Recent media coverage of a book, Sex, Abortion and Unmarried Women by Paul Sachdev, which claims guilt over abortion is rare, is misleading in the extreme.  This work is being presented as an “academic study.”  It is not.  If works based on personal experiences (as in studies by David Reardon “Aborted Women – Silent No More” or W.E.B.A. [women Exploited Bt Abortion]) are dismissed as non-scientific, because they do not fit scientific parameters, Sachdev’s study should not carry any weight either.  To have validity, a study must have been published in a major scientific journal, which would ensure that proper controls were used.  The author of the book is a known pro-abortion advocate whose bias is evident throughout the book.

This “study’ on which the book is based, consisted of interviews with 70 hand-picked women.  Apparently 117 names were given to Sachdev by hospital personnel and social workers.  He included only white women between the ages of 18 and 25 who were pregnant for the first time.  He says that repeat aborters suffered more trauma longer, so of course they wouldn’t fit his bias.  Only victims of first-trimester abortions were included.  He admits that 10% of these 117 women refused to be interviewed because of painful memories.  Another group said they couldn’t be subjects because their boyfriends forbade them from talking about the abortion (so much for abortion liberating women!)  On page 62 of his book, he says some accepted the opportunity to speak to him “to purge” themselves of the abortion.  If there was no guilt, what was there to purge?

Half of the women who agreed to be interviewed said that they were not totally unhappy about the pregnancy.  In fact, fully 23.9% of these women wanted to be pregnant.  However, 50% of these women felt abandoned by their partners when they were told “It’s your choice.”

More than 40% of the relationships ended following the abortion.  Fully two thirds of the 70 women said that they might have carried the baby to term, if they had had support.  It appears that many of the women were angry at the lack of commitment on the part of their partners.

Sachdev says that those who had the most problems with guilt wee the women who identify the “fetus” with a “real person.”  He does not specify how much knowledge any of these women had of prenatal development.  It would appear he favours uninformed choice.  One portion of his book deals with the coping mechanisms.  To the unbiased reader, the main devices used by these poor women are denial and repression.

What Sachdev considers “long term” is 6 months to a year.  Anyone familiar with Post Abortion Syndrome, a condition recognized by psychiatric associations, knows that devastating symptoms most frequently take years, not months, to surface.  The trigger for guilt is often the anniversary of the abortion or the due date of the baby.  In addition, the pregnancy and birth of subsequent children can often open up old wounds.

The portion of the book on post-abortion sexual activity and contraception is fascinating.  Most of the 70 women interviewed said they were more sexually active following abortion.  In view of AIDS, this also seems to underscore self-destructive, punitive behaviour.  Sachdev’s solution to this complicated problem is more contraception.  Later, the author blithely mentions a quote from former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Everett Koop.  Apparently, 90% of American women who are sexually active are at risk of 5 births in their lifetime, despite practicing birth control.  What kind of “solution” is that?

One of the main reasons for this so-called “study” was to dispel the “myth” that women use abortion as their primary method of birth control.  He says that two thirds of the women interviewed did not use contraceptives with every act of intercourse.  These women then went on to say that they didn’t consider abortion as their method of birth control.  Remember, 100% if these 70 women used abortion to solve their unplanned pregnancy.  What they think and what they do, are quite different.

Sachdev’s recommendations are extremely disappointing if he really cares for women.  Instead of encouraging men to be supportive and committed (remember, almost 50% of the women felt abandoned by their partners), he suggests the female condom, which has at least a 25% failure rate in preventing pregnancies.  Instead of suggesting that society be more supportive of these distressed women by offering life-affirming alternatives, he suggests that the abortifacients RU 486 be made available.  He endorses this human pesticide which uses women as guinea pigs, despite its experimental nature.  The lessons of DES, Thalidomide, and the Dalkon Shield seem to be forgotten.

Finally, to take 70 carefully selected women, relatively shortly after their first abortion, and then project his findings as indicative of the experiences of all those Canadian women who have had, collectively, over 95,000 abortions in the last year alone, is disgraceful.  No reputable demographer or statistician would make such sweeping claims.  Unfortunately, the prominent media coverage of this boldly biased book not only dupes the average reader, but grossly devalues the anguish experienced by those countless thousands of women who are suffering from post abortion trauma.  His book denigrates, trivializes, and marginalizes them.  They are his real victims.

(June Scandiffio is president of Toronto Right to Life)