While pro-lifers are rightly concerned primarily about abortion because it takes the life of an innocent human being in its earliest and most vulnerable stages, it has also long been clear that abortion harms women and society, too. The victims of abortion, those that pay a price for the easy destruction of the unborn through abortion-on-demand, go far beyond the womb. Multiple studies have shown that abortion has a fundamental impact on the family and moral structure of society.

Somewhat surprisingly, studies have demonstrated that abortion has a negative effect on the relationship between the woman and her family. Abortion affects the ability of the mother to bond with any other children she had or will have in the future. According to the 2005 study, “associations between voluntary and involuntary forms of perinatal loss and child maltreatment among low-income mothers” in Acta Paediatrica led by Dr. Priscilla Coleman of the Bowling Green State University, women “with one prior abortion had a 144 per cent higher risk for child physical abuse.”

Theunchoice.com, an Elliot Institute website that presents the negative effects of abortion, states that mothers face post-abortion psychological trauma leading to depression, drug abuse, poor parental bonding with children, and violent behaviour. “These factors are closely associated with child abuse and would appear to confirm a link with post-abortion trauma and subsequent child abuse.” In Women’s Health After Abortion, Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles note that, in general, abortion victims treat their children in three ways: “A feeling of emotional numbness which leads to a lack of bonding, acting out of hostility and anger which can result in child abuse, and considering future children as ‘replacement children’ who become overindulged.”

Abortion also damages the relationship of the woman with her partner or spouse. A 2009 study published in the journal Public Health conducted by Dr. Coleman, Vincent Rue of the Institute for Pregnancy Loss, and researcher Catherine Coyle found that, in a relationship within which abortion occurred, there was 116 per cent more arguing when discussing possible future children and 196 per cent more domestic violence. Furthermore, “for both men and women the experience of an abortion in a previous relationship was related to negative outcomes in the current relationship.”

Apart from the negative psychological effects the woman faces, this relationship instability may be due to the man’s reaction towards the abortion. Ring-Cassidy and Gentles reported on the 1984 book Men and Abortion by A.B. Shostak which documented that a large number of single male inmates decided to end the relationship with their girlfriends after they decided to abort. A common reason was that the actual abortion affected an inmate’s feeling towards the girlfriend. Moreover, female unwillingness to engage in sexual activity after the abortion had an impact. “If his masculinity has been threatened during the decision-making process, resuming the sexual relationship assures him that all is well. But the resistance with which his sexual overtures will usually be met can instead provoke feelings of further emasculation and failure,” notes Shostak. The Women’s Health After Abortion also acknowledged that feelings of coercion felt by the woman because of her partner or parents encouraging her to have an abortion would damage her relationships with them.

The effects of abortion on the family are not purely psychological. Abortion is linked to numerous future physical problems for women including: abdominal pain, cervical injuries, microfractures in pelvic bone, uterus perforation, infection, hypertension leading to stroke and heart disease, fatal blood clots, embolisms from fetal parts entering the blood stream, painful future births, eating disorders, and a wide variety of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Of course, there is also the well-documented link between abortion and breast cancer. Dr. Joel Brind, professor of human biology and endocrinology at Baruch College at City University in New York, found in his 1996 meta-analysis of more than 30 studies on abortion and breast cancer, that among women with a proclivity to breast cancer, an average increased risk of 30 per cent. More recent studies undertaken by Brind and Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, clinical assistant professor of surgery at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, confirm the earlier analysis.

There are also societal costs to abortion.

Despite the prevalence of birth control as a method of family planning, abortion is used in some countries as the chief way to limit family size or to avoid having children at an inconvenient time. For example, in 2008 in Russia, there were 1.234 million abortions compared with just 1.714 million births. The problem is such that the government, which formerly promoted abortion, is attempting to introduce measures to increase the birth rate and decrease the number of abortions. Another example is Red China’s One Child Policy, which, despite some apparent easing in restrictions, accounts for 35,000 coerced abortions per day, according to activist and former Tiananmen Square student leader Chai Ling.

