No more harmful than an unwanted pregnancy
Women who receive a wanted abortion often fare much better than those denied an abortion, added Diana Greene Foster, a professor with the University of California, San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.
Foster cited the Turnaway Study, a long-term research effort that recruited nearly 1,000 women from 30 abortion facilities across the nation over a three-year period. A quarter of the women were turned away and didn’t receive an abortion.
It turned out that there was little difference between the two groups in terms of mental health.
“Women who were denied abortions actually experienced more anxiety and lower self-esteem at the time of abortion denial than those who received their abortion,” Foster said. “But the groups converged by six to 12 months, and we don’t see a difference after that point. And on the outcomes like depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress, life satisfaction, we actually don’t see a difference at any point between the two groups.”
“That’s not because those who receive an abortion and those who are denied are both doing badly. In fact, both groups improve over time,” Foster continued.
However, taking an unwanted pregnancy to term has serious health effects for women, she said. They are more likely to suffer gestational high blood pressure, joint pain, and headaches or migraines.
Further, two of the 200 women in the study who were denied abortion died during childbirth, Foster added.
“That’s an astronomical death rate. It’s much higher than Dr. Prager presented to you,” Foster said. “And I think it’s a sign. It’s an indication that carrying a pregnancy to term is associated with a lot of risks. And when people don’t feel ready to do it, this is a very big physical health risk that they didn’t necessarily sign up for.”
Women denied abortions also face more economic hardships than those who obtain a wanted abortion, Foster added. They were more likely to fall into poverty, and more likely to wind up in a single-parent household.
“It is not the case that, when a woman is denied an abortion, that somehow that the man involved in the pregnancy helps support the family,” Foster said. “There is no difference in the chance that she’s actually still with him in a romantic relationship and that he’s supporting the child.”