By: Kate Luce
Diana Greene Foster, professor at the University of California, San Francisco, led the discussion on the findings of the Turnaway Study for the Women and Gender Studies’ annual Women’s History Month lecture. Foster was the lead investigator of this study.
The Turnaway Study followed just under 1,000 women throughout the United States who were able to receive an abortion and were turned away from getting an abortion. The study lasted five years. Participants were called each six months and asked questions regarding physical, mental and financial health in both English and Spanish.
This is the first time this lecture was held virtually. In addition, WGS had done quite a bit of programming this month for Women’s History Month. The department held a book talk on The Turnaway Study just before Foster presented her lecture.
“A group of IUSB faculty and students, community members, and students from Notre Dame and St. Mary’s met twice to discuss the book. We thought the Turnaway Study would be the perfect group for a book group to discuss,” Christina Gerken, director of WGS, said.
The talk started off with the question: Does abortion hurt women?
Foster then went into the details of the study. Only about a third of all the women who came to these clinics wanted to participate in the study. However, this rate is similar to many other studies. The study retained 95% of women who initially participated, and those that did participate reflected the population of women who receive abortions.
The Turnaway Study focuses on women receiving an abortion during the second trimester. Foster said that about 90% of abortions happen during the first trimester. There are many reasons why someone might want an abortion during the second trimester.
Not recognizing pregnancy, not knowing how or where to receive an abortion and finding the funds to get an abortion are all reasons why abortion may be wanted in the second trimester. In addition, the study did not find that having difficulty deciding to receive an abortion was a factor. In addition, the study did not follow women who received an abortion because the health of the mother or baby was in jeopardy.
The study asked women if abortion was the right decision. In total, 95% of women agreed. 90% of women who have a negative emotional response and 93% of women who expressed regret said that they made the right decision.
Foster spoke on the consequences of mental health. In the short term, women who were denied an abortion had worse mental health than women who received an abortion. However, over time, both groups have their mental health converge.
Physical health-wise, the study oversaw eight deaths of women who both received and were denied an abortion. Two women who were denied an abortion died during childbirth, which Foster said was surprising to happen with a small sample size.
Women who were denied an abortion were also more likely to be in subjective poverty, the study found. Women who were denied abortions are more likely to receive government assistance but they say it’s not enough.
The study found that women who received an abortion were likely to see a decrease in violence. Because they are not tied to a child of an abusive partner, women who receive an abortion are more likely to get away from that partner. Women who were denied do not see an increase in violence, but they don’t see a decrease either.
Foster concluded the lecture with a final statement: abortion neither harms nor helps women and that women can make their own choices about their bodies and abortion.
In total, 40% of women seeking an abortion said they can’t afford to have a child. 36% said it’s not the right time to have a child. 31% of women said they are having partner-related issues. 29% of women needed to focus on their other children. 20% of women said having a child interferes with future opportunities. 19% of women said they aren’t emotionally prepared for a child and/or giving birth. 12% of women said that health-related reasons stopped them from wanting to have a child.
Visit turnawaystudy.com to learn more about the details of the study.