New research from the University of California, San Francisco finds that one week after having an abortion, the vast majority of women report feeling relief. Many of the women who participated in the study reported some negative emotions accompanying their abortion procedure — but that didn’t mean they considered it to be the wrong decision.
Researchers studied over 800 women who sought abortion services between 2008 and 2010. The participants were asked about six emotions: relief, happiness, regret, guilt, sadness and anger. UCSF’s data in this area is part of a larger, five-year study on the emotional and economic consequences of either receiving or being denied an abortion in the United States.
A full 90 percent of women who were able to obtain an abortion reported that they were relieved. Even when women who had an abortion felt primarily negative emotions, like regret and sadness, more than 80 percent still said that it was the right choice. Researchers acknowledged that personal feelings about abortion are incredibly variable and dependent on each woman’s particular situation — and they suggested that women who have a more difficult time getting an abortion, or women who end up opting to end a pregnancy that wasn’t entirely unplanned, tend to feel more negative emotions about the experience.
Researchers also warned that state laws requiring women to seek counseling or undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion may exacerbate women’s negative emotions about the procedure. Typically, state-level requirements like that are specifically designed to make women second-guess their decision to end a pregnancy, and tend to exacerbate the stigma that’s already associated with abortion care. Often, women are required to seek a counseling session at a right-wing “crisis pregnancy center” that tells them misleading information about the risks of abortion, including the widespread anti-choice notion that abortion typically leads to depression and other mental health issues. USCF’s ongoing research intends specifically to examine that claim.
Previous studies have confirmed that women have typically made up their minds about having an abortion before they approach their doctor, and waiting periods or counseling sessions don’t change their opinion that it’s the right choice for them.