Frets over female emotions have historically played a disproportionate role in the evolution of women's healthcare, yielding bygone eras of hysterical wombs, menotoxins and nervous illnesses. Today, paternalistic assumptions that ladies must be protected from their own medical decision-making continue to fuel debates over reproductive rights. Mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods and parental consent to obtain abortions are often argued as preventative care to ward off patient regret down the road.
But it turns out, according to a new PLOS One study, there's a greater than 99 percent probability rate that women who terminate pregnancies won't regret their decision down the road. After tracking a diverse participant sample of women who had undergone first trimester and later term abortions for three years, the researchers found 95 percent didn't regret their decision at any point in time and likewise experienced diminishing emotional salience. Unlike what anti-choice rhetoric warns, abortion doesn't haunt all women and transgender men like a ghost. And why is that?
Because even when it was difficult to decide, women knew they were making the best decisions for themselves and their families (62 percent of the study's participants were already mothers). Full stop.
Here are three highlights from the study to better understand where the emotional danger zones really lie:
1. Partner and social support matters.
It's not terribly surprising that if the biological father is in the picture, his opinion impacts women's resolution to seek abortions. As expected, supportive partners (who were likeliest in cases of first trimester abortions) shored up confidence, while women "whose partners did not want or were not sure if they wanted to terminate the pregnancy" felt less sure they were doing the right thing.
Societal views also strongly sway women's tendencies toward regret: "Higher perceived community abortion stigma and lower social support were associated with more negative emotions."
2. Regret does not correlate to length of pregnancy.
Despite anti-choice assumptions that the longer a person is pregnant, the more emotionally disastrous an abortion, the data suggest nothing of the sort:
3. Regret is not emotionally unique to abortion.
The study authors also pointed out how the emotional argument is exponentially loud in the abortion debate. If such a standard were applied evenly, anti-choicers might also caution women against a host of other medical procedures and general milestones:
Tl;dr: This is empirical proof that women have a solid success rate in making their own reproductive decisions -- whether that means carrying a pregnancy to term or not. And don't get these facts twisted. This isn't advocacy for more abortions, but rather advocacy less fear-mongering over women determining what's best for their own bodies and futures. In reality, misleading women about the outcomes of major healthcare decisions is the most regrettable thing of all.