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Member Research and Reports

Columbia: Five Years After Abortion, Study Finds Nearly All Women Say it Was the Right Decision

Five years after having an abortion, over 95 percent of the women in a landmark study said it was the right decision for them, according to co-author Dr. Goleen Samari, assistant professor of population and family health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

The findings in Social Science & Medicine come as many states are requiring waiting periods and counseling for women seeking abortions, based on the assumption that they may have regrets.

Dr. Samari and colleagues at UCSF found no evidence that women began to regret their decisions as years passed. At five years, the overwhelming majority (84 percent) had either positive feelings, or none at all.

Even if they had difficulty making the decision initially, the research showed that the overwhelming majority of women continued to believe it was the right decision and debunked the idea that most women suffer emotionally from having an abortion.

The researchers analyzed data from the Turnaway Study, a five-year effort to understand the health and socioeconomic consequences for nearly 1,000 women who sought abortions in 21 U.S. states. The analysis included 667 participants who had abortions at the start of the study. The women were surveyed a week after they sought care and every six months thereafter.

While women did not report regretting their decision, many, however, did struggle initially to make their decision. Over one-quarter said the decision to terminate was very difficult (27 percent). About 70 percent also reported feeling they would be stigmatized by their communities if people knew they had sought an abortion.

Those who struggled with their decisions or felt stigmatized were more likely to experience sadness, guilt and anger shortly after the abortion. Over time, the number reporting these emotions declined dramatically.

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