Forcing women to wait a 24-hour period between consulting with an abortion doctor and legally terminating their pregnancy can cause “excessive hardships,” a new study finds. The Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a three-year research project studying the impact of the restrictive reproductive health laws that Texas passed in 2011, surveyed over 300 women who sought an abortion in Texas last year — the majority of whom reported that the state’s mandatory waiting period put an emotional and financial burden on them.
Many women struggled to get to a clinic for the required counseling session the day before their abortion. The study’s participants traveled an average of 42 miles to visit the nearest clinic, but some were forced to travel as far as 400 miles away from their homes to comply with the law. And nearly half of the women incurred additional costs from the 24-hour waiting period — $146 on average — because making multiple trips to a clinic required them to pay for extra transportation and child care on top of the cost of the abortion procedure. Ultimately, nearly one third of the respondents said the waiting period negatively effected their emotional well-being.
Dr. Daniel Grossman, the vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a researcher with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, said in a statement that the waiting period is an ineffective policy for multiple reasons: it clearly puts a strain on women, and it doesn’t actually change their minds about whether to have an abortion. “We found that the requirement to visit the clinic at least twice was burdensome for some women and created logistical barriers to scheduling the abortion. Women also reported being equally confident about their decision after seeing the ultrasound and hearing its description,” Grossman explained.
That falls in line with previous research that demonstrates the barriers to abortion care favored by the anti-choice community — such as waiting periods, counseling sessions, and mandatory ultrasounds — don’t do anything to sway women’s decision about terminating a pregnancy. In fact, they’re simply emotionally manipulative tactics to shame women and make them feel guilty about making their own decision about their body.
A Texas lawmaker is using the study’s preliminary findings to push for a repeal of the state’s waiting period. But there’s still a long way to go before U.S. women are completely free from that burden, since 26 states currently require women to undergo a mandatory counseling session and at least a 24-hour-waiting period before accessing legal abortion services. South Dakota actually forces women to wait a full 72 hours — the longest waiting period in the country — and may be posed to extend that even further by excluding weekends and holidays from counting toward the requirement.