The vast majority of women who get an abortion — 99 percent — feel that their choice was the correct decision five years later, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco sought to track the emotions of women in the weeks, months and years after they have an abortion in a wide-ranging study of 667 women from 30 spots around the U.S., published Sunday in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
In addition to asking women if they made the correct decision, researchers asked the women more about their feelings beginning one week after their abortion and then twice a year for the next five years, finding that regardless of how they initially felt — positive or negative — those emotions lessened to a more neutral level over time.
In that first week, 51 percent of women had positive emotions about their abortion, 17 percent felt negative emotions, and 20 percent said they had none or few, The Washington Post reported. Five years later, 84 percent felt positive emotions or none at all about their abortion, just 6 percent felt negatively and there was “no evidence” of newly formed positive or negative emotions.
“A really interesting finding is how the intensity of all emotions is so low,” said Corinne Rocca, lead author of the study and a UCSF associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, according to the Post.
The women also felt more confident in their decision to have an abortion. In the first week after their abortion, 95 percent of women felt that they had made the right decision, and five years later, it was up to 99 percent.
Rocca emphasized that these two questions are different because women can feel secure in their decision while also — in the case of those 6 percent of women — having negative emotions.
“You can feel the emotion of regret, yet feel you did what was right for you,” she said.
While nearly all women surveyed felt they made the right decision, almost 70 percent said they would be stigmatized if others knew they had an abortion.
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The study authors wrote that these findings are an argument against the anti-abortion activists who push for restricted access to abortion and state-mandated waiting periods before they can go through the procedure.
The results “challenge the rationale for state-mandated counseling protocols … and other policies regulating access to abortion premised on emotional harm claims (e.g. waiting periods.),” they wrote.
“What this study is showing is that there is a small minority who do regret their abortions,” Rocca added. “I in no way want to reduce the struggles of those who regret their abortions, but it is misguided to take away the options for everyone based on this minority.”
This new research is part of the Turnaway Study, which began in 2008 to analyze the “mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic consequences” of abortion from two sides — those who are able to choose an abortion compared to those who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Past findings have shown that women who are denied an abortion are four times more likely to be living below the Federal Poverty Level, more likely to suffer serious complications from their pregnancy and more likely to be stuck with abusive partners.