Please Stop Trying To Talk Women Out Of Getting Abortions

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
As part of the list of hurdles standing in the way of many women's access to abortion in the U.S., most states require providers to have scripted conversations with patients. Many also require waiting periods. The argument is that these measures give women more time to think about the irreversible decision to terminate a pregnancy, but reproductive rights organizations have long questioned whether or not they're necessary. Now, new research suggests the measures truly are completely pointless: According to a new paper, published online this morning in the journal Contraception, women are very certain of their decision by the time they seek care. For the study, researchers talked to 500 women seeking abortions at health centers in Utah. In that state, women are required to meet face-to-face with their doctor and then wait 72 hours before getting an abortion. During that meeting, the doctor is required to read off a standardized script designed to discourage women from going through with the procedure. The researchers first asked women 16 questions about how certain they were about their decision to have an abortion before these meetings. Then, they followed up with the participants by phone three weeks later. Unsurprisingly, Results showed that women who were less certain about their decision to get an abortion before the meeting were more likely to still be pregnant at the follow-up. But overall, women were pretty damn sure that they were making the right choice — and the vast majority (89%) of them went through with the procedure. Although our society treats the decision to get an abortion as somehow different from any other health-related decision, and therefore worth extra consideration and preparation, the results here don't support that idea: Participants' levels of uncertainty were lower for abortion than those other studies have found for getting a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis, going in for reconstructive knee surgery, or taking antidepressants while pregnant. "Our findings challenge these laws' implicit characterization of women making abortion decisions — as compared to other healthcare decisions — as particularly conflicted," the study authors write. It's officially time we start trusting women to make these personal decisions themselves.

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