New study suggests most women are confident in their decision to get an abortion

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Not only do women who get abortions tend not to regret that decision, they also tend to feel certain about it beforehand, according to a new report.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco's Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health and published Thursday in the journal Contraception, surveyed 500 women at four Utah family planning clinics. Uncertainty about the procedure was, on average, extremely low — dispelling the regret myth on which anti-abortion activists like to lean.

"Women are certain about their decision to have an abortion when they seek out care – even more certain than patients deciding about reconstructive knee surgery," lead study author Lauren J. Ralph, Ph.D., an ANSIRH epidemiologist, said in a press release. "Our research directly contradicts the idea that women are particularly conflicted about whether or not to have an abortion."

Pro-choice activists celebrate after June's landmark SCOTUS decision affirming abortion rights.
Source: 
Patsy Lynch/MediaPunch/AP

The study's authors applied the Decisional Conflict Scale, which the press release called "the gold standard" for gauging certainty about particular health care decisions. They surveyed 500 English- and Spanish-speaking women at four reproductive health clinics in Utah, prompting them to answer a series of 16 questions before getting abortions.

Of women polled, 89% ended up getting abortions, and on average, uncertainty was low: 15.5 out of a possible 100, which — according to the press release — is about the same level of uncertainty women exhibit going into a "mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis, prenatal testing after infertility and antidepressant use during pregnancy."

Which is to say, they tend to be about as certain about the decision to get an abortion as they are about other routine and warranted reproductive health decisions. This, coupled with a study from July 2015 which suggested women almost never regret the decision to have an abortion, should help put to bed the idea women will change their minds about terminating a pregnancy after the fact. Most women who participated in Thursday's study followed through with their abortion plans, and most maintained that doing so was the right decision. 

Then-Rep. Mike Pence stands with anti-abortion protestors, bolstering the regret myth, in 2011.
Source: 
Alex Brandon/AP

The study comes at a critical time for reproductive rights: According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 states make women undergo counseling before getting abortions. Of those states, 27 have waiting periods in place, obligating a woman to wait for a certain amount of time — typically 24 hours — between counseling and the procedure. 

"These findings challenge the argument that women need more time or information to make their decision and would universally benefit from laws requiring them to have additional counseling visits, wait up to 72 hours before receiving care, or view ultrasounds," Ralph said in the press release.

In Utah, where the study was conducted, women must wait 72 hours between counseling and procedure; in Indiana, the state over which Republican vice presidential-hopeful Mike Pence, presides, the waiting period is 18 hours. With one of the country's foremost abortion foes on the road to the White House — and among the Republicans' top choices for the 2020 ticket — the fact that women generally feel just fine about their decisions to terminate pregnancies, both before and after the fact, is worth reiterating. 

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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