Denyse O’Leary, ed. “No Easy Answers” Burlington, Ontario, Welch Publishing Co., 1988. 165pp.

Can abortion be viewed as a necessary service for women?  Pro-life organizations, of course, oppose this view; and in support they can point to the serious physical and psychological damage abortion may cause.  In the last two essays in this collection, Mary Parthun and Anne Kiss describe the evidence concerning post-abortion syndrome in some detail, and Heather Morris and Lorraine Williams summarize the physical consequences of abortion.  The first of these effectively refutes the conclusions of a Concordia University study published in 1984:

“It is recommended that this finding, that abortion does not cause psychological damage to the majority of women who have an abortion, be publicized so that pregnant women, who do not wish to have a child, can make a more informed choice about their future.”

As the authors of this article show, the methodology of the Concordia study has been heavily criticized: and the evidence mounts that unfavourable psychological consequences of abortion are a phenomenon worthy of consideration.  Transient short-term distress is common, but more serious long-standing effects do occur.  Because of the lack of post-abortion counseling and follow-up, these consequences are often not recognized and not reported.

The briefer essay by Dr. Morris and Mrs. Williams comes to a similar conclusion.  Despite the continuing development of techniques in induced abortion procedure, physical complications continue to be documented.  The problems are likely to be accentuated in the United States, where abortion clinics offer little or no follow-up service.  The authors note that the physical problems fall into several well-defined categories; the patient’s capacity for future childbearing, for instance, may be affected by ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, premature delivery, and difficulties at the time of delivery.  The incidence of serious complication is not high, but it odes exist, and of course it is rarely explained to candidates for abortion.

Whereas this section of the book deals in generalities, the other two deal with specific situations.  The first shows how lives are touched by abortion, by adoption, and by raising a child under difficult circumstances.  There are not neat and happy solutions, writes Denyse O’Leary in a preface: “We think few readers will get through ‘Sara: Why I chose Adoption’ and ‘An Unselfish Everlasting Love’ without tears.  And the mothers who raised their children alone and under difficult circumstances are still waiting to hear from the people who have all the answers about what they should do when they can’t manage all alone.”

“Women of Courage,” the first essay, is by Mona Lehman, who recently produced a television programme, Feel the Heartbeat, for Alliance for Life.  As her article begins, she describes herself as having swum twenty laps in a large hotel pool and being completely exhausted.  Yet she has to keep on swimming, in order to forget – forget the stories of the 150 girls in Toronto, Manitoba and Vancouver whom she interviewed.  She finds it especially hard to forget Janice, who was brutally raped by a relative, and Sherry, who was sexually abused by two of her foster fathers; fortunately both of them now have little baby girls who give them a reason for living.

All the accounts of lives touched by abortion are very moving.  They include the story of Dr. Robert Aikman, once one of Montreal’s busiest abortionists, whose turning away from his grisly business was certainly associated with religious conversion.

Other doctors, a social worker and a nurse contribute to the second section of this book, which deals with the experiences of people in the helping professions.  Peggy Madill, the nurse, brings out several facts which ought to be better known.  One is that despite the feminist slogan that abortion is a matter between a woman and her doctor, it is the nurse, not the doctor, who is the primary provider of care.  “On second-trimester abortions,” she writes, “following the injection of prostaglandin or saline by the physician, the nurse is delegated the difficult task of caring for and supporting the woman, and the delivery of the dead or occasionally live child.  Only in an emergency will a physician be called and nurses who have worked in this situation will attest to the reluctance of physicians to be present during this traumatic event.”  No wonder that Nurses for Life is pressing for a conscience clause, so that nurses will not be compelled to be accomplices in such disgusting forms of murder.

Finally, the book contains a list of Birthrights and other support groups, and a brief annotated bibliography of works dealing with post-abortion syndrome.  All in all, it is a useful book to have, though it covers some of its ground sketchily.  And one very graphic account of the torture a girl underwent in an abortion clinic in Buffalo ought to put fear in the heart of any other girl contemplating abortion.  Only five pages long, it is entitled “The Things I learned Too Late.”