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Suicide Attempts Follow Abortions

Tishler, C.L. (1981). Adolescent Suicide Attempts Following Elective Abortion: A Special Case of Anniversary Reaction. Pediatrics, 68(5), 670-671.

OVERVIEW

(Download Adolescent Suicide Attempt overview as PDF)

Tishler notes that it is common for people to have recurrent anxiety attacks coinciding with the anniversary of the death of a parent. Anxiety also often occurs on the birthday of a patient’s child, coinciding with the age of the patient when the parent was lost. Clarifying, the patient may experience anxiety when his or her child reaches the same age that they were when his or her own parent died. Tishler cites two cases that are "exemplary of anniversary reactions following elective abortions."

The first case is that of a 17-year-old upper middle-class white girl who attempted to kill herself while driving under the influence of alcohol and twenty-nine non-prescription pain reliever tablets. She repeatedly smashed her car into a bridge overpass, damaging the car beyond repair. She had elected abortion approximately seven months prior to the suicide attempt. During the abortion process, she calculated the birthdate had the child been allowed to come to term. The date of the accident was on the perceived birthdate of the child. After the accident, the patient walked from her car and was discovered by the local authorities sitting in a cemetery. As a result, she was referred to a clinic for outpatient treatment.

The second case is that of a 16-year-old white girl who swallowed twenty-seven non-prescription pain reliever tablets and was brought, by rescue squad, to the emergency room. She quickly admitted that her drug ingestion was a suicide attempt. She revealed that she had become pregnant during an earlier psychiatric hospitalization and had an abortion. Based on her information, it was calculated that her present suicide attempt corresponded to the approximate would-be birthdate of the aborted child. The patient had not consciously calculated this date herself.

Tishler concludes, "As pregnancy in adolescents continues to be a common occurrence so do significant emotional factors relating to having and keeping a baby, aborting the fetus, or placing the baby with another family."

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. Both of these teenagers had involved psychiatric histories. What effect did the abortions have on their mental health?
  2. What do you think about "parental notification" laws?
  3. How can adolescent girls solve the problem of guilt?
  4. What would you say to a teenage girl who has had an abortion and is suicidal?

IMPLICATIONS

  1. It is important to actively and openly discuss teen pregnancy programs and options.
  2. Many experts claim studies that attest that few women suffer negative psychological effects following elective abortions.
Steve Jeavons cCYS