Utah's 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortion: Experiences Among a Clinic-Based Sample of Women
In 2012, Utah became the first state to enact a 72-hour waiting period for abortion. Despite debate about the law's potential effects, research has not examined women's experiences with it.
A cohort of 500 women recruited at four family planning facilities in Utah in 2013–2014 completed baseline surveys at the time of an abortion information visit and follow-up telephone interviews three weeks later. Logistic regression and coding of open-ended responses were used to examine which women had abortions and, for those who did not, their reasons.
Among the 309 women completing follow-up, 86% had had an abortion, 8% were no longer seeking abortion, 3% had miscarried or discovered they had not been pregnant, and 2% were still seeking abortion; one woman was still deciding, and the waiting period had pushed one woman beyond her facility's gestational limit for abortion. At the information visit, women reported little conflict about the abortion decision (mean score on a scale of 0–100 was 13.9 for those who eventually had an abortion and 28.5 for others). Low decisional conflict, but not socioeconomic status, was associated with having an abortion (odds ratio, 1.1). On average, eight days elapsed between the information visit and the abortion.
As most women in this cohort were not conflicted about their decision when they sought care, the 72-hour waiting requirement seems to have been unnecessary. Individualized patient counseling for the small minority who were conflicted when they presented for care may have been more appropriate.
Sarah C.M. Roberts, and Ushma D. Upadhyay are assistant professors; Elise Belusa is research manager; Sarah Combellick was project director—all at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), University of California, San Francisco, Oakland. David K. Turok is associate professor, University of Utah, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Salt Lake City.