Abortion itself and its consequences also challenge the moral principles of those who participate in it. In a summary of his masters dissertation provided for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in the United Kingdom, communications manager Anthony Ozimic notes that abortion leads to an instrumentalization of the medical process: “The abortionist ceases to be a doctor but becomes a hired technician; the woman ceases to be a mother-patient but becomes instead a customer or client; the health service ceases to be a restorer of health but becomes instead a social engineer. Such falsification is particularly damaging when one considers that the profession of medicine and the gift of motherhood are vocations… a vocation, if either followed or falsified, will have profound effects upon one’s identity…” This is supported by the testimony of former abortionist and converted pro-life advocate, the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who said that as an abortionist, he “had become as Hannah Arendt described Eichmann: a collection of functions rather than an accountable human being.”

Helen Alvaré, associate professor at George Mason University School of Law and senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, in a November 2010 article for thepublicdiscourse.com, characterized the mindset that accepted the legalization of abortion, and later no-fault divorce laws and same-sex “marriage,” as the “adults-first” approach that considered the interest of the adult foremost rather than the interests of children. “Abortion is performed when the child is at perhaps the most defenseless moment of his or her existence,” wrote Alvaré. “And while the killing of strangers – born or unborn – is prohibited in the United States, family members are permitted to be aborted. The wound to the good of the child, and even to the good of the whole family, is apparent.” It also “suggests that women – due to their childbearing potential – are cursed and not gifted.” Considering these effects, she wrote, abortion should be treated as a family and not a constitutional issue.

Another implication of abortion is what it signals about the value of human life. When in utero killing is justified by the fact that the child would not have a high quality of life, whether because he would be born with a disability or into poverty.  Archbishop Daniel Kucera wrote in an article for Priests for Life (U.S.): “We hear that if an unborn child will lack certain material advantages, it would be better to prevent that child’s birth. Besides its disregard for life as such, this opinion implies that the value of a life is to be measured in material terms. By such standards we would have to conclude that millions of our fellow citizens should never have been born. What does this say about our concept of the purpose of life and our notions of human fulfillment?”

Legal abortion also leads to a slippery slope in terms of how they are carried out and what other practices they lead to. The recent wave of abortuary scandals exposed in the United States shows unacceptable abuses in the abortion process (beyond the killing of the unborn) that implicate the principles of the practitioners. For example, the pro-life youth organization Live Action found in a series of undercover investigations that several Planned Parenthood facilities were willing to abet underage prostitution rings. In another case, Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was charged for killing seven babies after birth. He was also charged for the death of a 41-year-old woman after a botched abortion. He did not even properly dispose of the many babies he aborted, storing them in household containers and keeping him his offices, sometimes for years.

Furthermore, abortion leads to the commercial use and commoditization of human tissue harvested from the destroyed fetus. Pro-life watchdog Children of God for Life has noted the many instances that aborted fetuses are developed into stem cell lines which are used to create vaccines. “In a CBS 60 Minutes, television expose in 1999 and subsequently reported by the North Carolina daily Asheville Tribune, not only is there a growing market for baby body parts, but the abortionists now have published “sales lists” that include prices. Interested researchers can choose prices ranging from $150 for a brain less than 8 weeks gestation to $999 for one greater than 8 weeks. Children of God for Life executive director Debra L. Vinnedge notes studies and polls presented by the Nebraska Catholic Conference in 2001 that indicate “women considering abortion are more likely to do so of they believe they can donate the fetus for research.” It has also recently be revealed that aborted fetal lines are also being used in the testing of beverage flavours by PepsiCo. According to an article in the Puget Sound Business Journal, the taxpayer-funded University of Washington alone filed 4,400 requests for fresh fetal body parts for research purposes. This implicates the public as a whole in using products derived from abortion.

As abortion involves denying the personhood of the unborn, other procedures may easily be introduced if abortion is permitted, including embryonic stem cell research and in vitro fertilization, which both destroy embryos to achieve their ends. A 2010 report by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that only 7.5 per cent of these embryos become “live” children. Polish Catholic bishops, in fact, have dubbed IVF a “type of refined abortion” in a 2007 letter to the country’s government, which is now considering legalizing the practice. Moreover, an average of 80 children conceived by methods of artificial procreation such as IVF are aborted in England and Wales per year, indicating, according to former English MP Ann Widdecombe, that they are being treated as “designer goods.” According to the National Institutes of Health, most embryos used for stem cell lines are donated by in vitro fertilization clinics, further basing current research initiatives on tissue from potential human life.

Abortion damages families, harms women, negatively affects society, and generally cheapens human life. It is clear that abortion is a tragedy beyond the death of the unborn child, which, while the most serious consequence of abortion, is also only the beginning of the harm it causes.