A study analyzing women who sought abortions discovered that one week after the request, there was a 58% likelihood of the women remaining in a relationship with the man involved in the conception. This number dropped to 27% five years post-request. Importantly, women denied an abortion demonstrated significantly higher chances of being in a substandard romantic relationship five years on, in comparison to their counterparts who had abortions. The study was published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.
Abortion, a procedure terminating a pregnancy before the fetus can live outside the womb, is usually conducted within the first 24 weeks of gestation. It can be pursued for diverse reasons, from medical imperatives to personal choices. The procedure frequently becomes a contentious point in public discussions, which encompass women’s reproductive rights, ethical dilemmas, and the legalities governing abortion accessibility.
One leading non-medical reason for seeking abortion is the subpar quality of the intimate relationship. In the United States, relationship concerns drive between 30% and 50% of women to consider abortion. Often, the prospective father might be disinterested or incapable of parenthood, or the woman might be unwilling to co-parent with him, especially if he’s abusive. Sometimes the woman seeking abortion and the male involved in her pregnancy are not in a relationship at all.
Most studies assessing the psychological aftereffects of abortion suggest that a minor segment of women felt a significant positive or negative impact post-abortion, while a majority perceived no change. Other research contrasting the emotional trajectories of women post-abortion with those who never had one deduced that the former were less prone to forge strong, committed relationships later. However, since non-medical abortions often stem from critical relationship problems, any future relationship issues shouldn’t be solely attributed to the abortion.
With all this in mind, study author Ushma D. Upadhyay and her colleagues wanted to examine the differences in relationships with men involved in the pregnancy between women who sought an abortion and obtained one and those who sought an abortion, but were denied. They analyzed data from the Turnaway Study, a 5-year longitudinal study of women seeking abortion.
Participants were women who sought abortion care in one of the 30 abortion facilities across the United States between 2008 and 2010. Participants fell into three categories: those denied abortions as they were 3 weeks past the fetus age limit, those who procured abortions 2 weeks prior to the age limit, and those who had abortions during the pregnancy’s first trimester. Some women initially denied an abortion managed to obtain one elsewhere, subdividing the first category further based on resulting parenthood.
There were 254 women who received an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy, 413 women who received it near the fetus age limit for abortion, 145 women who were denied an abortion and gave birth, and 65 women who were denied abortion but got it elsewhere.
The researchers conducted biannual interviews with the participants in the 5 years following their abortion request. They were focused on the information on whether the woman was in an intimate relationship with the man involved in the pregnancy. The second key piece of information was the quality of their intimate relationship at the time of each interview.
Findings highlighted a higher concentration of 14-19-year-olds among women who sought abortions post the permissible fetus age than within the groups adhering to the legal timeframe. Notably, 58% of women denied abortions or who had them near the fetus age limit maintained relationships with the respective men eight days after their request. By the fifth year, this rate had dwindled to 27% across all four categories.
By the end of five years, an equal percentage from all groups were single. However, women denied abortions who subsequently became mothers displayed a higher propensity to be in lackluster relationships, in contrast to those who underwent abortions close to the legal limit. Of the former, 14% were in deemed subpar relationships, against 9% of the latter.
The authors concluded, “Contrary to the notion that an abortion can negatively impact women’s relationships, our study finds that women who had an abortion and those who were denied an abortion and carried the unwanted pregnancy to term were equally likely to have experienced dissolution of their intimate relationships with the man involved in the pregnancy. However, we found measurable differences in the quality of women’s intimate relationships years later.”
“In fact, those who were denied an abortion and were parenting were twice as likely to report being in a poor-quality relationship as those who received their wanted abortion. These results suggest that denial of abortion care and carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term may have negative implications for the quality of women’s relationships.”
The study sheds light on links between abortions and intimate relationships. However, it also has limitations that need to be taken into account. Notably, the study design does not allow any cause-and-effect conclusions to be made. Additionally, relationship quality was measured only through participants’ self-assessment and researchers included questions about it only from the second year after the abortion request.
The study, “Intimate relationships after receiving versus being denied an abortion: A 5-year prospective study in the United States”, was authored by Ushma D. Upadhyay, Diana Greene Foster, Heather Gould, M. Antonia Biggs.