It Turns Out People Really Don’t Regret Their Abortions

Supermajority Education Fund

January 17, 2020

A frequent line lawmakers, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, have used to justify anti-choice legislation is that patients come to regret their abortions. A new study, however, indicates that this claim is far from correct. 

Research published on Jan. 12 in Social Science & Medicine found that immediately after having an abortion, nearly all patients said they had made the right decision. When controlling for age, race, and other components, 97.5 percent of these patients believed having an abortion was the right choice. At five years post-procedure, it increased to 99 percent.

“We didn’t find these sustained negative emotions,” Dr. Corinne Rocca, associate professor at UC San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program and lead author, told Supermajority News.

In fact, Rocca said the study participants found that they didn’t even think about their abortions. The patients told interviewers that they “only think about it about every six months when you call me about it and ask about it,” Rocca said.

The findings drew from the experiences of more than 600 women in 30 sites across 21 states in all regions of the country. The women were interviewed over the phone one week after the procedure and then again on the phone, twice a year for the next five years.

Fifty-one percent of the interviewees reported feeling mostly positive emotions about their procedure within a week of the abortion, compared to 20 percent who had few or no feelings. In the first year, 30 percent reported feeling mostly positive, while those who reported few feelings about the procedure increased to 45 percent. By year five, 65 percent said they felt few feelings about their procedure, while 19 percent still reported positive feelings about their abortion.

Within one week of the procedure, 17 percent reported feeling negative feelings about the procedure, but by year five, that decreased to six percent.

“Despite the fact that all emotions declined over time, relief remains the predominant emotion,” Rocca explained. “It’s very striking, over 95 percent felt it was right for them, including women who lived in environments where they’d be stigmatized for having an abortion.” 

Existing scientific literature had studied patients’ feelings three years after an abortion; A significant goal of this research was to extend the number of post-abortion years studied. “Almost everything was surprising in that it hasn’t been studied in this way before,” Rocca told Supermajority News. The results, she added, are “ pretty conclusive, given the rigorous design of the study.” 

But Rocca makes clear there are patients who have different experiences. “[The study] doesn’t mean there aren’t people who immediately and over the time, come to a place to realize it was the wrong decision,” she told Supermajority News. “I don’t want to reduce their feelings, but it’s misguided to deprive other pregnant people of the option to make the medical choice and the personal choice that is right for them.” 

Read the full study, published in Social Science & Medicine, here.