You know that weird thing when people fund studies that propagate their interests, then have a big party when the study turns to totally promote their interests? It happens in more industries than it should and more often than it should. While it’s definitely frowned upon, especially in the business or political world, what about when it comes to a cultural issue like abortion?
A study just published called “Decision Rightness and Emotional Responses to Abortion in the United States: A Longitudinal Study” set out to find out if women feel happy or sad after an abortion, for up to three years later. It concluded that 99 percent of “[w]omen experienced decreasing emotional intensity over time, and the overwhelming majority of women felt that termination was the right decision for them over three years.”
Groups like ThinkProgress are having dance parties. You would too if you sold, say cigarettes, and a study claimed smoking was as healthy as eating blueberries. But they should think twice before busting any moves. I mean, I’m no PhD, but common sense says if a survey concludes nearly 100 percent for anything or anyone at any time it’s bunk, right? No product, no person, no experience has a 100 percent satisfaction rate—not even sex or looking at cute pictures of baby kittens.
So immediately, to most people with a brain, this study—and those who collected and analyzed the data for the rest of us pedestrians—has lost credibility. Even your average megalomaniac, banana republic tyrant isn’t so brazen as to say 99 percent of the population supports him. But in case you’re one of the few who doubts a nearly 100 percent approval rating, here are a few more chinks in the armor.
Study Was Funded by Abortion Advocates
As with Hansel and Gretel, who followed a trail of crumbs to a sweet haven full of deceit and heartache, the study’s money trail leads to a destination that’s just as revealing, manipulative, and deceitful. To start with, the study was supported by a gift from several organizations, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, both Planned Parenthood donors. Shocking!
The researchers say they “used data from the Turnaway study,” which was funded by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH). One of the researchers is from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. Guess who that organization donates money to? If you guessed Planned Parenthood, you get a gold star! ANSIRH, for those who are wondering, also produces an “Early Abortion Training Workbook” which includes a picture on their website of a woman practicing an abortion by stabbing a papaya.
Supporters of the study, on Twitter, would have you believe the researchers are merely academics and the organization is merely a think tank. Nonsense. Like Bob Dylan said, everybody’s “gotta serve somebody.” Nearly every single foundation or researcher related to this study has a vested interest in groups that either support or perform abortions. Any other conclusion is simply ignorant.
We Know Many Women Regret Their Abortions
The study’s findings have to be surprising, or at least confusing, even to many abortion advocates who admit many women struggle emotionally following an abortion. In The Atlantic in 2013, Prisca Lecroy wrote how, after choosing to have an abortion, Lecroy’s mother says she experienced “unrelenting tears, guilt, shame, and depression.” This piece in Slate piggybacked off Lecroy’s experience, claiming it wasn’t representative of how most women feel. “Some women experience sadness and guilt, but they’re more likely to feel relief and happiness…The emotional fallout from an abortion also needs to be understood in the context of a woman’s range of options when an unwanted pregnancy hits.”
User Katebyard writing at Sherights says she regrets her abortion, but is still pro-choice. She describes the agonizing choice to end her pregnancy, due to pressure from the baby’s father and other chaotic life circumstances at the time, although she believes women should be free to choose abortion. “The weeks, months, and years after my termination were a downward spiral in terms of my mental health; every period I had and every child I saw was a violent reminder. I ended up attempting suicide and being sectioned.”
Colleen Tronson had multiple abortions before a change of heart propelled her to encourage women to follow a different path. She is now the director of the Minneapolis-based Metro Women’s Center, a place that counsels women considering abortion. She said it’s normal in any “crisis situation” to feel relief: “Many women do not struggle with the aftermath of an abortion decision until many, many years later.” As a labor companion, she’s seen women who experience abortion flashbacks during labor, complicating the process. “Feeling emotionally fine is not a good indication of future problems related to the decision,” she says.
Poor Methods and Conflicting Results
The study says “We recruited a cohort of women seeking abortions between 2008-2010.” Say what? You recruited (less than 1,000) women? I’d be curious to know how the “recruitment” process worked. Were women who expressed negative feelings about their abortions screened out? If you smell sophistry, it’s probably there. It’s like when you’re going out: You don’t ask your super-skinny, always-has-it-together friend if you look good. You ask your boyfriend or husband—who has a vested interest in responding positively—if you look like the smokin’ hot babe that you are.
Second, the study makes a slight, albeit important distinction between regretting an abortion and feeling negative emotions when thinking of the abortion after the fact. “Women with more planned pregnancies and who had more difficulty deciding to terminate the pregnancy had lower odds of reporting the abortion was the right decision […] Both negative and positive emotions declined over time.” But if 95 to 99 percent of women reported no negative feelings of the abortion, how can their nonexistent feelings also decline?
Even the study admits it might be flawed: “Because no formal measures of abortion emotions exist, the scales we used may not have validly captured women’s emotions. Although the emotions we examined were similar to those assessed in prior studies [6, 7, 12], they were not necessarily the most relevant aspects of the abortion experience […] Asking participants biannually about their emotions and how often they thought about the abortion may have led to higher reported levels of all outcomes than otherwise would have existed” (page 12). They even say “the relatively low participation rate might raise concerns about selection bias.” You can almost hear the researchers sighing, Welp! Too late now, suckas!
Study’s Conclusion and Thus Its Purpose Is Deceptive
The study admits its findings seem unusual. “The typical participant, however, had >99% chance of reporting that the abortion was right for her over three years, and her negative emotions subsided over time. These findings differ from those of the only other large-scale US prospective study, which found that negative emotions increased, and satisfaction with the abortion decision decreased slightly, over two years” (page 10).
ThinkProgress says this study should “end the debate about whether women should regret having abortions.” Tronson doesn’t seem surprised how abortion promoters will use these results: “[W]hy would they not want to claim that their services provide only happy customers? It is in their best interest to make the public believe that everyone (99%) leave feeling satisfied. The ‘buyers’ remorse’ of an abortion experience would not be good marketing.”
No doubt the results of this study will be passed around Planned Parenthood offices nationwide, probably on a nifty little postcard, reassuring women that their (recruited) peers didn’t feel bad about abortions, so neither should they. At best, this study was funded by groups who want to manipulate the national debate and stigma over abortions. At worst, the obviously skewed results will be propagated to present a misleading, if not entirely false, picture of the aftermath of a choice that actually leaves devastating consequences for women and babies alike.