Post-Abortion Syndrome: a TikTok Case Study

By Kylie Gallegos

A very unfortunate video–for deniers of Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)–is circulating through the social media platform TikTok. TikTok is a popular app whose userbase is largely between 16-24 and whose content is short videos ranging from a few seconds long to three minutes. 

The video featured a young girl lamenting her own abortion one year before who is creating a safe space where young women could tell their stories of the “forbidden grief” of abortion. This video had 1.2 million views, 245,000 likes, and nearly 11,000 comments; needless to say it went viral. 

Those 11,000 comments were women using this one opportunity to express the grief they’ve held in for years, and it was heartbreaking. I stumbled upon this video as I searched for a research topic during my time at the NRL Academy. As I read comment after comment, I realized that was I was reading was PAS. What was even more unique about these comments and this platform was that it wasn’t from a group of pro-lifers, it was women my age who had grown up in an abortion-minded culture who by all of societies standards shouldn’t have had any second thoughts about their abortions, but still here it was: Post-Abortion Syndrome. 

What I then set out to do was document these comments and attempt to categorize them in light of classic PAS symptoms. The symptoms were guilt, anxiety, avoiding kids or pregnant women, feeling numb, suicidal thoughts, anniversary reminders, wanting to be pregnant again, drug or alcohol abuse, and bonding with other children. 

What I found was striking, yet unsurprising. I found every single one of these symptoms and much more. Even more compelling is the fact that this wasn’t a survey. These were young women offering up their stories and mentioning each symptom in passing. No one was drawing anything out of them, it was from the heart. 

I’ll share with you now a representative comment for each symptom.

Guilt. “I went through this 26 years ago and I’ve never forgiven myself.” Anxiety. “Everyone told me it was my only option. I chose to believe them. I lost my job, went through a temporary psychosis, and my life still feels like it’s falling apart.” Avoiding kids or pregnant women. “I also felt an overwhelming sense of guilt being around babies at that time; not too much now, but dang would’ve been like 3 years old now.” Numbness. Talking about a friend she wrote, “Her biggest struggle was that after she didn’t feel the relief she thought she would. She didn’t feel anything, just numb.” Suicidal thoughts. “I attempted suicide twice after having an abortion. It was one of the worst years of my life.” Anniversary reminders. “The worst part is mother’s day or moving… even just looking around at empty rooms where I would’ve put my babies stuff”… “I feel like I didn’t fight hard enough.” Wanting to be pregnant again. “I won’t get better until I have a baby.” Drug/Alcohol abuse. “For years I turned to alcohol because of the pain… it hurts.” Bonding with other children. “I’m sad, I feel guilty, and I can’t be around kids without feeling empty.” 

Heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking. Clearly each of these young women was experiencing a mixture of PAS symptoms despite the other side’s attempts to quash any suggestions that there may be regret after an abortion. These women sought to be understood and listened to, not guilted or silenced. 

Their pain doesn’t simply cease to exist after reading a Healthline article saying their continued pain isn’t as legitimate as other mental health problems. 

The pro-life movement is one of love and care for women stuck in situations that seems impossible. Our work includes helping heal the deep wounds of abortion.

I’ll end with a quote that brings tears to my eyes yet motivates me to keep fighting, keep moving forward, “I had an abortion 20 years ago and all I can say is that someone should’ve told me all the negative side effects, I still struggle.”