If a woman makes the choice to have an abortion, and is told that she can’t—she’s past the clinic’s cutoff gestational date—it seems intuitive that that would be a stressful situation. But research has mostly focused on what happens to a woman’s mental health when she does have an abortion, and anti-abortion laws are often propped up by the belief that the procedure can lead to negative mental health effects.
By Kaleigh Rogers | MOTHERBOARD
Now the results of a new, five-year study that tracked the mental health of women seeking an abortion—whether they got one or not—over time shows that denying a woman an abortion can have serious mental health effects.
“If our goal is to protect women’s mental health, this study certainly doesn’t find that denying them an abortion protects their mental health,” said lead author Antonia Biggs, a researcher at the University of California San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. “It shows that allowing them to have an abortion is more protective of their mental health.”
Biggs and her colleagues recruited women at 30 abortion facilities in 21 states across the US who were seeking an abortion between 2008 and 2010, according to the study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry. These women were interviewed one week after seeking an abortion, and then again semi-annually for five years, totaling 11 interviews, to assess their mental health over time. Though they started out with a group of 1,132 participants, it’s hard to retain that many people for such a long study. Still, by the end they had five years of data from 558 women.