Abortion

Most Women Who Get Abortions Do Not Regret Them

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pro-choice-rally-abortionAs a teenager, most of what I knew about abortion came from high school and infomercials. My school was Catholic and sponsored a right-to-life club, so I tended to dismiss anything said within its walls about abortion as biased. In the end, the infomercials actually had a bigger effect on the way I thought abortion worked, and there were a lot of anti-abortion commercials at the time.

When I was a teenager the late-night movies I liked to watch on weekends were regularly interrupted by sad music and a short-haired lady talking about how much she regretted her abortion. It was sappy and low-budget and full of creepy ghost children, but I was a pretty credulous young person and for years I had the distinct impression that abortion was a traumatic experience, and that all women who had abortions regretted them and would never get more than one. I’m certain that was the goal of the ad, but it turns out that message was very far from the truth, as a new study indicates that the vast majority of women who get abortions do not regret them.

According to Time, a new study from PLOS One looked at a diverse group of 670 women for three years after they had abortions. In the end, 95 percent of the women said they thought choosing to get their abortions had been the right decision, both at the time and three years later.

While the pro-life line has adhered pretty closely to the emotional trauma angle, as advertised in those old commercials, the “overwhelming majority” of the women said their abortions were the right decisions. That’s not to say they did not feel any guilt or sadness about them, which is natural. I don’t think anyone wants to have an unwanted pregnancy. We’d all prefer it if our birth control and pregnancy plans worked exactly the way we wanted them to. But those emotions aren’t necessarily emotional trauma, and they don’t mean that the women think they made the bad decision.

“Certainly, experiencing feelings of guilt or regret in the short-term after an abortion is not a mental health problem; in fact, such emotions are a normal part of making a life decision that many women in this study found to be difficult,” the study said. “Our results of declining emotional intensity… [find] steady or improving levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, stress, social support, stress, substance use, and symptoms of depression and anxiety over time post-abortion.”

One issue that stood out, however, is that 40 percent of respondents cited financial concerns as the reason they were getting abortions. I think that, along with the fantastic results of Colorado’s “free IUDs for poor women” program, is just further proof that if one wants to reduce the number of abortions in the country, giving financial help or free contraception to women who are struggling financially is a much better way to do that than slut-shaming and abstinence-only education.

(Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images)