Anti-abortion groups will no longer be able to use women’s post-abortion mental health as an argument to support their stance against abortion as a result of a study indicating there was no significant difference in the mental health of women who had experienced abortions. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday, tracked about 1,000 women who had abortions within a five-year period and found those who underwent the procedure did not experience more anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or dissatisfaction with life than women who were denied abortions.
In contrast, researchers found women who had been denied abortion access because they were too far along in their pregnancies actually had more psychological symptoms following the denial. However, after about six months, their mental health started to improve and became similar to the mental health of women who were able to have an abortion.
Although there have been studies comparing the psychological differences between women who had abortions and women who decided to keep their babies, the new research, named the Turnaway Study by University of California, San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program, is the first to focus solely on the mental health of women close to or beyond the limit of when a clinic is legally able to perform an abortion. The study also examined the mental state women were in prior to having an abortion, which could impact their mental health following the procedure, something other studies have failed to do
“This is an incredibly powerful study,” Dr. Roger Rochat, an Emory University professor of global health and epidemiology and former director of reproductive health at the Centers for Disease Control, told New York Times. “States will continue to pass laws that restrict access to abortion services and they will do it in part based on mental health effects of abortion. But the evidence of this study says that just isn’t true.”
The study tracked the mental health of 452 women whose pregnancies were within two weeks of a clinic’s cut off and had received abortions and 231 women who were refused abortions because they were too far along. The study also examined 273 women who had abortions during their first trimester.
The research comes at an interesting time in the United States as President-elect Donald Trump has insinuated he would choose “pro-life” Supreme Court justices. Trump’s transition team has hinted at 21 potential Supreme Court nominees under consideration, all of whom appear to be incredibly conservative in regard to abortion laws.