STUDY: Counseling And Waiting Periods Before Abortion Procedures Do Not Change Women’s Decisions

Just as Utah implements a new law forcing women to wait three days before having abortions, a new study finds that these mandatory waiting periods and laws requiring counseling before the procedures does not affect women’s decisions. In fact, the report published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that 87 percent of women were highly confident in their decisions before counseling ahead of an abortion procedure.

Researchers gathered data from pre-counseling needs assessment forms and clinical intake forms of roughly 5,000 women at one abortion clinic in 2008. State laws adding waiting periods and mandating information that doctors must tell their patients assume that women need time and counseling to make their decisions, but the study’s data show that these assumptions are wrong:

In nearly nine out of 10 cases, women expressed high confidence in their abortion decision before they received any counseling; these women would likely not benefit from additional mandated counseling or delay. Furthermore, one-size-fits all policies may not address the complex needs of women who experience ambivalence, have negative beliefs about abortion, feel pressured to have an abortion, have spiritual concerns about abortion or have low levels of social support.

Past research has indicated that forcing a woman to view an ultrasound before she has an abortion did not change her mind, and now this report shows that other state laws adding barriers to abortion services do not help women either.