The pro-abortion advocacy group, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), conducted a study that media outlets like The New York Times praised for allegedly disproving the link between abortion and mental health. The “Turnaway Study” utilized data from a series of interviews collected over a five year period for women who had first and second trimester abortions, as well as women who had been turned away by clinics because they were beyond the legal gestational limit. The study’s claim that 95 percent of women experience no post-abortion regret is the consequence of quite a few glaring design problems.
The study’s flaws become apparent when you consider the women sampled. Of the three thousand women invited to partake in the study, only 27 percent of them agreed to the first interview that took place six months after their abortion. By the end of the five year study, only 17 percent would remain.
This is an incredibly low participation rate. The study’s authors even admitted that the women who were most likely to remain in the study were the ones who reported the highest rates of relief during the initial interview that took place eight days after their abortion. Buried within the ANSIRH’s reports and ignored by the press releases is the fact that women who suffered initially from negative feelings were more likely to drop out.
As Elliot Institute Director David Reardon noted in his analysis of the study, the ANSIRH’s data “is clearly biased toward a subset of women who expected the least negative reactions to their abortion, experienced the least stress relative to discussing their abortions, and perhaps may even have experienced therapeutic benefits from talking about their abortions with researchers who affirmed the ‘rightness’” of the abortion.”
Women were also recruited for the study by abortion clinic staffers. This means women showing signs of post-abortive stress would not be reflected in the final study numbers. The abortion clinics could simply choose not to recruit them for it.
Another issue with the study is the sample of women who sought late-term abortions, but were “turned away” by the abortion clinic for being beyond the legal gestational limit. The ANSIRH claimed their study was able to analyze how women who had abortions compared to women who were denied access to one. Except one-fourth of the women used in the study’s control group had abortions elsewhere, or they reported that they had suffered a miscarriage.
This means the ANSIRH’s study did not include a control group, and the authors merely compared women who had abortions to another group comprised of both post-abortive women and a few women who weren’t. The absence of a true control group, consisting of women with no prior abortion history, means this study offers no relevant data about differences between post-abortive and non-abortive women.
Participants in the study were also asked misleading questions. One of the study’s findings says, “Compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes.” This comes from a single anxiety score taking place one week after these women were denied an abortion, a period where they may still have been feeling stressed as they contemplted other pregnancy options.
But ANSIRH’s own data reveals after the first week, the women who were intially denied an abortion but chose to carry to term experienced improvements in their anixety, depression, and self-esteem.
Another assertion the study makes is a majority of women believed their abortion was “the right choice.” This finding was based on a single question that asked women if they thought their abortion was “right” for them. The only responses were “yes,” “no,” or “uncertain.” The question does not account for any other post-abortive emotions beyond the abortion feeling “right,” nor did it take into account if the responses were influenced by not wanting to voice potential regret over a decision that could no longer be changed.
Compare these findings to a more in-depth study from Sweden, that concluded 80 percent of women reported feelings of satisfaction with their abortion, but 76 percent of them reported they would not choose to abort again if faced with another unplanned pregnancy. These findings suggest women’s feelings regarding their past abortions are more complicated than the Turnaway Study cared to report.
Due to misleading data, the Turnaway study should not be taken as conclusive evidence that abortion and mental health are not inexplicably linked. Post-abortive women deserve to have their feelings of grief validated, and women should know the truth about abortion. Studies that promote false information do little to encourage women to seek healing for any potential feelings of abortion regret, and the purpose of the ANSIRH’s study was to soften the effects of a procedure that can cause women harm or trauma.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.