Flawed, biased Turnaway study now claims 95% of women happy after abortion

In the latest chapter of the never-ending quest to put a happy face on abortion, ThinkProgress’s Tara Culp-Ressler writes that a new study has concluded the vast majority of post-abortive women conclude it was the right choice: 

The new study was spearheaded by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, or ANSIRH, a think tank based at the University of California, San Francisco that’s conducting extensive research on women’s experiences attempting to obtain abortion care. The findings related to women’s emotions after abortion are part of ANSIRH’s “Turnaway Study,” which is following nearly 1,000 women who sought abortions in 21 different states. According to the group, this represents the “first U.S. study to follow women obtaining abortions and women denied abortions over time.”

The findings:

95% of women who had abortions felt it was the right decision, both immediately and over 3 years […] Among women who had abortions, relief outweighed any negative emotions, even after 3 years. Women having later abortions reported similar emotions as women having procedures in the first-trimester. Overall, women thought about the abortion less frequently over time.

Sounds impressive, but before breaking out the party hats, a couple caveats are in order. ANSIRH is no beacon of objectivity when it comes to abortion. Its director, Dr. Tracy Weitz, is an advocate for the “social good” of “abortion rights” and has written against the “stigma” of calling for abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Last year, the group was behind an asinine study arguing that Hollywood was discouraging abortion because a mere 9% of all movie and TV abortions were fatal to female characters — even though many of that number were actually stories of illegal abortions meant to convey pro-abortion messages.

More importantly, despite being the centerpiece of ANSIRH’s efforts, the Turnaway study itself was found to contain severe methodological errors, detailed in a five-part analysis by National Right to Life education & research director Dr. Randall O’Bannon. Among them:

  • They claimed that denying women abortions hurt them economically but failed to note that abortion didn’t yield statistically significant benefits in income, employment, or public assistance, and failed to account for alternate explanations of the difference such as children qualifying them for new programs.
  • Its data fails to substantiate its claim that women denied abortions were “significantly” more likely to suffer domestic abuse.
  • They selectively emphasized findings of post-abortion relief but deemphasized findings of abortion regret and of women denied abortions doubting their desire for one as early as a week later.
  • They studied not a truly random sample, but abortion-minded women who appear to have had some inkling of what outcome their interviewers were looking for.
  • They likely failed to compensate for additional differences between the control and study group, such as preexisting abortion ambivalence or financial, emotional, and organizational problems.

Odds are, this latest chapter in ANSIRH’s work carries over the same issues, and likely suffers from an additional factor: as documented here and here at our friend Sarah Terzo’s, we know that the mental and emotional fallout from abortion tends to be more long-term, sometimes not manifesting until years after the immediate relief abortion apologists seize upon fades away.

Contrary to Culp-Ressler’s claim that “no scientific evidence” links abortion to “a greater risk of mental health problems,” it’s not just pro-life activists who say otherwise. No, that would be peer-reviewed studies from mainstream researchers and journals who warn us about a 154 percent increased risk of suicide (Southern Medical Journal, 2002), a tenfold spike in suicide attempts among post-abortive teenage girls (University of Minnesota: Minnesota Extension Service, 1986), 65 percent higher risk of long-term clinical depression (Medical Science Monitor, 2003), a doubled chance of hospitalization for psychiatric illness (Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2003), and a fivefold increase in drug and alcohol abuse (American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2000).

So hopefully Culp-Ressler and the ANSIRH team will forgive us for remaining skeptical that abortion is psychologically harmless… or for reminding them that even if no abortion ever bothered a woman in the slightest, every abortion still inflicts something far worse than anguish on someone. Against the most important truth of abortion, the death it brings to countless innocents, the Turnaway study says nothing.

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