What Happens When Women Are Denied Abortion? The Turnaway Study Finds Out

by Erika W. Smith

What happens when women are denied abortions?

Sometimes, like Savita Halappanavar, they die. More typically, they give birth, keep the baby, fall below the poverty line, are forced to rely on public assistance, and are unable to keep a full-time job.

The first scientific study on women denied abortions was presented last month, and science and entertainment website io9 has the details. Although abortion is a huge political issue, it is very rarely studied: there have been almost no scientific studies on women who receive abortions, and this is the first study to examine what happens when women are denied them.

Public health researchers with UC San Francisco group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) used data from 956 women who sought abortions at 30 different abortion clinics around the United States. 182 of those women were turned away. The study took two years, and it’s still continuing. Here’s what they discovered:

• Women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term were three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below poverty level two years later. They were also more likely to be on public assistance.

• Most of the women (86%) who were denied an abortion were living with their babies a year later. Very few (11%) put the children up for adoption.

• Drug users who were denied abortions were more likely to give their babies up for adoption.

• Less than half of the women who were denied abortions had a full-time job a year later.

• There was no correlation between abortion and increased drug use.

• There was no correlation between abortion and depression or other mental health disorders.

• Women denied abortion were more likely to stay in an abusive relationship and be victims of domestic violence.

• One week after seeking abortion, 97% of women who obtained an abortion felt that abortion was the right decision. 65% of turnaways wished they had been able to obtain an abortion.

• Of the women who had abortions, 90% reported feeling relieved, but many also reported feeling sad or guilty. A year later, however, there was no difference in anxiety or depression between the two groups.

• Physical health complications were more common and more severe among the women who gave birth than the women who had an abortion. Birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection, and hemorrhage. There were no severe complications after abortion for any of the women.


Images from rawstory.com, bostonist.com.

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