Association Research Bulletin
Far from being merely a decision between “a woman and her doctor,” abortion can have serious consequences for the relationship between a woman and her husband or boyfriend.
“The cloak of silence surrounding abortion has left couples, some of whom may very well be at an increased risk for experiencing relationship difficulties, struggling alone to understand and respond to relationship challenges in the aftermath of abortion,” according to a report by Dr. Priscilla K. Coleman in the winter 2007 Research Bulletin of the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change.
Coleman, associate professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University, reviewed scientific literature on abortion and its aftermath to find data on relationships. Although few studies have focused specifically on this issue, Coleman was able to draw some conclusions based on the existing evidence.
“At this stage in the development of the literature,” she writes, “the prognosis for relationship problems post-abortion seems quite probable if one or both partners view abortion as the taking of a human life, would have preferred to avoid the abortion, developed an emotional connection to the fetus, experience negative emotions such as grief, guilt, and anger in association with the abortion, and/or suffer from adverse mental health effects of the abortion.”
Abortion either adds to previous problems between the man and the woman, or creates new conflicts. Coleman writes that in several studies, “post-abortion partner communication problems have been identified ..., and an increased risk for separation or divorce following an abortion has been reported.”
It has even been found to lead to domestic violence, Coleman reports. Although “minimal research attention has focused on abortion as a predictor of domestic violence,” she writes, “a few studies have shown an association between a history of abortion and increased risk for partner-perpetrated aggression during a subsequent pregnancy.”
Effects such as violence or divorce especially arise when women and men feel guilt, anger, and grief after abortion. When either partner is conflicted over the abortion decision, or when it violates their personal beliefs, the effects can be even more pronounced, Coleman states.
“Pregnancy termination is irreversible,” she writes, “and if women are unable to come to terms with an abortion that evokes considerable guilt, the negative feelings may lead to more generalized feelings of self-reproach and/or they may cause the individual to engage in negative behaviors targeted towards one’s partner.”
Men’s feelings after abortion are studied much more rarely than women’s. “Nevertheless,” Coleman reports, “the available data do indicate that male responses to a partner’s abortion may include guilt, depression, anxiety, feelings of voicelessness/powerlessness, repressed emotions, and anger among other negative reactions.”
Coleman insists that more study is needed to find the truth about how abortion affects not just the woman herself, but her relationships with those closest to her. “An essential first step toward change is open acknowledgment of the dark potential of abortion to disrupt individuals’ lives and wreak havoc on intimate bonds,” Coleman writes. “Like an insidious cancer, the destructive nature of abortion often lives on in the hearts of men and women long after the life of their fetus has ended.”
The Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change, a professional organization for pro-life researchers and educators, offers a forum for an exchange of information from a wide range of scientific and social science disciplines. Coleman’s report as well as other articles can be found on the web site at http://www.abortionresearch.us/.