Women who are denied an abortion feel more regret and less relief one week later than women who undergo the procedure, according to “Women’s Emotions One Week After Receiving or Being Denied an Abortion in the United States,” by Corinne H. Rocca of the University of California, San Francisco, et al. Specifically, while 41% of women who had an abortion near the provider’s gestational age limit reported feeling regret about it, 50% of women turned away because they requested an abortion beyond that limit did so. And while 90% of women who obtained a near-limit abortion reported feeling relief, 49% of those turned away expressed this emotion.
Researchers used data on 843 women seeking abortions at 30 U.S. facilities between 2008 and 2010, who were interviewed as part of a larger, five-year study on the health and socioeconomic consequences of receiving or being denied an abortion in the United States. The women were asked about six emotions: relief, happiness, regret, guilt, sadness and anger. They were questioned separately about their pregnancies and their experiences seeking an abortion, so as not to confuse their emotions about the two.
Both women who were denied an abortion and those who had one reported mixed emotions about their experience. In fact, of the women who reported feeling regret about their near-limit abortion, nine out of 10 also reported relief. Furthermore, feeling negative emotions after an abortion did not indicate that women considered it the wrong decision—more than eight in 10 women who experienced primarily negative emotions felt that abortion was the correct choice. The researchers suggest that emotions experienced after an abortion vary from woman to woman and from abortion to abortion, and are influenced by the woman’s life circumstances. Such circumstances include the degree to which a woman’s pregnancy was planned and the difficulty she had in deciding to seek an abortion; both of these characteristics were linked to increased chances that a woman reported primarily negative emotions about her abortion.
The researchers note that state regulations requiring counseling and information for women seeking abortion do not address either the nuanced and varied emotions women experience following an abortion or the factors that influence these emotions, and may instead exacerbate negative emotions. They recommend further research on the counseling needs and preferences of women who have a hard time deciding to seek an abortion. Additionally, they propose that studies follow women who have had or been denied an abortion for longer periods of time, to understand their emotions over the long term.
“Women’s Emotions One Week After Receiving or Being Denied an Abortion in the United States” is currently available online and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.