Even 5 years following an abortion, 99% of women report feeling relief, according to a new study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine. It’s the latest in a long line of research showing that women don’t regret their abortions, and that abortion improves health across virtually every dimension—including for men.
5 Years Later, Women Still Don’t Regret Abortion
One of the most potent lies the right tells about abortion is that women spend the rest of their lives haunted by their decision. They suffer anxiety and PTSD, the story goes, and we must protect them from themselves. It’s a tale deeply rooted in misogyny: women can’t make good decisions on their own, and can’t even accurately predict their own emotional reactions, so we have to protect them by controlling them.
It’s also a lie. Researchers have consistently found that the most common emotion women report after abortion is relief. And now we know that those feelings persist.
For the study, analysts used data from the Turnaway Study, which compares outcomes between women denied abortions because of legal restrictions and women who had abortions. The team followed up with hundreds of women one week following their abortion, and then annually.
At the one-week mark, the overwhelming majority of women reported being relieved. Even those who said their decision was a difficult one experienced relief, but to a lesser extent. Feelings of relief continued at every follow-up. By 3 years, women who said their decision was a difficult one reported similar feelings of relief to those who did not say the decision was difficult. At the 5-year mark, 99% of women still reported relief from their decision.
The study did find that social and cultural factors affect women’s post-abortion emotions. Women who reported high levels of stigma reported lower levels of relief—though they still did not regret their decision. Other research has also found that stigma, not abortion, is linked to more negative emotions following abortion. A 2018 study, for example, found that the more a woman internalizes anti-abortion stigma, the more likely she is to experience psychological distress after an abortion. The study also found a link between psychological distress and worsening physical health, suggesting that anti-abortion stigma could make women sick.
The Abortion-Maternal Mortality Link
Although women almost never regret their abortions, they have a variety of emotions following the procedure. Some women view abortion as a necessary tragedy. Others have no emotions about the experience at all. Abortion narratives on all sides of the issue often fail to accurately depict the lived realities of the 1 in 4 women who have abortions.
No matter how women feel about abortion, one thing is clear: abortion is healthcare, and removing access endangers women’s health. The maternal mortality rate among women denied abortions skyrockets to 1%. Virtually every study linking abortion to negative mental health outcomes has been debunked, and numerous investigations suggest abortion improves psychological outcomes. Five years after abortion, women who have abortions have better physical health than those who are denied an abortion.
The U.S. maternal mortality rate is skyrocketing. A woman giving birth today is now more likely to die than her mother was 20 years ago. This isn’t because birth is inherently dangerous or women have changed over the last two decades. It’s because we have systematically neglected maternal health. As other wealthy nations have seen maternal mortality plummet to nearly zero, American politicians continue to throw up their hands and do nothing. In a country that refuses to intervene in a maternal mortality crisis, every pregnancy is potentially lethal.
As long as this reality persists, denying women the right to decide when an abortion is appropriate for them isn’t just misogyny. It isn’t just an unfair attempt to control women or punish them for having sex. It does more than just consign them to poverty or force them to remain in abusive relationships. It may be a death sentence.
Abortion clinics save lives.