Thanks to the anti-abortion movement, abortions can be associated with negative mental health consequences and regret. In some states, women seeking abortions are first required to see a counselor and learn of abortion’s “negative psychological effects.” A new study, organized by the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine and published in the journal PLOS ONE, once and for all debunks these myths. According to the researchers’ survey of 670 women, the opposite is true: 95% of women don’t regret their abortions.
According to Time, the researchers regularly surveyed the women about their abortions over the course of three years. Among the sample group, reasons for abortion were diverse: 40 percent cited financial considerations; 36 percent said 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 differences among the sample group make the researchers’ conclusion all the more powerful: that the “overwhelming majority” of women in the study felt the abortion had been the right decision, both immediately following and over the three-year study period.
The study distinguishes between any emotions the women may feel and regretting the abortion over all, unlike the anti-abortion crusaders who use regret as an excuse. The study measured “decreasing emotional intensity over time” in the women, and recommended emotional support for those who have trouble deciding. Ultimately, the study notes, even three years later the overwhelming feeling is relief for women who choose abortion.
Sadly, women were more likely to report negative emotions if they perceived high abortion stigma and lower social support in their communities. This hammers on the importance of support, instead of telling women they’re going to have mental health issues for making a decision that feels right.
“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,” said the study. “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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