AFTERBIRTH

06.12.13

The Aftereffects of Abortion Denial

Health problems and economic woes follow, research finds.

What happens to women who are denied abortions and carry unwanted pregnancies to term? A New York Times Magazine story looks at the work of Diana Greene Foster, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who is investigating the fates of women turned away from clinics because their pregnancies were too far along. Comparing them with women who had abortions close to the gestational limit, she found that the two groups had similar mental-health outcomes. Those who ended up giving birth, though, suffered from more physical health problems and economic instability—they were three times more likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. In the end, however, only 5 percent of the abortion-seeking women who had babies say they wish they hadn’t. Writer Joshua Lang acknowledges that some will see this conclusion as a justification for restricting abortion, but he quotes a bioethicist who attributes it to the human capacity for rationalization: “It’s psychologically in our interest to tell a positive story and move forward,” she says. “It’s wonderfully functional for women who have children to be glad they have them and for women who did not have children to enjoy the opportunities that afforded them.”