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Denying Women Access to Abortion More Harmful to Their Mental Health than Having Actual Abortion, Study Finds

Dec 15, 2016 04:30 AM EST
Denying women access to abortion is more detrimental to their mental health than undergoing an actual abortion.
(Photo : Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A new study revealed that denying women access to abortion is more detrimental to their mental health than undergoing an actual abortion.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, showed that women who were denied access to abortion services experience more symptoms of anxiety, lower self-esteem and lower life satisfaction, compared to women who underwent the procedure.

"There's been a long history and interest in looking at the effects of abortion on women's mental health outcomes but a lot of the research before this study has suffered from some methodological shortcomings, and this study really aimed to improve on those," explained M. Antonia Biggs, Ph.D, a social psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco and lead author of the study, in a report from CBS News.

For the study, the researchers recruited nearly 1,000 women from 30 abortion facilities in 21 states. The women, with an average age of 25, were followed over a five-year period after either being denied or receiving an abortion. The researchers first interviewed each participant one week after seeking an abortion then again every six months for five years.

Out of the participants, 452 were within two weeks under some of the facility's gestational limit, while 273 of the women received their abortion during their first trimester. On the other hand, about 231 of the women were denied an abortion because their pregnancies were up to three weeks past the facilities' abortion limit. Among the women who were denied for abortion, 161 proceeded to give birth while 70 of them either had a miscarriage or later had an abortion somewhere else.

The researchers observed that a week after the women either received or denied an abortion, all of them experienced similar levels of depression. However, women who were denied access to abortion experienced higher levels of anxiety. They also had lower self-esteem and lower life satisfaction.

Six months after being denied access to abortion, the researchers noticed that the mental health of the women returned to the same level as those who underwent abortion.

With their findings, the researchers recommend allowing women to make their own decisions regarding abortion in order to protect their psychological well-being.

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