November 15, 2012 — Women who seek abortions but are denied care are more likely to experience negative effects on their economic status, health and safety, and emotional well-being than women who obtained the procedure, according to initial results from an ongoing longitudinal study, io9 reports. There were no significant differences in rates of drug abuse or mental health problems among women who were turned away and those who obtained abortions, although women who were denied the procedure reported higher rates of domestic abuse and more physical health complications.
The research -- known as the Turnaway Study -- is being conducted by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, a collaborative research group at the University of California-San Francisco. The study includes data from 956 women who sought abortions at 30 U.S. clinics, including 182 women who were turned away for various reasons, such as their pregnancies being beyond the gestational limit for abortion care at the clinic.
The researchers conducted interviews with the women to compare the effects of having an abortion with carrying a pregnancy to term when a woman preferred an abortion. The initial results, which were presented at a recent conference, include findings from the first two years of the five-year study (Newitz, io9, 11/13).
The study found that one year after seeking an abortion, women who were denied care were more likely to be unemployed, to be receiving public assistance and to have incomes below the federal poverty level. Fewer than half of the women who were turned away had a full-time job, more than 75% were receiving public assistance and 67% had incomes below the poverty level, the study found. The higher reliance on public assistance programs by these women also placed more burden on the state, lead researcher Diana Greene Foster said (Sankin, Huffington Post, 11/15).
The study also found an association between being denied an abortion and incidents of domestic violence. Women who could not obtain an abortion were more likely to remain in a relationship with an abusive partner, with 7% of this group reporting a domestic violence incident within the last six months, compared with 3% of women who obtained abortions.
According to the study, one week after seeking an abortion, 97% of women who obtained care felt that it was the right decision, while 65% of women who were turned away said they wished they had been able to have an abortion. Ninety percent of women who had an abortion reported feelings of relief, while many also reported sadness and guilt; turnaways reported more feelings of anxiety than the other women. After one year, turnaways were more likely than women who obtained abortions to feel stressed.
The study found no link between obtaining an abortion and an increased risk for mental health disorders. However, the researchers noted that women who were denied abortions faced an increase risk to their physical health from giving birth. Thirty-eight percent of women who were turned away said they experienced limited physical activity after giving birth, lasting for an average of 10 days, while 24% of women who had abortions experienced limited physical activity after the procedure, lasting for an average of 2.7 days. The researchers found no severe health complications among women who obtained abortions, while birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection and hemorrhage (io9, 11/13).