American researchers interviewed women who had previously had an abortion to determine the long-term psychological impact of such a decision.
Most of the women’s answers showed that they did not regret terminating their pregnancies. However, many of them reported a strong sense of social stigma regarding their choice.
In the United States, several states (Alabama, Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, etc.) have recently passed highly restrictive legislation that goes against the 1973 supreme court ruling that gives women the right to have an abortion.
Many states also require psychological counselling prior to voluntary termination of pregnancy on the grounds that women may “regret their decision after the fact”.
To test the hypothesis that women regret having had an abortion, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) interviewed and followed 667 women from 21 different states for a period of five years. The results of their study have been published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.
While this decision was “very difficult” (27%) and “somewhat difficult” (27%) for more than half of them, 46% say they had little difficulty making their choice. On the other hand, a majority (70%) reported stigmatising attitudes in their community regarding their decision to have an abortion.
Relief was the most commonly felt emotion five years post-abortion
The decision to terminate a pregnancy is rarely taken lightly, and the women acknowledged that they had experienced positive but also negative emotions (anger, sadness, guilt) before making their choice.
However, the negative feelings faded over time, especially one year after the abortion, even among women who were the most hesitant, the study reveals.
At the end of the study, some five years later, relief was the dominant emotion reported by more than 95% of participants. A trend that was already evident during the study, in the course of which the women were interviewed eleven times.
“These results add to the scientific evidence that emotions about an abortion are associated with personal and social context, and are not a product of the abortion procedure itself. Findings challenge the rationale for policies regulating access to abortion that are premised on emotional harm claims”, concluded the authors of the study.