Research finds women who terminate pregnancies are at risk of subsequent problematic alcohol use, but methodological and conceptual problems are common. This study examines the relationship between receiving versus being denied termination and subsequent alcohol use.
Data are from a prospective, longitudinal study of US women seeking pregnancy terminations. Participants presented just before a facility's gestational limit and received terminations (Near Limits, n = 452) or just beyond the limit and were denied terminations (Turnaways, n = 231).
Groups did not differ in alcohol use before pregnancy recognition. One week after termination-seeking (Turnaways still pregnant, Near Limits not), Turnaways had lower odds of any and binge alcohol use, but did not differ on 1+ problem symptoms. Over 2.5 years, both Near Limits and Turnaways increased any and binge alcohol use, with Turnaways increasing more rapidly. The groups did not converge again on any or binge use. For Near Limits, any alcohol use surpassed the pre-pregnancy recognition level, but binge use did not. Changes in problem symptoms over time were not evident for either group.
While women who had a termination were more likely to report any and binge alcohol use than women who had a child, this difference was due to a reduction in consumption among women having the child rather than an increase in consumption among women having a termination. Thus, assertions that having a termination leads women to increase alcohol use to cope with having had a termination are not supported.