Post-abortion depression:

Women have a right to know

By NADIA POZO

CS&T Staff Writer

Eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal urges, anxiety and panic attacks are just some of the symptoms of post-abortion depression, according to congressional findings in the recently introduced bill known as the Post-Abortion Depression Research and Care Act (H.R. 4543).

The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), aims to provide funding for extensive long-term research on post-abortion depression, in an effort to provide proper medical assistance to women suffering from post-abortion trauma. Such research would also provide medical professionals with accurate information about the side affects of abortion.

"Congressman Pitts is really concerned about the anecdotal findings that he has read about, and the women he has spoken to who have had abortions and have described the stress and the emotional toll it has taken on them," said Derek Karchner, Pitts’ press secretary. "He felt that it was time — after 30 years of not studying this — for the government to step in and see what we can do to find out how an abortion affects women emotionally and psychologically. … He felt this was a good time to introduce the bill and start talking about it."

Anecdotal research has been helpful in shedding light on the serious health issue of post-abortion depression, but it has been limited to small samples of individuals over a short period of time, even though many women do not exhibit signs of post-abortion trauma until many years after their abortion.

Nearly 1.2 million out of 3 million unwanted or unplanned pregnancies end in an abortion every year, according to congressional findings. The resulting, often devastating, effects on women have gone unreported or undocumented, making it difficult for them to get proper post-abortion depression counseling and treatment.

"Accurate research can foster awareness because it makes a problem concrete," stated Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, on his legislative web page. "By comparing women with different pregnancy outcomes — miscarriage, live birth with the biological mother raising the child, live birth with the baby given up for adoption, and abortion — we can better determine what potential emotional impact abortion produces, relative to other pregnancy-related decisions. This information may help us determine early warning signs of depression for women who chose abortion, so that these women can receive help as quickly as possible and not have to struggle alone for a long period of time."

According to Karchner, the bill calls for the type of comprehensive research that will settle objections by supporters of abortion, who do not believe post-abortion depression exists, that raising concerns over such abortion-related problems is a disingenuous political ploy by Right-to-Life proponents.

The Post-Abortion Depression Research and Care Act (H.R. 4543) provides 15 million dollars to the National Institutes of Health for extensive research on the mental and psychological health of women who have had abortions. It also creates a grant program for the development of treatment programs for women who suffer from post-abortion depression. The grant money will be distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"I am very thankful that Congressman Pitts has introduced H.R. 4543," said Rev. Mr. David Shaffer, director of the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "For years, thousands of women and men have suffered from depression, guilt, and anger. Project Rachel, a post-abortion ministry of the Archdiocese, has provided support and counseling services to many who have needed assistance with post-abortion stress. This bill will aid our efforts to expand this service."

According to Pitts’ spokesman Karchner, the bill has been well received and to date has 31 co-sponsors. Pitt is trying to build awareness and support for the bill while it is under review by a subcommittee of the House Committee for Energy and Commerce.

Karchner said he is urging supporters of the legislation to "call your representatives in Congress and ask them to co-sponsor and support it. …

"Call your senators and ask them to introduce a similar bill on the Senate side," he said. "Certainly, raise awareness in your local communities through letters to the editors of your local newspaper. Talk to your neighbors about this or get involved with local agencies that provide assistance to women who are struggling with these issues."

Contact Nadia Pozo at npozo@adphila.org or (215) 965-4614

To support H.R. 4543, call:

U.S. House Representatives:

Philadelphia: Robert Brady,

D-PA (202) 225-4731

Philadelphia: Chaka Fattah,

D-PA (202) 225-4001

Downingtown: Jim Gerlach,

R-PA (202) 225-4315

Doylestown: James Greenwood,

R-PA (202) 225-4276

Abington: Joseph Hoeffel,

D-PA (202) 225-6111

U.S. Senate

Rick Santorum

R-PA (202) 224-6324

Arlen Specter

R-PA, (202) 224-4254

Reprinted with permission of The Catholic Standard & Times. To subscribe, visit www.cst-phl.com