To hear some anti-abortion crusaders tell it, the second a pregnant woman mentions that she’s considering an abortion she’s whisked off to an operating table by a salivating cabal of Planned Parenthood harpies. The overarching anti-choice narrative is that most women seeking abortions don’t actually understand the consequences of their choice—hence the need for things like mandatory waiting periods, forced ultrasounds and friendly lectures from crisis pregnancy center staff. A new study published in Perspectives on Reproductive and Sexual Health, however, found that far from being clueless, vulnerable damsels led astray by evil abortionists, the vast majority of women seeking abortions are “highly confident” about their choice.
The study, which looked at the pre-counseling assessments and clinical intake forms of 5,109 women seeking abortions, found 87% of these women were highly confident in their decision even before receiving counseling. Those who were less confident were more likely to be under 20 years old, not have a high-school diploma, have a history of depression, have a fetus with an anomaly, have general difficulty making decisions, have spiritual concerns, be black, or believe that abortion cannot be forgiven by God. Having a supportive mother or male partner was associated with increased odds of high confidence.
“Regulations requiring state-approved information or waiting periods may not meet the complex needs of all women,” the study authors concluded. “Instead, women may benefit more from interactions with trained staff who can assess and respond to their individual needs.”
In a post on Slate’s XX Factor blog, Amanda Marcotte notes that this research contradicts the anti-choice theory that women are too stupid to understand abortion.
… in direct contrast with the assumptions of these anti-abortion restrictions, women seeking abortion did know what abortion is and what the results (a baby) would be if they didn’t get one. Turns out that they were getting abortions because they wanted to avoid the results of not doing so! Which would suggest that lecturing them about how they’re not going to get a baby if they do this is probably not going to affect their decisions.
She also brings up the important point that all of these women’s feelings were recorded in counseling sessions offered voluntarily by the clinics. In other words, there are already procedures in place—and ones that allow for a far more individualized and substantive approach than ultrasounds accompanied by canned speeches—to ensure that women seeking abortions are comfortable with their choice.