Attitudes toward abortion after receiving vs. being denied an abortion in the USA

Woodruff K

Gould H

Biggs MA

Foster DG

Sexuality Research and Social Policy
Mar 2018

The US public attitudes toward abortion have been studied extensively, but little is known about these attitudes among women who seek abortion. This mixed-methods study explores women’s attitudes about abortion after receiving or being denied an abortion. Data are from the Turnaway Study, a prospective, longitudinal study of women seeking abortions at 30 US facilities. Participants presented just before a facility’s gestational limit and received abortions or just beyond the limit and were denied abortions. Using mixed effects logistic regression, we assessed 812 participants’ attitudes about abortion over 5 years. At 5 years after abortion seeking, we conducted in-depth interviews with 31 participants; this analysis includes the comments of 19 participants who discussed their abortion attitudes in those interviews. We find that 6 months after abortion seeking, nearly all women supported abortion legality in all (80%) or some (18%) situations, yet 20% also believed abortion is morally wrong. Women denied an abortion were significantly less likely to support the legal right to abortion at 6 months (62%) and 4.5 years (77%) after abortion seeking than women who had received a near-limit abortion (78 and 88%, respectively). In open-ended interviews, women expressed nuanced views, including reporting increased empathy for others facing an unwanted pregnancy. Women’s own reproductive experiences impact their views on abortion. Distinguishing between morality and legality of abortion is critical in understanding abortion attitudes.