Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)

In psychology and psychiatry, this syndrome includes all of the mental symptoms which can occur as a result of an abortion to any person, namely women, children, fathers, doctors, counselors and nurses, who is involved in an abortion.

In 1981, psychologist Vincent Rue first established a connection between abortion and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by bringing to light the similarities between the consequences of an abortion and PTSD. PTSD was observed in Vietnam War veterans who, years after the war, suddenly exhibited pathological behavior. According to Arthur Blank, a trauma researcher, the trauma of PTSD is caused by "a contact between the individual and the darkest and most violent forces of human nature." War, murder and rape confront people with death or uncontrollable violence. Such events overwhelm a person’s normal psychological defense mechanisms.  These traumatized persons try to suppress the experience, but the subconscious mind wants to process it. Often experience is suppressed so much that the effects are not visible until ten years after the actual incident.

Keeping in mind Blank’s definition and the abortion event, it stands to reason that PAS could be defined as a specialized form of PTSD: An abortion also leads to a direct confrontation with death.  One should also include how women, especially if they are forced to have abortions, describe how the abortion was performed while they are bound and helpless on the chair, similar to a rape situation. In Vietnam veterans as well as in women who suffer from their abortion, three major symptom complexes can be observed:

Hyper-excitability: The traumatized person acts as if constantly threatened by great danger. Anxiety attacks, aggressive behavior, difficulty concentrating, and insomnia are just some of the typical symptoms.

Overwhelming: This refers to the unintended and unexpected re-experiencing of the traumatic event, both in a brief flash of memory, known as flashbacks, as well as breaks in dreams.

Narrowing: The traumatized person develops patterns of behavior to avoid situations that may be associated with abortion. This includes, for example, that after an abortion women no longer are able to remember what has happened, break off relations with the people who were involved in the abortion, they avoid children or pregnant women, lose their capacity for love, abuse drug and alcohol and develop self-destructive tendencies which can lead to suicide. In addition to these main symptoms, PAS can - in varying degrees - cause a wide range of psychological, psychosomatic and physical consequences that are often urgently in need of treatment.

According to the Würzburg psychologist Maria Simon, after an abortion 80 percent of women suffer from mental health problems, such as remorse and guilt, self-blame, depression, mood swings, unmotivated crying, anxiety and frightful dreams.
The results from Germany are confirmed by U.S. studies. According to these studies, 92.6 percent of women surveyed have strong feelings of guilt, about 88 percent suffer from depression, 38.6 percent from eating disorders and 40.6 percent have begun to use drugs. Only 5.1 percent of the 260 respondents feel an inner peace.

Symptoms of PAS

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: flashbacks (63%), nightmares
  • Depression (88%), suicide attempts (28%)
  • Mood swings, crying spells, hysterical seizures (51%)
  • Anxiety, insomnia, guilt, remorse, self-blame (85%)
  • Death of emotional life
  • Relationship problems: couples split up within a year after the abortion (70%).


Healing of trauma of abortion trauma requires a therapist familiar with the issue. Experience has shown that pure psychotherapy is not able to do justice to abortion trauma.

There are support groups for affected women, which attempt to jointly work through the trauma of abortions.  In Germany, for example, at Rachel eV (a registered association), the problems of women who suffer from an abortion are not taboo, but are openly discussed.

Many women are reconciled with their aborted child, by giving it a name and symbolically burying it. Many are also helped through the experience of reconciliation with God in the sacrament of confession.

The experience of women who have aborted their children
to be found at Rachel's website Rahel-Homepage under the link "experience"

Selected Literature

  • Nancy E. Adler, et al.: Psychological Responses After Abortion. In: Science 248 (1990) S. 41-44.
  • J. R. Ashton: The Psychological Outcome of Induced Abortion. In: British Journal of Ob & Gyn. 87 (1980) S. 1115-1122.
  • Veronika Blasel: Wenn die Seele stirbt. In: LebensForum Nr. 73 (2005) S. 20-24.
  • Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association: Induced Termination of Pregnancy Before and After Roe v. Wade: Trends in Mortality and Morbidity of Women. In: JAMA 268 (1992) S. 3231-3239.
  • Mika Gissler, Elina Hemminki, Jouko Lonnqvist: Suicides after pregnancy in Finnland, 1987-94: register linkage study. In: Britsh Medicial Journal 313 (1996) S. 1431-1434.
  • Myriam… warum weinst Du. Die Leiden der Frauen nach Abtreibung, Uznach 1996
  • Marianne Neeb: Lysander – Grenzerfahrung einer Mutter, Norderstedt 2006
  • Angelika Pokropp-Hippen: Das Post-Abortion-Syndrom und sein Bezug zur posttraumatischen Belastungsstörung. In: Bernward Büchner, Claudia Kaminski (Hrsg.): Lebensschutz oder kollektiver Selbstbetrug? Zehn Jahre Neuregelung des § 218 (1995 – 2005). Bonn 2006, S. 29-63.
  • Angelika Pokropp-Hippen: Post Abortion Syndrom. In: LebensForum Nr. 74 (2005) S. 21-23.
  • Jesús G. Sánchez-Colomer: Du bist nie wieder dieselbe. In: LebensForum Nr. 77 (2006) S. 22-23.
  • Susan Stanford: Werde ich morgen weinen? Marburg 2001.
  • Karin Struck: Ich sehe mein Kind im Traum. München 1994.
  • Wanda Franz, et al.: Differential Impact of Abortion on Adolescents and Adults. In: Adolescence 27 (1992) S. 161-172.
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