondly, it should be noted that we are talking
about statistical associations. These connections do not mean
that everyone who has an abortion will abuse her children, or
that everyone who is abused will have an abortion.
Having said that, let’s examine why having an abortion may lead
to more child abuse.
First of all, every pregnancy is a "crisis" in the best sense of
the term. Pregnancy creates unique demands and challenges to the
mother to mature; the body, the mind, and the spirit must grow in
order to accommodate to the child. This "crisis of
incorporation," as psychologists call it, puts the mother at a
crossroads: either she accepts the changes required of her by the
pregnancy, or she aborts the child, hence choosing to regress
rather than mature.
The choice not to mature, but rather to remain selfish, makes it
more likely that the mother will remain a less mature parent, and
this immaturity is a key cause of abuse and neglect of other
A second problem is that fathers have no legal right to save
their unborn child from an abortion. Not knowing if the child
will live or die creates an ambivalence in the father, and a
reluctance to bond to the child. Unattached to their baby, they
show less support to their partner as well. After an abortion,
the alienation worsens. Some studies show as high as an 80% rate
of breakup of relationships after abortion. The mother’s anger at
the lack of support from the baby’s father can be displaced to a
A third reason why abortion can lead to child abuse is related to
bonding. Having an abortion makes it more difficult to bond to a
subsequent child, and babies who are not well bonded are more
likely to be abused and neglected. A pregnancy following abortion
creates more anxiety, caused in part by a fatalistic sense that
the child will be abnormal (as a punishment for having aborted
the previous one.) This anxiety can interfere with bonding.
Moreover, if the grief from the abortion is not adequately
processed, it becomes a post- partum depression, which interferes
with bonding. When one is still grieving a lost baby, one cannot
attach to a new baby, because the attachment is still to the one
who died. Failure to attach to the one who is alive can lead to
abuse and neglect.
There can also be a sense of disappointment in the subsequent
child, who is compared to the aborted baby who is often idealized
in the mother’s mind. Expectations of the new child, sometimes
viewed as a "replacement baby," are not fulfilled, resulting in
anger that can lead to abuse and neglect.