Post Abortion Syndrome

During the First World War a number of men were executed because they ran away. They were seen as deserters or traitors. And so, they were executed – shot at dawn – by their own side. It was subsequently found out that the men in question were suffering from shell shock, which then became known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Post Traumatic Syndrome (PTS).  Those that pulled the trigger on these innocent men would have been under orders to take a life that, possibly deep down, they knew to be innocent. Yet seemingly, they ‘had no choice’.

They would carry the secret of having been an executioner of an innocent person for the rest of their lives. How could they tell anyone what they had done? It seemed right at the time. But as time passed so a greater understanding of PTSD was gained. And so it would have been harder for these people to admit their part in the executions. They had to deny to themselves they had done anything wrong. How else could they live with themselves? What would their family and friends say if they found out? Coping mechanisms kicked in to dull the guilt and pain.

  • Maybe some took to drinking.
  • Maybe some become violent whilst others became withdrawn.
  • Maybe some tried to do ‘good works’ or turned to ‘religion’ to try to compensate for their unspoken past.
  • Maybe some turned away from God, disgusted with their own attitudes and lack of self worth.
  • Maybe some would have nightmares or flashbacks.
  • Maybe some would have an adverse reaction when they heard a gunshot on TV or a car backfiring.
  • Maybe some denied it even happened or that it never affected them.

These people themselves were now suffering from PTSD. They had done something so far removed from ‘normal’ life that it had affected them and the way they behaved. And it wouldn’t have just been those that pulled the trigger. The people who gave them the orders may also have been affected by PTSD for giving the orders in the first place. In fact anyone who was aware of these executions, especially once it was known that the ‘deserters’ were actually ill, would also have then had to come to terms with their actions or inactions. During the First World War it would have been mainly men that suffered from PTSD, whether as ‘deserters’, or ‘executioners’. PTSD could and did affect anyone.

In fact, wherever there is a disaster, whether it be natural like an earthquake or volcano erupting, or man-made like a bombing or a train or plane crash, or even something like a daily occurrence of a burglary or mugging, people are left traumatised. It is now so universally recognised that counsellors are immediately dispatched to talk through the issues with those who have been affected. In many cases, people who have been severely traumatised have sought and won compensation for their injuries, both physical and mental. PTSD is something that mostly happens to others and is not wished upon anyone. But when it happens people are encouraged to speak about it.

Except if it is a woman who has had an abortion and is suffering from Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS), a form of PTSD. Then she is told PAS doesn’t exist. Or to pull herself together as it was her ‘choice’. The majority of the medical profession do not want to know and so the woman keeps silent. Yet she knows that she killed her baby. Abortion, although it happens about 500 times a day in the UK and about one in four women since 1968 have ‘chosen’ this procedure, is still an action completely outside of ‘normality’.

A mother is supposed to nurture her child not kill him or her. The womb that was once the safest place to be where a child was protected at all costs, is now the most dangerous place to be. And the mother has to deny it was wrong. Pretend nothing happened. Get on with her life. Don’t grieve because grieving is for when a person, or possibly a pet, dies. She is not encouraged to talk about ‘it’, let alone give ‘it’ a name.

If a mother experiences a miscarriage then that is different. She is allowed to grieve as the baby had been wanted. She is even encouraged to name her child, making him or her more real, be a part of the family. She is encouraged to talk about the lost hopes and dreams she had for her child. Those around her are aware of her pain and do all they can to help and support her in her loss.

What a difference between the responses to the experiences of the two women. But there is no difference (other than procedure) in the outcome of both women. They are both mothers. They are both mothers of a dead child. Yet one is brushed aside and ignored and the other is supported. What a schizophrenic world we live in!

Is it any wonder then that Post Abortion Syndrome is not easily recognised, when those suffering from it are treated with indifference? How would PAS be recognised, and once recognised, more importantly how can it be treated? Is it just women who have had an abortion who are suffering from PAS or are their others?