July 14, 2015 — An "overwhelming majority" of women who have had an abortion reported feeling that they made the right choice, according to a study published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, Time reports (Time, 7/14).
The study is part of a larger, ongoing research project called the Turnaway Study, which aims to assess the "mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic consequences of receiving an abortion compared to carrying an [unintended] pregnancy to term." The Turnaway study is conducted by the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health group, which is part of the University of California-San Francisco's Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.
According to Medical Daily's "The Grapevine," the Turnaway study involves nearly 1,000 women who were recruited between January 2008 and December 2010 after visiting any one of 30 abortion clinics across several states.
For the current study, the researchers assessed information obtained via interviews with 667 women who had an abortion in their first trimester or near the gestational limit on abortion at the same clinics (Cara, "The Grapevine," Medical Daily, 7/13). Study participants represented diverse races, education levels and employment statuses.
According to the study, 40% of the woman said they decided to have an abortion due to financial reasons and 36% said it was "not the right time" for a pregnancy (Time, 7/14). Meanwhile, 31% of women said the choice to have an abortion was easy, while around 53% said they found the decision difficult (Rocca et al., PLOS ONE, 7/8).
Overall, the researchers found that "[w]omen in this study overwhelmingly felt that the decision was the right one for them: at all time points over three years, 95 percent of participants reported abortion was the right decision, with the typical participant having a greater than 99 percent chance of reporting the abortion decision was right for her."
According to the researchers, participants "experienced reduced emotional intensity over time: the feelings of relief and happiness experienced shortly after the abortion tended to subside, as did negative emotions." The study "found no differences in emotional trajectories or decision rightness between women having earlier versus later procedures."
Further, researchers noted that a negative emotional response to abortion largely was linked to abortion stigma in the woman's community and less support after the procedure. Women who said they found it difficult to make the decision to have an abortion also reported some negative emotions. By contrast, women who were working or in school were more likely to report feeling secure in their choice.
Overall, the researchers noted that roughly 25% of women expressed a negative emotional response about their decision. However, they noted that those feelings did not negate the finding that women almost always perceived the decision to have an abortion as the correct choice ("The Grapevine," Medical Daily, 7/13). Specifically, the study differentiated between emotions experienced post-abortion and regretting the decision to have an abortion. The findings show that "post-abortion emotional reactions are normal, but almost inevitably taper over time." The researchers wrote, "Our results of declining emotional intensity ... (find) steady or improving levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, stress, social support, ... substance use, and symptoms of depression and anxiety over time post-abortion" (Time, 7/14).
According to "The Grapevine," the study helps debunk claims made to support abortion restrictions that women frequently regret an abortion.
Further, the researchers recommended steps to support women making abortion decisions, such as "[i]ndividualized counseling for women having difficulty with the abortion decision," which could "help improve their emotional welfare over time." They added, "Efforts to combat stigma may also support the emotional well-being of women terminating pregnancies" ("The Grapevine," Medical Daily, 7/13).