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The Nightmares of Choice: The psychological effects of performing abortions

Rachel M. MacNair

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Performing abortions inflicts deep psychological trauma on abortion providers even when they are ideologically pro-choice.

"I have fetus dreams, we all do here: dreams of abortions one after the other; of buckets of blood splashed on the walls; trees full of crawling fetuses," reported Sallie Tisdale of her time as a nurse in an abortion facility. Writing in Harper's magazine, she told of dreaming that two men grabbed her and dragged her away.

"Let's do an abortion," they said with a sickening leer, and I began to scream, plunged into a vision of sucking, scraping pain, of being spread and torn by impartial instruments that do only what they are bidden. I woke from this dream barely able to breathe and thought of kitchen tables and coat hangers, knitting needles striped with blood, and women all alone clutching a pillow in their teeth to keep the screams from piercing the apartment-house walls.

It is not joyful or easy work. "There are weary, grim moments when I think I cannot bear another basin of bloody remains, utter another kind phrase of reassurance," she wrote. ". . . I prepare myself for another basin, another brief and chafing loss. 'How can you stand it?' Even the clients ask. . . . I watch a woman's swollen abdomen sink to softness in a few stuttering moments and my own belly flip-flops with sorrow."

What is the emotional impact of doing abortions on the people who do them? Those who do them have written and said enough to show that it is no ordinary medical procedure. Some, like Tisdale, suffer nightmares. Others suffer many of the other symptoms associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), once called "shell shock" and "battle fatigue."2 The practice of medicine, of healing, should not give you nightmares, should not leave you shell-shocked.

Read the entire article on the Touchstone magazine website.



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