Debunked: Scientific American article falsely claims pro-life laws hurt women

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A recent Scientific American article echoes the false idea that pro-life laws harm women and that scientific fact backs this up. However, Scientific American’s arguments rest on shaky ground — not scientific evidence. The main source of the author’s claims is the flawed data of the Turnaway Study, which has been discredited numerous times by Live Action and other reputable organizations.

What is the Turnaway Study?

Launched in 2008 by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a collaborative research group at the University of California San Francisco, the Turnaway Study examined the effects of unwanted pregnancy on women. Researchers sought to gather data from nearly 1000 women seeking abortions across 30 facilities in the United States. The study compared the experiences of women who underwent abortions with those who were “turned away” due to being too far along in their pregnancies.

The researchers claimed there were no adverse effects on women’s health from abortion, and noted significant consequences of carrying unwanted pregnancies to term, such as economic hardship, increased likelihood of remaining in abusive relationships, and pregnancy-related health issues like preeclampsia. The study concluded that abortion does not harm the health and well-being of women, and has been cited by media outlets as proof of this assertion.

However, several glaring issues undermine the credibility of the Turnaway Study. First and foremost, its sample size of 877 women and short duration of just five years raise concerns about the study’s ability to provide comprehensive insights into the long-term consequences of abortion. Moreover, although thousands of women were initially recruited for the study, only 37% ultimately agreed to participate and, by the final year, participation rates had declined to a mere 17%, making it impossible to ascertain the impact of abortion on the majority of women followed by the researchers.

The study also failed to account for the quarter of women turned away who sought abortions elsewhere or experienced miscarriages, and it did not differentiate between women undergoing multiple abortions and those having only one. Moreover, the study excluded women who had never sought out or undergone an abortion, further skewing the findings.

Worst of all, the study’s association with pro-abortion organizations and biases among its researchers raise questions about its objectivity. Diana Greene Foster, the study’s principal investigator, has ties to organizations advocating for abortion, and the study received funding from pro-abortion groups. Additionally, the study’s methodology included hand-picking participants instead of selecting them at random. Many, if not all, of the women participating in the study were strongly pro-abortion.

READ: New poll results reaffirm that many ‘pro-choice’ Americans want significant limits on abortion

Scientific American interviewed Foster, exposing even more gaps in the study’s findings. Thousands of women have been hurt by abortion, and their stories are heartbreaking.

Link between abortion and depression

During the Scientific American interview, Foster explained that the impetus for the Turnaway Study was “the then common belief that getting an abortion caused depression…” She claimed there is no evidence of a relationship between the two.

However, numerous studies support the idea that there is a connection between abortion and mental health issues. For instance:

These findings are reinforced by numerous accounts of women grappling with depression and other mental health challenges after abortion. Foster’s denial of this link dismisses the struggles of women like Tenysha Onyia, an 18-year-old who never imagined having unprotected sex with her older boyfriend would result in an unplanned pregnancy. As Live Action News previously reported, Onyia was pressured into taking the abortion pill by her boyfriend and described the chemical abortion process as “a horrific experience.” Afterwards, she sank into depression.

“I wasn’t the same person any longer,” Onyia said. “It was too big of a burden to carry myself. I went through a lot of emotions and thought I was going crazy. I begged my sister to take me to a mental hospital.”

Research published by BMC Psychiatry found that post-abortive depression is a “common problem for all women of reproductive age.” Thousands of women tragically suffer from depression and other mental health issues after abortion, often lacking comprehensive support and acknowledgment of their experiences.

Foster’s assertion that depression and abortion aren’t connected represents just another denial of this reality.

Abortion: The “easier” route 

During the Scientific American interview, one of the first questions posed to Foster concerned how many of the women turned away from abortion pursued adoption instead.

Foster’s response was startling. She remarked, “Carrying a pregnancy to term and surrendering a child is not at all easy. It’s often taken for granted by people who think that the solution to abortion is adoption; they overlook how difficult that is.”

Foster’s assertion is fundamentally flawed. Pro-lifers do not underestimate the challenges of adoption, and they are deeply committed to supporting both mother and child. Pro-life pregnancy resource centers, for instance, provide care and resources to assist women with immediate and ongoing needs related to unexpected pregnancy. In fact, data from 2019 shows that pro-life pregnancy centers served close to 2 million people, offering services and material assistance with a total value exceeding $266 million.

The reason pro-lifers advocate for adoption isn’t because they are ignorant of its challenges. It’s because the alternative — ending a life — is morally unacceptable.

What’s the answer? It is not to make killing preborn children easier, as Foster demands. It is advocating for better support for mothers during and after their pregnancies, and making adoption a more feasible option if the biological mother is unable to parent. 

And pro-life advocates are doing just that. Earlier this year, they pushed back against a New York state rule that limits the financial support adoptive parents can give birth mothers, essentially making it easier to abort children than adopt them.

Although there are no official statistics available on the number of couples waiting to adopt in the U.S., experts estimate that the figure could be as high as two million at any given time, as reported by Adoption Network

Choosing adoption is an incredibly difficult decision, but in the end, it upholds the preborn child’s right to life. It’s crucial to establish systems that support women, regardless of whether they choose adoption or parenting. Both options are valid and deserving of support, rather than resorting to ending a life.

Better to never have been born?

In examining the social and financial consequences of abortion denial, Foster claimed that research has shown that “the kids born of pregnancies where the mom was denied [compared with children whose parent didn’t request an abortion] had worse outcomes for 35 years.”

While Foster acknowledged that research is a bit outdated, she continued to stand by the view that there are “worse outcomes,” namely economic insecurity, for children born to mothers who were denied an abortion. 

Not only is this finding flawed, but it also sends the message that the lives of those in poverty aren’t as valuable as those who experience financial security — that it is better to be dead, never having been born, than poor. 

Apart from biases, design flaws, and the limited sample size, the Turnaway Study also overlooks the complexities surrounding late-term abortion decisions. Many women in these circumstances may be grappling with relationship changes or financial hardships, which the study fails to adequately consider. Additionally, it doesn’t account for the possibility that financial struggles among women in the turn-away group may have predated their consideration of abortion.

As Live Action News previously reported, the study found that women who were denied abortions had an average credit score of 550, while those who underwent the procedure had a score of 558. The marginal difference between the credit scores of these two groups does not sufficiently support the claim that denying women abortions drastically impacts their socioeconomic status.

What’s next?

In the Scientific American article, Foster was clear that it is too soon to assess the full impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade resulting from the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Despite this landmark decision and the significant pro-life laws implemented by many states, women continue to seek abortions, particularly with the widespread availability of the abortion pill.

Currently, Foster is leading a new study examining the aftermath of the end of Roe v. Wade. Initial findings suggest that in states with pro-life laws protecting preborn children from abortion, women are still obtaining abortions, though experiencing a delay of approximately one week.

As new findings emerge, it’s crucial to scrutinize them carefully. The Turnaway Study, despite its significant flaws, has unduly influenced public discourse on the effects of abortion denial. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to prioritize factual data over perpetuating misinformation from flawed studies like this one.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS

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