What Happens to Women Who Are Denied Abortions?
By Bryan Caplan
[D]ata saying that women are
generally happy with their children, even after unplanned pregnancies,
are unlikely to be representative of the population we’re. More relevant evidence comes from the recent study
of women who were just barely denied abortions (vs. women who just
barely got them) presents a far less rosy picture of life outcomes and
mothers’ relationships with their children.
On my reading, though, the research Colucci cites strikingly confirms my claim that women who seek abortions are unrealistically negative about the effects of completing their pregnancies. The study looked at women who were turned away for abortions, largely because their pregnancies were too far along. Key passage:
When [researcher Diana Greene Foster] looked at more objective measures of mental health over time —
rates of depression and anxiety — she also found no correlation between
having an abortion and increased symptoms. In a working paper based on
her study, Foster notes that “women’s depression and anxiety symptoms
either remained steady or decreased over the two-year period after
receiving an abortion,” and that in fact, “initial and subsequent levels
of depressive symptoms were similar” between those who received an
abortion and those who were turned away. Turnaways did, however, suffer
from higher levels of anxiety, but six months out, there were no
appreciable differences between the two groups.
In other words, even though women who seek an abortion feel like a child will ruin their lives, that’s not how they end up feeling if they complete their pregnancies. At all. The average woman who says, “A baby would ruin my life!” eventually sings a totally different tune. A shocking result!
The negative effects of not getting an abortion, in contrast, are obvious: The usual health effects of pregnancy, and the usual financial effects of having a baby outside of a stable family:
Where the turnaways had more significant negative outcomes was in their
physical health and economic stability. Because new mothers are eligible
for government programs, Foster thought that they might have better
health over time. But women in the turnaway group suffered more ill
effects, including higher rates of hypertension and chronic pelvic pain
(though Foster cannot say whether turnaways face greater risk from
pregnancy than an average woman). Even “later abortions are
significantly safer than childbirth,” she says, “and we see that through
lower complications and low incidence of chronic conditions.”…
Economically, the results are even more striking. Adjusting for any
previous differences between the two groups, women denied abortion were
three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years
later. Having a child is expensive, and many mothers have trouble
holding down a job while caring for an infant. Had the turnaways not had
access to public assistance for women with newborns, Foster says, they
would have experienced greater hardship.
If the women who gave birth were sicker and poorer, why weren’t they more depressed or anxious? Simple: Either sickness and poverty have little effect on depression and anxiety, or having a child actually reduces depression and anxiety holding sickness and finances constant. Take your pick.