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Trauma counsellor warns about psychological impacts of termination in wake of draft abortion bill

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AN internationally renowned Catholic trauma counsellor has warned of serious long-term psychological impacts on Queensland women if the state’s MPs back a draft bill to legalise abortion.

“I’m hoping against hope that it won’t get through,” post-abortion grief and sexual abuse counsellor Anne Lastman said.

In the past 17 years, the Melbourne-based counsellor has assisted more than 1500 women who have suffered post-abortion grief, in Victoria where abortions are legal.

She warns that a woman’s grief of aborting an unborn baby coupled with the pressures from boyfriends or partners, family and in the workplace, can lead to traumatic experiences that are clinically described as Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) and are a variant of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Mrs Lastman said Queensland’s proposed abortion laws closely resembled those operating in Victoria, where abortion was legal up until birth.

The Queensland proposal is to allow a woman to decide whether to abort in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy.

After 22 weeks, it is still legal, but would require the approval of two doctors.

The doctors would have to agree it is in the patient’s best interests, based on her current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

Mrs Lastman said the psychological impacts of abortion were only starting to be documented and understood.

“In a population like Australia where 90-100,000 abortions annually are carried out, then this represents, over the last 20 years, a substantial number of women suffering PAS,” she said.

She points to a well-recognised Swedish study on emotional distress following induced abortion that found 60 per cent of 854 women surveyed experienced some emotional distress.

For 16 per cent the distress was so severe that psychiatric attention was required.

“In 1994, the UK Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the effects of abortion on women found that eighty-seven per cent of women it surveyed had experienced some long-term emotional consequences and out of these fifteen per cent actually requiring psychological help,” Mrs Lastman said.

Anne Lastman

Having personally experienced the trauma of two abortions, and with professional qualifications in counselling, psychology and theology, Mrs Lastman is highly qualified to speak about grief and loss.

She said women facing an abortion were “caught between a rock and a hard place” – fear of abandonment was one of the most primal fears facing a woman deciding whether to abort.

“What I have seen and understood is that abandonment of any kind (sexual abuse, emotional absence, neglect etc) seizes development when a child first really begins to understand emotions. I would say six to seven years and onwards,” she said.

“And so a six, seven, eight year old grows into a mature body, but emotional need of a young person in the latency stage and throughout life and adult life he/she appears adult but with emotional deficits …

“The pain of abandonment is overwhelming right from childhood and leaves an indelible mark for the rest of life.

“The sense of rejection felt by one who feels abandoned is deeply paralysing, is deeply, deeply wounding and seizes what should have been normal emotional development.

“Betrayal felt. Shame felt. Can we see these (factors) in the post-abortive woman? Yes.”

From her experience counselling in Victoria Mrs Lastman dismissed claims made by pro-abortion lobbyists and politicians that late-term abortions would be a rarity.

“It’s rubbish. It will happen and there will even be children who will be born alive and allowed to die – they won’t be assisted to live,” she said.

And she believes that legalising abortion in Queensland will open up the likelihood of more abortions by parents who want control over selecting the sex of their baby.

“Absolutely. Especially within ethnic groups where the boy is much more important. It will happen and it is naïve to think otherwise,” she said.

“It will change the nature of abortion. There is absolutely no doubt about it.”

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