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Think. Discuss. Act. Abortion

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Review: Psychological Aspects Of Abortion

Mall, D. & Watts, W.F. (eds.). (1979). The Psychological Aspects of Abortion. Washington, D.C.: University Publications of America. Symposium sponsored by the Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University.


Although the papers in this book are critical of elective abortion, the participants are Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish and the papers not normally Catholic or Christian. These essays confront the beliefs that “abortion is psychologically safe” and that “carrying an unwanted child to term is more traumatic than abortion.” It presents data to question the automatic prescription of abortion for the difficult cases of rape and incest.

Sandra K. McMahkorn’s study concludes that “pregnancy from rape need not devastate the victim and that abortion could, in fact, even compound feelings of guilt and self-blame.” Similarly George E. Maloof analyzes how “a family turned inward through incest impairs the contribution each member owes to the whole and to the building of an integrated society.” He sees the answer not “in aborting a rare incestuous pregnancy but in helping the incestuous family to grow outward. A profession which employs a single modality of treatment such as abortion to a situation amenable to others has simply boxed itself in and shows an alarming lack of imagination.” The writers here challenge us to think in terms of creative alternatives while presenting data on options that have worked. Several essays refer to studies and present evidence of psychological problems suffered by women after abortions. Such evidence has been too scarce in the discussion from both sides of the issue.

One paper notes, “Without question, abortion is psychologically a symbol of the despair which seems to be endemic in modern society. It is a totally negative response to environmental pressures. Without the benefit of an affirming love, abortion is always an empty response-a gesture of denial…”

A bibliography of books, journal articles and studies concludes each chapter-although these are from the 1970s and 1960s.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What is life?
  2. What do you really want for yourself?
  3. How can we stand with you as a caring and supportive community?
  4. How can you come to fully love yourself and all others?
  5. No matter what has happened, how can you be reconciled to yourself and others?


  1. Adolescent pregnancies, incest, and abortions are family matters that call for family response. Two general responses include avoidance and denial, which perpetuate family problems; and openness and discussion, which promise growth. Families hurt, but can heal and grow.
  2. In addition to counseling, social work, intervention, and sex education, schools should provide a learning atmosphere that offers natural opportunities for considering the traumas of life, the hope for solutions, and the values that will enhance a society in which all human life has the opportunity to grow.
  3. As society tends toward convenient, standardized solutions, youth leaders have the opportunity to deal individually and relationally with young people, to explore challenging options, and to ask hard questions that demand reflection.
Dean Borgman
© 2018 CYS

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