Denying abortion has consequences for women's health

Previous studies show that, in the short term, childbirth is associated with more health risks for women than abortion. But less is known about the long-term health of women who have abortions as compared to those who give birth. As part of the Turnaway Study, ANSIRH researchers asked women about their health – including chronic pain, diagnoses of chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, and overall self-rated health – every six months for five years. They compared health outcomes between women who had a first-trimester abortion, a second-trimester abortion, or who gave birth.

They found that the physical health of women who have a first or second trimester abortion is no worse than those who gave birth. Instead, across several measures of chronic pain and overall self-rated health, women who give birth after being denied a wanted abortion fare worse than women who receive a wanted abortion. For example, after five years, more women who gave birth reported fair or poor health (27%) compared with women who had a first-trimester (20%) or second-trimester (21%) abortion. Women denied a wanted abortion also reported more headaches/migraines and joint pain. Two maternal deaths, or deaths due to pregnancy related causes, occurred; both to women denied a wanted abortion. There were no outcomes where women having an abortion did worse.

They also compared the health of women who received an abortion in the first trimester to those who received an abortion in the second trimester and found that long-term physical health outcomes between groups were similar.

This adds to the body of research demonstrating that claims that abortion harms women are unfounded. Our data provide evidence that having an abortion is not detrimental to a person’s health, but being denied a wanted abortion has long-lasting adverse health effects.