Over 95% of women who have an abortion do not regret it, study finds

A study has revealed the majority of women who have an abortion do not regret their decision [Photo: Getty]

The majority of women who have had abortion do not regret the decision to undergo the procedure, a new study has revealed.

The research, published in Social Science & Medicine, found that five years after having an abortion, over 95% of the women said it was the right decision for them.

Researchers surveyed 667 women across 21 states in the US who had abortions at the start of the five year study, analysing their emotions surrounding their decision to get an abortion.

The women were surveyed a week after they sought care and every six months thereafter, for a total of 11 times. 

Participants were asked if they had any emotions of sadness, guilt, relief, regret, anger or happiness over their decision.

Results revealed 95% of women indicated that an abortion was the right decision for them over the course of the study.

Relief was the most common emotion throughout the five years of the study.

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Though the majority of women do not report regretting their decision, many did struggle to decide whether to have the procedure in the first place.

Just over a quarter (27%) said the decision to terminate their pregnancy was very difficult, while the same figure (27%) described it being somewhat difficult (27%).

The remainder (46%) said it was not difficult to make the choice.

Researchers found no evidence that women began to regret their decisions as years passed. In fact the women reported that both their positive and negative feelings about the abortion diminished over time.

At five years, the overwhelming majority (84%) had either positive feelings, or none at all. 

A study into the emotions surrounding an abortion found that the majority of women believe they made the right decision for them [Photo: Getty]

Commenting on the findings in an accompanying commentary on the study in Social Science & Medicine, Julia Steinberg, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of family science at the University of Maryland said: “This research goes further than previous studies, in that it follows women for longer, and was conducted on a larger sample from many different clinics throughout the US.

“It shows that women remain certain in their decision to get an abortion over time. These results clearly disprove claims that regret is likely after abortion.”

The findings also revealed that around 70% of the study participants reported feeling concerned they would be stigmatised by their communities if people knew they had sought an abortion, with 29% reporting low levels and 31% reporting high levels of community stigma.

The results also revealed that those who struggled with their decisions or felt stigmatised were more likely to experience sadness, guilt and anger shortly after obtaining the abortion.

Though these feelings did diminish over time.

READ MORE: What you need to know about having an abortion

The authors also note that, though abortion counselling is not entirely necessary according to the study’s findings, if offered, there should be a focus on helping to cope with the stigma surrounding having an abortion.

“Even if they had difficulty making the decision initially, or if they felt their community would not approve, our research shows that the overwhelming majority of women who obtain abortions continue to believe it was the right decision," said Corinne Rocca, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and first author of the study.

“This debunks the idea that most women suffer emotionally from having an abortion.”

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The findings follow a study released last year by Marie Stopes International, which found that only one in three women would tell their family if they were considering an abortion due to fears of stigma and repercussions.

A further study, published in the academic journal PLOS One in 2015, surveying 667 women over a three-year period and had similar results to the latest research in that 95% of women said that having an abortion was right for them.