Sunday, 01 October 2023
Dr. Calum Miller addresses the 2023 Heartbeat International Annual Pregnancy Help Conference Dr. Calum Miller addresses the 2023 Heartbeat International Annual Pregnancy Help Conference Lisa Bourne

UK physician ethicist shares research-based abortion facts with Heartbeat Conference crowd

One of the aspects of Heartbeat’s Conference I particularly enjoyed this year was hearing from pro-life people outside the United States. 

How are other countries working to protect women and children from the horrors of abortion? 

On the final day of Heartbeat’s 52nd Annual Conference, Dr. Calum Miller spoke as the lunch keynote. 

Dr. Miller is from the UK and heavily involved in pro-life work in his country. 

He has a blog, he has written many academic papers and book chapters concerning abortion and abortion ethics, and he speaks to the public and the academic communities about abortion and issues related to abortion. He is a medical doctor in the UK, but he also teaches philosophy at the University of Oxford. 

He was not always so concerned about abortion, though. 

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In fact, Dr. Miller’s conversion to being pro-life did not happen until later in his life, after he entered medical school. It was while he was in medical school, learning about abortion procedures in one class while learning in another class that all animals’ life cycles begin at fertilization, that he began to recognize the cognitive dissonance within the medical community and himself. 

While in medical school, Dr. Miller became pro-life and has been a prolific writer and speaker since then. 

Calum Miller/Lisa Bourne

In his keynote address before a record crowd at the Heartbeat Conference, the first since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, he focused on four facts about abortion — facts which perhaps most of the attendees knew but may have surprised people in regard to the strength of the research that backed up his statements. 

I am going to recap what he shared with us in the hopes this encourages you in your pro-life view and your pregnancy help work. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the truth to keep us strong in what we do. 

His first fact was bleak: 

“Fact 1: for a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, abortion will increase her risk of anxiety, suicidality, alcohol abuse and drug abuse.” 

We in the pregnancy help movement know abortion not only kills (at least) one child, but also that abortion harms the woman who undergoes the procedure. We see these outcomes face-to-face when a woman comes into our pregnancy help center and hear about them when we answer that phone call or text message. While we know abortion may contribute to many more negative outcomes, Dr. Miller focused on the negative outcomes most strongly evidenced with available research. 

He also quoted Dr. David Fergusson, a pro-choice researcher: 

“At the present time, there is no credible evidence demonstrating that abortion has mental health benefits.” 

Dr. Fergusson contributed much to the field of abortion outcomes. His papers are a good resource because he is not pro-life, and his research cannot therefore be immediately discounted by pro-choice people based on bias of the authors/researchers.

Tweet This: At the present time, there is no credible evidence demonstrating that abortion has mental health benefits - pro-choice Dr. David Fergusson

Next, Dr. Miller shared: 

“Fact 2: negative emotions such as guilt are extremely common after abortion.” 

Again, we in the pregnancy help movement already know that first-hand, but this is backed up with research. Many of us work with women after their abortions to find grace, forgiveness, and healing. Many of us have had an abortion ourselves and know what it is like to feel the tumultuous emotions after that decision. 

It is also important to note, however, that many women feel relief after an abortion, or a mixture of positive and negative emotions. There is no cookie-cutter way that women feel after an abortion. But this picture pro-choice people paint of women never regretting their abortion or of women feeling only relief after an abortion is absolutely false.

The third fact is also probably not surprising to those of us in the pregnancy help movement: 

“Fact 3: abortion-specific post-traumatic stress disorder is a common or very common complication of abortion.” 

Some people refer to this as post-abortion stress syndrome (PASS), but that is not recognized as a diagnosis (currently). However, PTSD is a current, valid diagnosis and we know that PTSD can be triggered by a specific event or series of events. 

In the case of abortion, many researchers have found that women exhibit symptoms of PTSD relating to triggers that remind them of the abortion, and that the PTSD symptoms were not present before her abortion. That means her post-abortion PTSD symptoms cannot be blamed on a previous experience that the general stress of decision-making or the physical stress of an abortion brought back. It means that abortion itself is a traumatic event for many women.

Calum Miller/Lisa Bourne

Lastly, and perhaps most surprising: 

“Fact 4: women who are denied abortions usually have the baby and are almost always glad they did so.” 

This nugget of information is found in the Turnaway Study - which has been framed by pro-choice people as the paragon of post-abortion assessment of women’s reactions and outcomes regarding not being able to get an abortion. 

They typically highlight negative outcomes. However, as explained here and here by Monica Snyder of Secular Pro-Life, long-term, this same study shows that women who have been denied abortions are actually not upset that they had their child and parented their child. In fact, most women bond with the child they have following denial of an abortion.

None of these facts inform our view on whether abortion is morally acceptable, but they do inform us on how abortion affects women and how we can help address their needs, both before and after an abortion. 

While we want to save babies, we also care about the women pregnant with these babies. 

The better we understand how abortion affects them, the more empathy we can have for women after their abortion and the better we can support them in their grieving and healing process — and hopefully, the better we can partner with them to choose life.

Tweet This: The better we understand how abortion affects women, the more empathy we can have for them and hopefully partner with them to choose life.

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News. Heartbeat Conference workshop recordings can be purchased HERE.


A Kansas City native who transplanted to Columbus, OH, in 2014 to attend graduate school at Ohio State University, Petra has her M.S. in chemistry and loves to teach chemistry and biochemistry while geeking out on science-related news. Writer and Editor for the Human Defense Initiative, she is passionate about the pro-life movement and uses her science education and teaching skills to speak up for the most vulnerable humans among us. Follow her on Twitter at @StupidRock.

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