Receiving versus being denied an abortion and subsequent drug use

Roberts SC

Rocca CH

Foster DG

Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Jan 2014

BACKGROUND:

Some research finds that women receiving abortions are at increased risk of subsequent drug use and drug use disorders. This literature is rife with methodological problems, particularly inappropriate comparison groups.

METHODS:

This study used data from the Turnaway Study, a prospective, longitudinal study of women who sought abortions at 30 sites across the U.S. Participants included women presenting just prior to an abortion facility's gestational age limit who received abortions (Near Limit Abortion Group, n=452), just beyond the gestational limit who were denied abortions (Turnaways, n=231), and who received first trimester abortions (First Trimester Abortion Group, n=273). This study examined the relationship between receiving versus being denied an abortion and subsequent drug use over two years. Trajectories of drug use were compared using multivariate mixed effects regression.

RESULTS:

Any drug use, frequency of drug use, and marijuana use did not change over time among women in any group. There were no differential changes over time in any drug use, frequency of drug use, or marijuana use between groups. However, Turnaways who ultimately gave birth increased use of drugs other than marijuana compared to women in the Near Limit Abortion Group (p=.041), who did not increase use.

CONCLUSIONS:

Women receiving abortions did not increase drug use over two years or have higher levels of drug use than women denied abortions. Assertions that abortion leads women to use drugs to cope with the stress of abortion are not supported.