Study: Women Having Abortions More Likely to Engage in Child Abuse

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 13, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Study: Women Having Abortions More Likely to Engage in Child Abuse Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 13
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — A new study finds that women who have a history of abortion are more likely to abuse children born from subsequent pregnancies. The study, published in the Internet Journal of Pediatrics and Neonatology, confirms previous research which suggests that there is a link between abortion and child abuse.

The study is based on an analysis of data on 237 low-income women in Baltimore who had physically mistreated or neglected at least one of their children or allowed someone else to do so.

While all the women in the study had some connection with child maltreatment or neglect, the authors found that those who reported a history of abortion reported significantly more frequent acts of physical violence, such as slapping, hitting or beating, directed at their children.

Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a researcher at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, was the lead author of the new report.

She talked with about its findings and said that only a few studies have examined the association between abortion history and child maltreatment.

Coleman explained that there are many possible explanations for the association — including "unresolved bereavement, disruption of mother-child attachment mechanisms, feelings of abortion-related guilt, and/or negative mental health effects of the abortion."

"In this particular study we found that the severity of abuse was more pronounced among mothers with a history of abortion compared to those without a history," Coleman said. "This makes sense since we do know that abortion can precipitate difficult to resolve anger issues."

"For many years the impact of abortion was believed to be minimal and time limited," Coleman told "However, it seems the more we study it, the longer and more
pervasive the effects of abortion seem to be on not only the women involved, but their families as well."

The study found that press to have an abortion may also be impact later cases of child abuse.

The research indicated that grief may be more difficult to resolve if women undergo an unwanted abortion due to pressure from others. In one study, cited by Coleman, 64 percent of American women with a history of abortion reported feeling pressured to abort by others.

Dr. David Reardon, director of the Illinois-based Elliot Institute and a leading researcher who has been involved in more than a dozen studies on the impact of abortion on women, responded to Coleman’s study.

He said it confirms the general findings of previous studies linking abortion with a higher risk of abuse or neglect.

"Previous research has also shown that abortion is linked with a subsequent increased risk of alcoholism, drug use, anxiety, rage, anger and psychiatric hospitalization," Reardon said. "Any of these factors, individually or in combination, can significantly increase the personal and family stresses that can lead to maltreatment or neglect."

A previous study by Coleman found that a maternal history of abortion was linked to less supportive home environments for subsequently born children and that subsequent children exhibited more behavioral problems than the children of women without a history of abortion.

Other research conducted in New Zealand tracked young women from birth to 25 years of age found that young women who had abortions were significantly more likely to experience subsequent depression, suicidal behavior and substance abuse, even after the researchers controlled for previous mental health problems.

"Taken all together, these studies show that the mental health effects of abortion don’t stop with women," Reardon said. "They will impact their families, too."

Coleman’s team suggested that professionals should be aware of the links between abortion and maternal mental health problems.

She suggested that they "sensitively inquire about any history of abortion and related, unresolved negative emotions when working with women engaged in or at risk for aberrant parenting."

Finally, the authors concluded that while additional research is always needed, there can no longer be any doubt that abortion significantly impacts the health of women and their families.

"For years, abortion was construed to be a benign medical procedure carrying little if any potential for lasting adverse effects," they wrote.

However … the last several years have brought greater understanding that abortion for many women is an issue with profound physical, psychological, spiritual and lifestyle dimensions that are intimately tied to many aspects of their lives," they said.

Related web sites:
Read the new study at the Internet Journal of Pediatrics and Neonatology website.