ABORTION DECISIONS AND THE DUTY TOSCREEN: CLINICAL, ETHICAL, AND LEGALIMPLICATIONS OF PREDICTIVE RISKFACTORS OF POST-ABORTIONMALADJUSTMENT
David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
Abortion defies categorization. It is a moral, religious, legal,political, health, and human rights issue. People concerned aboutpopulation control, environmentalism, national security, internationallaw, race relations, education, economics, bioengineering, sociology,and psychology — to name but a few—all approach the issue fromdifferent perspectives.The great number of ways in which this controversial subject can beviewed always ensures lively debates. However, these intellectualdebates are tepid, academic exercises compared to the intense, internalbattles — between conflicting beliefs, desires, uncertainties, and fears— actually faced by women who are confronted with an unintendedpregnancy and the prospect of abortion. For every intellectualargument for or against abortion, there are thousands of women whohave struggled with the same issues before and after their choice.Certainly there are some women for whom the decision to abort orcarry to term is not a struggle. Years of pondering the “what if Ibecame pregnant?” question, or the overwhelming pressures of immediate circumstances that lead them to conclude they have “nochoice,” cause some women to make their decisions quickly, evenimmediately. Yet reports of a rapid, “easy” decision reflect only arelative freedom from internal conflicts over the decision. It does noteliminate the fact that the abortion experience may have immense
David C. Reardon, Ph.D., is a biomedical ethicist, the director of the ElliotInstitute, and a widely published researcher on the psychological and physicaleffects of abortion on women. This manuscript is based in part on an unpublishedpaper originally presented at the American Psychiatric Association AnnualMeeting May 17-22, 1997, San Diego, CA. My sincere thanks to the late ThomasW. Strahan, J.D., for his assistance and review of the legal analyses presentedregarding informed consent law.