Conservative lawmakers have championed legislation that makes women jump through hoops before they’re permitted to have an abortion, presumably so they can be sure about their decision. Well, it turns out that women are more sure about their choice to terminate a pregnancy than they are about other kinds of health-care decisions.
For a new study in the journal Contraception, researchers from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, surveyed 500 Utah women seeking an abortion at four family-planning clinics. They used the Decisional Conflict Scale to measure their degree of certainty in their choice — the lower the score, the more certain you are, while higher scores denote conflict.
The state requires that women hear an “information script” at least three days before having the procedure. Researchers assessed the women right before they spoke to a provider and were able to follow up with 63 percent of them by phone three weeks later. Of that group, 89 percent had had an abortion and their mean uncertainty scores were 13.5 out of 100. The 11 percent of women who chose not to terminate had a mean score of 28.5; they were less sure to begin with and didn’t go through with it. (For those wondering, the average score for the entire group of 500 was 15.5.)
In essence, women who had an abortion were already certain about their decision by the time they walked through the clinic doors. The DCS scale is used across other health disciplines, and women who chose termination were more confident in that choice than men or women in other studies about health-care decisions including mastectomy as treatment for breast cancer, prostate cancer treatment, and knee replacement surgery.
Lead study author Lauren Ralph, Ph.D., M.P.H., said in a release: “Our research directly contradicts the idea that women are particularly conflicted about whether or not to have an abortion. These findings challenge the argument that women need more time or information to make their decision and would universally benefit from laws requiring them to have additional counseling visits, wait up to 72 hours before receiving care, or view ultrasounds.”
Twenty-seven states have mandatory waiting periods of at least 24 hours and 14 states require a counseling session before said waiting period begins. This study shows that such legislation isn’t giving women more time to make their decision, it’s merely forcing them to take more time off from work or caring for their families to go back to their health-care provider multiple times. It also means that self-righteous, sign-wielding protesters outside clinics are largely wasting their breath.