1. Rosenberg, Karen


According to this study:


* In the five years after having an abortion, a majority of women said they felt abortion was the right decision.


* Both negative and positive emotions about abortion declined over five years; relief was predominant.



Article Content

In recent years, court decisions and state laws have been premised on weakly established claims that abortion is inherently stressful and leads to negative emotions and regret. Using data from a nationwide, longitudinal study, researchers examined changes in women's feelings about abortion over five years and whether difficulty in making their decision and perceived abortion stigma within the community influenced these feelings.


Data on 667 women who had abortions at 30 geographically diverse U.S. facilities were included in the analysis. Phone interviews were conducted about one week after the abortion and semiannually thereafter for five years.


About half of participants said the decision to have an abortion was very difficult (27%) or somewhat difficult (27%), whereas 46% said the decision wasn't difficult. A week after the abortion, 51% reported feeling mostly positive emotions about their abortion decision, 20% said they had no or few emotions, 17% reported feeling mostly negative emotions, and 12% said they felt both positive and negative emotions. Over time, the percentage of women reporting positive emotions decreased and the percentage reporting no or few emotions increased: by five years, the large majority (84%) of women said they had either primarily positive or no or few emotions about their abortion decision. There was no evidence of emergent positive or negative emotions.


At all the time points, relief was the most commonly expressed emotion. At five years, nearly 100% of women felt that having an abortion had been the right decision. Decision difficulty, number of intended pregnancies, and perceived community stigma were consistently the most important factors in predicting negative emotions and feeling the abortion decision had not been the right one.


The authors point out that questioning the women about their abortions twice a year for five years may have led to higher levels of emotion than they might have otherwise felt. The authors also note that their findings challenge the rationale for state-mandated counseling protocols and policies regulating abortion that are premised on claims the procedure causes emotional harm.


Rocca CH, et al Soc Sci Med 2020 Jan 2 [Epub ahead of print].