Research on effects of pregnancy termination on women’s alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use suffers from methodological and conceptual problems. Improving on prior methodologies, this study examines changes in ATOD use over 5 years among women seeking terminations.
Data are from the Turnaway Study, a longitudinal study of 956 women seeking terminations at 30 U.S. facilities. Participants presented just below a facility’s gestational limit and received terminations (Near-Limits) or just beyond the limit and were denied terminations (Turnaways). Using mixed-effects logistic regression, we assessed differences in ATOD use over 5 years among Near-Limits and Turnaways.
There were no differences in ATOD use before pregnancy recognition; 1 week after termination seeking, Turnaways had lower odds than Near-Limits of any and heavy episodic alcohol use (p < .001), but not alcohol problem symptoms, tobacco use, or other drug use. Although both groups increased in any alcohol use over time, Turnaways increased more rapidly. Neither group increased any other ATOD measures over time. Turnaways’ lower odds of heavy episodic alcohol use at 1 week after termination seeking were maintained throughout the subsequent 5 years. There was no differential change in problem alcohol use or in tobacco or other drug use over time, yet fewer Turnaways than Near-Limits reported problem alcohol symptoms 6 months through 3.5 years.
There is no indication that terminating a pregnancy led women to increase heavy episodic or problem alcohol use or to increase tobacco or other drug use. Women denied terminations had temporary or sustained reductions in all alcohol measures, but not tobacco or other drugs, suggesting that relationships between pregnancy/parenting and ATOD differ across substances.