know about I’ve studied what happens to women when abortions are denied, and it’s not good
In its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, meaning abortion may now be banned in almost half the country, the Supreme Court made a catastrophic decision. As someone who studies the effects of abortion access, I can say that denying someone a wanted abortion causes real and lasting harm to them and their families.
I led the Turnaway study, a nationwide study of what happens to women when they receive or are denied an abortion. Over a decade, my colleagues and I interviewed nearly 1,000 women seeking abortions at 30 centers across the country. Based on these findings, we know that not having control over the timing and circumstances of birth changes the entire trajectory of that person’s life, making it more difficult and, for those already struggling, even worse.
Let us first consider the economic impact. Many people seeking abortions are already experiencing financial hardship. Given the rising costs of raising a child in the United StatesPerhaps not surprisingly, we found that women who received abortion services were more likely to be employed and more likely to be able to afford the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and transportation than women who were denied abortions. They were also less likely to have family income below the federal poverty line years later, be evicted or file for bankruptcy.
As one woman described in our study told the researchers, “It’s very, very difficult to find a job when you’re pregnant, to keep a job when you’re pregnant, and to find or keep a job with a baby.” By being denied a wanted abortion and having a child, she said, “she completely derailed my life.”
In contrast, another woman profiled in the study told our research team that if she hadn’t been able to fundraise for her abortion, “I might not be here today, or my children might be in foster care.”
Most women seeking abortion services are already mothers, and many are trying to do what is best for their children. The children of mothers who can abort are less likely to live in poverty and more likely to reach development milestones. This extends to future children as well: women who are able to have wanted abortions are more likely to have a planned pregnancy under better circumstances later.
We know that not having control over the timing and circumstances of birth changes the entire trajectory of that person’s life, making it more difficult, and for those already struggling, even worse.
While it has long been argued that having an abortion puts people at risk of psychological harm, we found that being denied having an abortion, not receiving one, was associated with short-term elevated levels of anxiety, stress, Y low self-esteem. People with a history of mental health conditions, trauma and abuse, and those who felt people close to them looked at them with disdain by seeking an abortion, they were at the highest risk of experiencing adverse psychological outcomes after seeking abortion.
For those who rejected abortion, many women faced life-threatening complications as her pregnancy progressed. Two women in the studio. died as a result that she was denied an abortion and continued to give birth. The medical literature shows that people is 14 times more likely to die from childbirth than from abortion. The maternal mortality and morbidity crisis in the United States means that women, especially black and American Indian women, face the risk of serious pregnancy complications. The greatest risk to physical health does not end at childbirth. We found that those who were forced to continue their pregnancy reported more chronic headache and joint pain and poorer overall health for years afterward.
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One of the most important things I learned from the Turnaway Study is that people are thoughtful about their decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. They understand their current responsibilities and aspirations. The results we found for women denied an abortion closely mirror the reasons women gave for not wanting to carry a pregnancy to term in the first place. They foresaw the consequences of having a child when they were emotionally or financially unprepared, when they were not in a healthy relationship, and when they struggled to care for their existing children. Five years after seeking care, 95% of those who aborted said they it had been the right decision for them.
The United States was founded on the principles of economic freedom and personal fulfillment, as embodied in the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Roe was a step towards the realization of this vision. Now that the Supreme Court has stripped people of the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, their children, and their families, the harms to women and their families that we found in the Turnaway Study will multiply. We will see a future in America that betrays the principles and progress of its past.
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