Article ID: CBB288446990

Wounded Healers: Abortion and the Affective Practices of Pro-Life Health Care (2023)


For some post-Roe abortion providers, the emotional cost of their abortion practice was untenable. By the 1980s, former abortion providers had become prominent anti-abortion advocates. Although physicians such as Beverly McMillan grounded their pro-life conversions in medical technologies and “fetological” research, affective connections to the fetus animated their activism. McMillan explained that through abortion practice, the medical profession – her vocation – had gone astray, and her pro-life activism was the cure to the resulting emotional damage. For these physicians, emotional well-being could only be recovered through principled attempts to right the perceived wrongs of the medical profession. Another group of emotionally-engaged pro-life health workers emerged from their pasts as abortion patients. Myriad post-abortion narratives followed the same trajectory: the woman reluctantly underwent an abortion, and was subsequently plagued by apathy, depression, grief, guilt, and substance-use disorders. Pro-life research came to understand this cluster of symptoms as Post-abortion Syndrome (PAS). Some women, such as Susan Stanford-Rue, opted to heal from their pain by becoming PAS counselors. Just as the “reformed” physicians combined their affective experiences with their medical expertise to argue against abortion, the counselors merged emotion and psychiatric language to redefine what it meant to be an “aborted woman” and therefore a PAS counselor. Examining pro-life publications, Christian counseling manuals, and activist speeches, this article argues that, for these activists, science and technology provided the rationale to make abortion unthinkable, but it was the activists’ emotional framework that made this rationale pro-life in the first place.

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Article Jacob D Moses; Agnes Arnold-Forster; Samuel V Schotland (2023) Introduction: Healthcare Practitioners’ Emotions and the Politics of Well-Being in Twentieth Century Anglo-America. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (pp. 341-351). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Cahn, Susan K.
Davis, Joseph E.
Ginzberg, Lori D.
Haugeberg, Karissa
Huertas, Rafael
Ignaciuk, Agata
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Gender and History
History of Science
Social History of Medicine
Ohio State University
Pennsylvania State University
Cornell University Press
Ignatius Press
Los Libros de la Catarata
Texas Tech University Press
Medicine and society
Physicians; doctors
Reproductive medicine
Obstetrics and pregnancy
Flippin, Charles
Lejeune, Jérôme
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
19th century
20th century, early
United States
London (England)
New York Times
National Defense Education Act (NDEA)

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