Abortion is often presented as a quick and painless procedure, with no side effects. But, lately, pro-life leaders have argued that women who have had an abortion suffer physical and emotional effects. Recent legislation has also addressed “botched abortions” — when babies are born alive. To find out more about these issues, Biola Connections interviewed Dana Chisholm (M.A. ’02), the founder and director of the Women’s Resource Network, a pro-life organization based in Escondido, Calif.

How many abortions are performed in America?

About 1.29 million abortions were performed in America in 2002, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood International. They report that half of all pregnancies are unintended and half of these end in abortion.

Are abortion procedures quick and easy?

No, although RU-486 — the “abortion pill” — has been touted as an easy way to terminate an early pregnancy, many people are not aware that it is a process involving several steps and at least two medical visits. During the first visit, the woman is given medication to prepare her body. A second medication must be taken orally or inserted into the vagina, either at home or in the doctor’s office, one to two days later, which induces labor and expels the dead embryo (a process that can take from four to 24 hours to occur). Most women will experience two to four hours of cramping and bleeding. In a few cases, the woman may need to take another dose of medication. Then another checkup visit is required within two weeks to make sure all the fetal parts were expelled. If not, a surgical abortion is required.

What are the physical risks for a woman who has had an abortion?

Abortion carries a risk of several side effects, including the more common ones of abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Though less common, other risks include sterility or a future tubal pregnancy. There is a risk of hemorrhage, especially if the uterine artery is torn, which may require a blood transfusion. If all the fetal parts aren’t removed by the abortion, this may cause bleeding and infection requiring hospitalization. Sometimes, the cervix or uterus is torn by abortion instruments, which may require major surgery. The tearing may also damage nearby organs, such as the bowel and bladder. The risk of complications is about one out of every 100 early abortions and about one out of every 50 later abortions, according to Planned Parenthood.

What are the emotional risks for a woman who has had an abortion?

The emotional after effects of abortion — called “Post Abortion Syndrome” — are documented by researchers like Dr. Reardon (www.afterabortion.org). The symptoms include: preoccupation with the aborted child, flashbacks of the abortion experience, feelings of craziness, nightmares related to the abortion, perceived visitation from the aborted child, and hallucinations related to the abortion. Other symptoms are guilt, shame, regret, anger, alcohol/drug abuse, depression/suicidal thoughts, emotional numbing, and anniversary reactions (on the anniversary of the abortion).

What about “botched abortions”?

The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act was signed into law by Congress in 2002. Before the law, when a baby survived an abortion he or she was often left in the trash or in the hospital, and medical care was withheld until the baby starved to death or died from medical complications. Unfortunately, there is evidence that this practice continues. An article in The [U.K.] Times, on Nov. 27, 2005, said the British government is launching an investigation after receiving a report that 50 babies a year are born alive during attempted abortions.