Millions of Abortion Survivors

A survivor is anyone who has a relatively slender chance of being alive when many others in the same situation, for reasons beyond their control, are being killed. As survivors they have many deep psychological and interpersonal conflicts. 

Children are abortion survivors because:

  1. 50% to 80% of unborn children in their city or country are terminated.
  2. One or more unborn sibling were aborted,
  3. Their parents strongly debated whether or not they should be killed in utero but spared them because they were wanted,
  4. They are alive when many with their sex or handicap succumb to selective feticide,
  5. Their twin was killed by an attempt to abort both of them,
  6. They were aborted but failed to die,
  7. Their parents were frustrated enough to shout at them, “You ungrateful child, don’t you know I could have aborted you, or should have aborted you.”
  8. Though they lived for only a short while on a cold slab or in a clinic receptacle following an abortion, their pitiful cries were heard.

 Like survivors of other disasters and death camps, they have: 

  1. Survivor guilt. “I don’t deserve to be alive when so many others have died. Maybe my parents would be happier if I died too.”
  2. Existential anxiety. “I know I am doomed sooner or later so why plan for the future?”
  3. Anxious attachments. “I can never know if my parents will stop wanting me, so I better cling to them, especially when they are angry.”
  4. Collusion over pseudo-secrets. “I suspect my parents killed my unborn brother or sister. I can’t bear to know the truth so I won’t ask about it or anything related to my parent’s earlier life.”  
  5. Distrust. “My parents tell me that they love me and wanted me, but I know they considered terminating my life. If that’s love, who needs it. How can I trust them?”
  6. Self-doubt. “My parents couldn’t control their most primitive destructive tendencies and killed a helpless infant. Now they doubt themselves and have inadvertently made me constantly question myself.”
  7. Ontological guilt. “I feel very badly for not properly using my opportunities and talents, but life is so uncertain. I refuse to fulfill my parents’ expectations of the “perfect child” they aborted and I replaced.”


Abortion survivors have many doubts, guilt, and fears which, while they are healthy and in supportive relationships, may not show. If they lose friends, family, job, respect, or become ill, their defenses quickly crumble.

They are much more affected than the recent trauma would warrant. Then they become excessively anxious or depressed with many psychosomatic symptoms of headache, abdominal pain, etc. Others have chronic problems of fatigue, unwellness, lack of joy and anger management problems. They are generally cynical, distrustful, hedonistic and rebel against authority. It is terrifying to be alive because you were wanted. 


Until the basic conflicts are addressed, medication and psychotherapy are usually ineffective. We recommend intensive group psychotherapy which includes open discussion with their parents about any actual or contemplated abortion. There must be reconciliation with those who have harmed abortion survivors, including the abortionists.

P.G. Ney, MD, FRCP© M.A. Peeters-Ney MD

References: Ney, P.G.. “A Consideration of Abortion Survivors” Child Psych Hum Development, 13: 168-179 (1983).Ney, P.G., Peeters, M.A. “Abortion Survivors”, PIONEER Publishing, Victoria, Canada (1993).


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