Being denied abortion may increase anxiety, depression
Women who were denied a wanted abortion had poorer mental health outcomes compared with those who received an abortion, according to recent findings.
“In 1989, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that ‘the scientific studies [to date] do not provide conclusive data about the health effects of abortion on women’ and recommended a prospective, 5-year, longitudinal cohort study to provide the necessary conclusive data on the topic. Since then, numerous studies and reviews on this topic have found no evidence that abortion leads to negative mental health outcomes, yet they have also pointed to the many limitations of the existing literature and the need for more rigorous, prospective longitudinal studies on this topic,” M. Antonia Biggs, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues wrote.
To assess psychological well-being after receiving or being denied an abortion, researchers conducted the Turnaway Study, a prospective longitudinal study with quasi-experimental design. Study participants (n = 956) were interviewed via telephone 1 week after seeking abortion and then semiannually for 5 years. Women received abortions just under the facility’s gestational limit or sought an abortion but were denied because they were beyond the facility gestational limit. The cohort had a mean age of 24.9 years.
One week after seeking abortion, anxiety symptoms were more commonly reported in women who were denied the procedure and eventually gave birth (0.57; 95% CI, 0.01-1.13) or miscarried/received an abortion elsewhere (2.29; 95% CI, 1.39-3.18), compared with women who received abortions.
Women who were denied abortion and eventually gave birth (–0.33; 95% CI, –0.56 to –0.09) or miscarried/received an abortion elsewhere (–0.4; 95% CI, –0.78 to –0.02) reported lower self-esteem than women who received abortions.
Women who were denied abortion and eventually gave birth (–0.16; 95% CI, –0.38 to 0.06) or miscarried/received an abortion elsewhere (–0.41; 95% CI, –0.77 to –0.06) had lower life satisfaction, compared with those who received abortions.
Depression levels were similar among women who were denied abortion and eventually gave birth (0.13; 95% CI, to 0.72) or miscarried/received an abortion elsewhere (0.44; 95% CI, –0.5 to 1.39), compared with women who received abortions.
“Our study demonstrates that, during a 5-year period, women receiving wanted abortions had similar or better mental health outcomes than those who were denied a wanted abortion. The convergence of most outcomes between groups by 6 months to 1 year suggests that future divergence is unlikely,” the researchers wrote. “Given the large number and range of recruitment facilities representing geographically diverse regions in the United States (30 clinics from 21 states), and that our sample demographics are consistent with those of nationally representative samples of women seeking abortion, we believe these results are generalizable.” – by Amanda Oldt
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.