A recent study shows that women that get an abortion suffer a short period of depression compared to women who are denied the procedure. When clinics refused to carry out an abortion, the women involved in the study reported significantly more anxiety symptoms, lower self-esteem, less life satisfaction, and depression.
The results were published among abortion controversy in the U.S. law system, which has long based anti-abortion legislation on the effects of the procedure to women’s mental health.
Different studies have proved over the years that abortion cannot be linked to mental health risk since there are no conclusive results to say the opposite. In 1989, the U.S. Surgeon General stated abortion do not psychologically harm women and recommended a prospective 5-year longitudinal cohort study to get final results on the matter.
The new study followed 1989 U.S. Surgeon General request of a longitudinal study of five years. It observed 956 women semiannually for that period to assess abortion and denied abortions effects on the participants’ mental health.
The study was published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry and run by the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California, San Francisco. Authors stress in the article that they do not support restricting abortion on the basis that the procedure harms women’s mental health
The recent research, called “The Turnaway Study,” is the first one to avoid many limitations that other studies on abortion failed to evade. For example, previous studies compared women who had abortions with the ones who chose to give birth. Other research did not assess past psychological issues before evaluating women that had the procedure.
The Turnaway Study focus only on women who were close to or beyond the limit that most abortion clinics use to decide to perform the procedure. The study considered 30 clinics in 21 states whose limits ranged from 10 weeks of pregnancy to 25 weeks, which would be the end of the second trimester. It also accounted for the participants mental-health previous history.
Abortion psychological side effects increased only in women who sought abortion but were denied to get one
The study followed women’s mental health state eight days after seeking an abortion and twice a year for five years. The interviews were performed via telephone and totaled 11 interviews waves. The Turnaway Study was based on data from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2010, from 30 abortion facilities in 21 states in America. The interviews were completed January 31, 2016.
The research observed psychological trajectories of two groups: Women who received an abortion under the clinic’s limit and those who were denied the procedure because they were beyond the facility’s gestational limit. The last group was divided into women who carry the pregnancy and those who did not.
231 women were denied the abortion because their pregnancies were up to three weeks past the clinic’s limit. Of them, 161 gave birth and the other 70 women miscarried or received abortions elsewhere, which often meant longer travels and higher costs.
The Turnaway study used mixed effects linear and logistic regression analyses to evaluate both groups psychological trajectories. The authors included six measures for mental health and well-being: two measures of anxiety assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory, two measures of depression, one for self-esteem and another one for life satisfaction.
Antonia Biggs, a social psychologist researcher and an author of the study stated that there is a popular belief that makes people think women who have an abortion experience significant depression and anxiety over time. She added that the recent research proved the idea to be wrong since the study shows that women who were denied the procedure had increased depression and anxiety levels than those women who could have an abortion as they planned.
Psychological well-being improved for those groups eventually. Women who were denied the procedure were able to recover in about six months and experienced the same healthy mental state that women who had an abortion.
Another finding highlighted by the Turnaway study is that women receiving first-trimester abortions experienced similar psychological symptoms than those women who ended their pregnancies later. Biggs stated that people think that women will suffer increased psychological effects because the fetus is older, but the study proves that thought wrong.
President-elect Donald Trump views on abortion could expose women in the U.S. to higher risks of mental health
Donald Trump has chosen as part of his administration many people against abortions, included his vice president Mike Pence. Trump also plans to nominate an abortion opponent to the Supreme Court after taking office in January raising concerns among women and every pro-choice American.
Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that the Turnaway Study backs up decades of works that have shown having a safe, legal abortion does not provoke mental health problems for women.
“This research shows, yet again, why politicians should not play doctor,” McDonald-Mosley told HealthDay. “Instead of laws not based in evidence, we should be considering the women who may be more likely to experience negative mental health consequences: those who are not able to access abortion when they’ve made that decision.”
Source: JAMA Psychiatry