What happens when a pregnant person seeking an abortion can’t get one?
For ten years, Dr. Diana Greene Foster led a team of nurses, physicians, psychologists, sociologists, economists, epidemiologists and public health researchers in a study that followed just under a thousand women who’d sought abortions across 21 states to find out. The landmark research has since become known as The Turnaway Study, with findings published across 50 peer reviewed papers in top journals and a book of the same name.
In tracking the experiences and outcomes of women who’d received abortions and those who’d been denied abortions because of the clinic policies on gestational age limits, the researchers were able to track lasting effects of having an abortion vs. not being able to access abortion. These are just some of their findings…
Being denied an abortion harms the financial security and safety of both women and children.
- Women who were denied abortions were more likely than women who received an abortion to experience household poverty, economic hardship and financial insecurity lasting for years after.
- Women who were denied abortions were more likely to have increased debt, lower credit and negative public financial records such as bankruptcies and evictions, and less likely to have enough money to cover basic living expenses like food, housing and transportation, years after being turned away, relative to those who received abortion care.
- Children who were born as a result of women being denied abortions were more likely to live below the federal poverty level than children of the subsequent pregnancies of women who received abortion care.
- The children women already had when they sought abortions had worse economic and developmental outcomes when their mother was denied an abortion compared to the children of women who received abortions.
- Women denied abortions were more likely to stay in contact with a violent partner, putting them and their children at risk, while physical violence from the man involved in the pregnancy decreased for women who received abortions.
The overwhelming finding of The Turnaway Study is that being denied an abortion results in worse financial, health and family outcomes for women and their children.
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Diana Greene Foster, lead researcher of The Turnaway Study shares insights from the many conversations with women involved in the study,“We see that their economic outcomes are much more tenuous if they’re denied an abortion. They say, I want to take care of the child I already have. And we see the outcomes for that child are worse if they’re denied an abortion. They say […] that the relationship isn’t good enough with the man involved in the pregnancy.”
“So people are making careful decisions ’cause they understand the circumstances of their lives. I also wish that when we talked about abortion, it wasn’t abstract and ideological […] I wish that when we talked about it, that we thought about the people that were going to be affected […] and viewed them as human beings who are trying to take care of their families and trying to take care of themselves and are trying to make good decisions. And that when we circumvent their decisions, their outcomes are worse. […] There are people whose life course is at stake here.”
In a country without universal healthcare, without paid parental leave or affordable childcare, where the average cost of childbirth is $13,811 with employer-sponsored insurance, and where women’s employment and earnings are disproportionately impacted by parenthood, it’s not surprising that forcing all pregnant people to give birth can have such harmful and lasting consequences. And it’s why, without reproductive rights, there is no independence – financial or otherwise. And given the long history of the power structures dedicated to maintaining the status quo, that’s likely by design.
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