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Those who receive abortions tend to feel relief not regret, study reveals

The Turnaway Study, published in 'Social Science & Medicine' journal, busts myths regarding the detrimental effects on women’s health of having an abortion.

Those who receive abortions tend to feel relief not regret, study reveals
Image Source: Activists Rally As Supreme Court Hears Abortion Cases. WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 30. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Author's Note: This article refers to cis women, or those assigned female at birth, as they formed the study's primary respondents. The author reiterates that abortions should be made safe, affordable, and accessible to all, regardless of gender identity.

Findings from a new research paper reveal that most women who undergo abortions due to an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy tend to experience feelings of relief—rather than regret—following the procedure. Published in the Social Science & Medicine journal, the Turnaway Study is one of the largest research projects to date about women’s emotions after an abortion. According to the study, commonly held beliefs regarding the detrimental effects on women’s health of having an abortion are not supported by evidence.


The report concluded that 95 percent of women confirmed that having an abortion was the right decision for them over five years after the procedure. Furthermore, women who have an abortion were not more likely than those denied the procedure to have depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation. In comparison, however, those who were denied access to safe and affordable abortions experienced serious consequences. For instance, those who were forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term had four times greater odds of living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).


Other key findings included the facts that women who could not undergo abortions were more likely to: experience serious complications from the end of pregnancy including eclampsia and death; stay tethered to abusive partners; suffer anxiety and loss of self-esteem in the short term after being denied abortion; and experience poor physical health for years after the pregnancy, including chronic pain and gestational hypertension. They were also less likely to have aspirational life plans for the coming year. In addition to this, the study found that being denied abortion had serious implications for the children born of unwanted pregnancy, as well as for the existing children in the family.


"All the claims that negative emotions will emerge over time, a myth that has persisted for decades without any evidence to substantiate these claims, it’s clear, it’s just not true," shared Corinne Rocca, lead author of the study and an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences. "One might think that relief was a short-term feeling that would go away after weeks, but it does not fade like other feelings. Relief was constant." She added that while some women may experience feelings of regret, the minority should not be able to dictate the liberties of all.


The lead author affirmed, "I in no way want to reduce the struggles of those who regret their abortion. But it is misguided to take away the options for everyone based on the minority." In this context, anti-abortion activists have already pushed back against the study's findings. Nonetheless, the Turnaway Study points toward the real-life implications of its findings; the study reads, "As women’s access to abortion care—whether in the first or second trimester—becomes increasingly restricted, it is extremely important to document the effect of unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and childbearing on women and their families. The Turnaway Study is an effort to capture women’s stories, understand the role of abortion and childbearing in their lives, and contribute to the ongoing public policy debate on the mental health and life-course consequences of abortion and unwanted childbearing for women and families."


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