TIME health

Hardly Any Women Regret Having an Abortion, a New Study Finds

The conclusion comes after a three-year research period involving nearly 670 women of all social backgrounds

Ninety-five percent of women who have had abortions do not regret the decision to terminate their pregnancies, according to a study published last week in the multidisciplinary academic journal PLOS ONE.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine, and from the university’s division of biostatistics.

Its conclusions come after a three-year research period in which nearly 670 women were regularly surveyed on the subject of their abortions. The sample group was diverse with regard to standard social metrics (race, education, and employment) and on the matter of what the study calls pregnancy and abortion circumstances. Financial considerations were given as the reasons for an abortion by 40 percent of women; 36 percent had decided it was “not the right time;” 26 percent of women found the decision very or somewhat easy; 53 percent found it very or somewhat difficult.

The authors of the study concluded that the “overwhelming majority” of the women participating in the study felt that abortion had been the right decision “both in the short-term and over three years.”

These results offer a statistical retort to the claim that women who have abortions suffer emotionally as a result, as anti-abortion campaigners claim. Previous studies cited in support of this claim, researchers said, “suffer from shortcomings, leaving the question of women’s post-abortion emotions unresolved.”

The new study is careful to avoid generalities. It discerns between having lingering emotions after an abortion and regretting the abortion altogether — two distinct responses that pro-lifers tend to conflate — and concludes that post-abortion emotional reactions are normal, but almost inevitably taper over time, and that ultimately, very few women altogether regret terminating their pregnancies.

“Certainly, experiencing feelings of guilt or regret in the short-term after an abortion is not a mental health problem; in fact, such emotions are a normal part of making a life decision that many women in this study found to be difficult,” the study reads. “Our results of declining emotional intensity… [find] steady or improving levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, stress, social support, stress, substance use, and symptoms of depression and anxiety over time post-abortion.”

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