Abortions do not harm long-term mental health

As ANSIRH researcher Dr. Antonia Biggs recently told the New York Times, her new study suggests “expanding access to abortion care is more likely to protect women’s mental health than restricting women’s access to abortion care.” Her research, published this week in JAMA Psychiatry, analyzes mental health data from the Turnaway Study, a groundbreaking, long-term comparison of the lives of women who received the abortions they sought and those who were denied them.

Dozens of states currently require women seeking abortions to first receive counseling or other forms of education regarding the potential psychological effects of abortion. This study helps to shed light on whether those requirements, and other common assumptions about abortion and mental health, are warranted. The results quite clearly suggest that they are not.

The study followed 956 women over five years and found that women who received abortions showed no greater levels of mental distress, such as depression and anxiety, than women who were denied abortions. In fact, women denied abortions experienced greater short-term distress than women who received them. That comparison held true even for women who received abortions later in their pregnancies.

These findings could help create a strong foundation for challenging the rules in many states that require counseling and/or cautionary literature to be given to women seeking abortions. As these data suggest, those requirements—which purport to protect women’s mental well-being by denying or delaying their abortions—may be both misleading and misguided.