Do Waiting Periods Affect Women’s Abortion Decisions?

What abortion opponents claim: A waiting period is necessary between the time a woman seeks abortion services and the time she obtains the procedure, to make sure that she has no second thoughts about her abortion decision.

What the research shows: Utah enacted a 72-hour waiting period in 2012, and a 2013–2014 study examined its effect among a cohort of 500 women recruited at the time of a required preabortion information visit. At that visit, most women reported little or no conflict about the abortion decision. Three weeks later, nearly nine in 10 of those who could be reached had had an abortion. There was little evidence that women who were no longer interested in terminating their pregnancy or were still deciding had changed their minds after the information visit: Most had said back then that they preferred to have the baby or were conflicted about the decision.

Cover illustrations of Margaret Sanger © Matthew and Eve Levine