Therapists are ill-equipped to treat abortion-related trauma 

By Monica Snyder, Executive Director, Secular Pro-Life

AzCentral recently published “Many women struggle mentally after an abortion. Few counselors know how to help”.  The whole piece is worth the read, but here are some key excerpts:

Melanie opened up about the anxiety and anguish she still felt over the abortion decision. As an atheist woman in her 30s with her whole life in front of her, it weighed on her in ways she didn’t expect. Prior to her abortion, she had researched and weighed the risks and benefits of termination presented by the field of psychology, landing on the conclusion that mental health is not adversely affected by abortion. But instead of feeling free, she found herself struggling against a barrier to healing from her relationship trauma.

Most training programs for therapists, counselors and social workers don’t acknowledge or explore abortion-related challenges as part of women’s mental health issues.

The American Psychological Association presents abortion as only a mental health benefit to women, touting access and availability as a catalyst for a higher quality of life and framing policies that limit abortion access as detrimental to quality of life, self-esteem and mental health. 

What this means is that clinicians can bring biases and lack of awareness into client sessions, often substituting our own social expectations for clients’ lived experiences.

Nationally representative research by Support After Abortion found that 34% of women who experienced medication abortion reported adverse mental health effects. With any other mental health issue, we’d consider this a crisis — especially with 82% of women reporting that they didn’t know where to find after-abortion healing resources. 

And the blanket designation that abortion has no effects on women has resulted in a woeful deficiency of training and resources for clinicians, and little to no resources or appropriate care for our clients in the therapy room. Mental health professionals are in the best position to reverse this trend, and we must make it a priority.