By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
For years, whenever pro-life legislation was discussed or passed, advocates of abortion told us it was a waste of time. They said that women would get abortions anyway, crossing state lines or taking matters into their own hands.
Now a prominent abortion researcher and promoter has told folks on her side to stop saying that. Why? Because pro-life laws are in fact leading numbers of women to forego abortion and give birth to their babies, a catastrophe from the pro-abortion perspective.
The headline from Diana Greene Foster’s commentary in the very pro-abortion Rewire.News says, “Stop Saying That Making Abortion Illegal Won’t Stop People From Having Them.” The subhead elaborates: “Criminalizing abortion or making it less accessible means that some women carry unwanted pregnancies to term.”
Foster is a demographer from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) who has gained notoriety in scientific circles for something called the “Turnaway Study.”
Foster and several of her UCSF colleagues took 231 women who were “turned away” for abortions because they were past the clinic’s gestational limits and compared them to 452 women who had abortions just before reaching that limit. Using data from that group, the UCSF team published a number of studies. Their assertion was that women “denied” abortions suffered more anxiety, faced greater poverty, were more likely to endure intimate partner violence, and less likely to achieve “aspirational life goals.” (We discussed the many problems with these studies and some of their claims multiple times:
Foster repeats a number of these claims in her Rewire commentary, most significantly that “more than two-thirds of women who were denied abortions because they were too late in pregnancy carried their unwanted pregnancies to term.” These findings were consistent, Foster said, with data from other countries where about half of those unable to obtain legal abortions went on to carry the pregnancy to term.
U.S. data examined by other researchers also confirmed the phenomena, Foster writes. When regulations closed 19 of the 41 abortion clinics in the state of Texas, Foster says, the abortion rate fell 13% the following year. (It was not regulations alone, as we have explained in many NRL News Today posts.)
Other research, she says, shows that about a quarter of low income women give birth when public insurance doesn’t cover abortion, rather than seeking and paying for an abortion on their own.
Foster says a woman’s being “denied” a desired abortion “makes it more likely she will have a child that she lacks the financial and emotional resources to raise.”
She fails to note a hugely important truth. Her own data showed that while many “Turnaway” women were indeed initially upset when they could not obtain what they had (falsely) come to believe was the solution to their problems, many soon came to believe that having the child was the “right” outcome and reported being happy once the baby was born! More about that below
[You and I have a fundamental difference of opinion about how much emphasis to put on DIY abortions. And, in my opinion, there is so much emphasis in this piece on chemical abortions we miss what you point out here and before: that women “denied” come to change their minds. So I’ve made some suggestions]
In her opinion piece, Foster begins by observing
Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop women from having them. You may have heard this argument before, often from someone wielding a symbolic coat hanger at a protest.
In fact a frequent explanation of how women would have abortions, should Roe v. Wade be overturned, is not by using coat hangers but do-it-yourself chemical abortions with drugs women buy over the internet.
For example, Daniel Grossman, one of Foster’s colleagues in abortion research at UCSF, told Yahoo News that there are “workarounds” now that weren’t available before Roe made abortion legal. “The obvious difference is that now, unlike in the 1960s, we have safe and effective medications that can be made available outside the medical system,” Grossman said. “It is much harder to crack down on these medications, which are safe, effective, heat stable, easily transportable, and available in many countries without a prescription.”
So why then is Foster saying in the first paragraph of her commentary that it is time to stop saying that “Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop women from having them”?
What frustrates Foster most is that people on her side mistakenly believe that women will find a way to abort no matter what legislation is passed. She writes
“[O]nly 48 percent of unintended pregnancies are aborted in countries where abortion is illegal compared to 69 percent where it is legal indicates that many women have to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.”
Foster writes that “young women, poor women, and other disadvantaged groups will disproportionately carry unwanted pregnancies to term.”
But as we pointed out in the conclusion to our five-part critique of the “Turnaway” study, “Within a week after their ‘denial,’ even before the baby was actually born, 35% of those women were no longer willing to say that having the abortion would have been the right decision. After the birth, we know that 86% were living with the baby; 59% perceived their relationships as good or very good; and nearly half (48%) had full-time jobs.”
In Foster’s mind, it is a tragedy that these women give birth and these babies live and have a chance to grow up, experiencing the joys and opportunities of life.
We see each life saved as a triumph. And a blessing. So, too, did many women who were “denied” abortions.