Rebutting recycled pro-abortion claims about what happens when women are “denied” abortions

By Dave Andrusko

With  Supreme Court decisions pending on two major  pro-life bills–Texas’s Heartbeat Law and Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act–there was one absolute guaranteed pro-abortion response. They would dredge up the “Turnaway Study.” We have rebutted this study so many times, but it keeps resurfacing. It needs a response now because otherwise people will look at the credentials of its lead researcher and assume what she says is true.

The question was what happens when women wait and wait and wait until abortion clinics won’t take their child’s life. In yesterday’s New York Times, lead researcher Diana Greene Foster tells us “What Happens When It’s Too Late to Get an Abortion.”

She writes

But my colleagues and I found that women who get abortions beyond 15 weeks often do so because they found out about their pregnancy late and then experienced real obstacles to getting an abortion — like cost, travel needs and legal barriers. If women seeking an abortion were unable to get one, the consequences to their health and their livelihood were often serious — and sometimes even deadly.

Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, NRLC director of Education & Research, is our expert on the abortion industry. Here’s what he had to say.

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Diana Greene Foster is a demographer from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) who has gained notoriety in scientific circles for 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 a 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.”

However, 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! 

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.