The Turnaway Study Takedown: Video debunks ‘research’ claiming women suffer when denied abortion

By Cassy Fiano-Chesser 

The abortion industry and its media allies frequently claim that women don’t regret having abortions, but a new Live Action campaign, “Can’t Stay Silent,” is demonstrating otherwise. The Turnaway Study, the product of pro-abortion researchers, is cited time and time again as support for claims that women who have had abortions don’t feel grief or regret as a result — but the reality of what this study found isn’t what the abortion industry claims.

In the Turnaway Study, women who were able to have an abortion were compared to women who were turned away — thus the name — because they were past a gestational limit to have the procedure. The researchers claimed that women were not harmed by having an abortion, and that women who did not have an abortion fared worse than the women who did, resulting in “worse financial, health, and family outcomes.” The study has since been regularly cited by media outlets in a supposed debunking of the pro-life idea that abortion can negatively impact women.

What rarely gets mentioned is how incredibly flawed the study is, as a new Live Action video examines:

From the study’s flawed design, its skewed sample, bias from the researchers, and deceptive reporting, it’s difficult to see how the results could be valid.

Flawed design

In 2008, the Turnaway Study was released by the group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH). The goal of the study was to compare how having an abortion versus not having an abortion affects women. 877 women were asked to participate, hand-selected by 30 abortion facilities across the country. They were then given phone interviews every six months, over a five-year period.

The study also ignored that a full quarter of the women turned away ended up having an abortion in another state, or experienced a miscarriage. In addition, no distinctions were made between women who had undergone multiple abortions, compared to women who had undergone just one abortion. Worst of all, there was no comparison whatsoever made to women with an unexpected pregnancy who did not seek out abortion, but made the decision to parent from the beginning.

Additionally, by limiting the study period to five years, any potential long-term effects of abortion remain unknown.

Skewed sample

The sample size has been criticized for being too small. While thousands of women were recruited to participate, only 27% agreed, despite receiving an incentive to do so. By the final year of the study, only 17% remained. This makes it impossible to determine how abortion affected the majority of women the researchers followed.

What makes this information especially striking is that women who had negative abortion experiences were the least likely to continue participating. The women who reported the least amount of relief were the ones found most likely to drop out of the study. This means the small percentage of women who did continue participating were more likely to report on abortion positively.

The sample size was further skewed because women who sought out abortion due to fetal anomalies were kept out of the study, as women in those circumstances are more likely to have high rates of distress afterward.

In addition, the women participating were not chosen at random. They were hand-picked by employees of the abortion facilities. Did those staffers intentionally choose women who seemed more at peace with their decision to have an abortion, while ignoring those who seemed more emotional or upset? This calls the study results further into question — the people choosing the study participants are the very people with a vested financial interest in keeping abortion legal.

Researcher bias

Those who authored the study were biased in and of themselves, something rarely admitted in the coverage hyping up the Turnaway Study. Diana Greene Foster, the study’s principal investigator, sits on the board of the Later Abortion Initiative, which promotes access to late-term abortion and has been applauded by pro-abortion groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America. Foster also testified before Congress, calling for all restrictions against abortion to be eliminated. She’s also the director for the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Bixby Center for Reproductive Health, which trains future abortionists.

Study author Daniel Grossman is the current director of ANSIRH. He is an abortionist and former board member of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Abortion Federation. He is currently serving on California’s Future of Abortion Council.

UCSF itself has roots in promoting abortions as far back as the 1960s, before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Today, UCSF continues promoting abortion, participating in clinical trials for the abortion pill and promoting its deregulation — including a “no-test” protocol pioneered in part by none other than Daniel Grossman.

The study was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the William-Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Gerbode Foundation — all three of which invested in Danco Laboratories, the manufacturer of the abortion pill.

These were not objective scientists; it was a group of people deeply embedded within the abortion industry, with a vested interest in promoting abortion.

Deceptive reporting

How have the results of the study been reported? According to the authors and their acolytes in the media, the study results are nothing short of gospel proving that women don’t regret abortions. ANSIRH claimed the study proves over 95% women do not regret having an abortion, and that it was the right decision for them to make.

It was just one single question that led them to make that conclusion, of which the available responses were merely “yes,” “no,” or “uncertain.” Yet Foster and her fellow pro-abortion activists wasted no time painting the results as “proof” that 95% of women do not regret their abortions.

Among the women who did not have an abortion, there were some interesting results: Six months after giving birth, just one in eight women (12.5%) said they still wished they had been able to have an abortion; after five years, only one in 25 (4%) wished they still would have had the abortion. Most of the women who had a child said they were happy with their baby — yet there were no headlines trumpeting the fact that 96% of women didn’t regret giving birth.

Meanwhile, countless women have spoken about how abortion has negatively impacted their lives. On websites like Silent No More and Abortion Changes You, thousands upon thousands of post-abortive women (and men) have left heartbreaking testimonials about the grief and pain they feel; somehow, the Turnaway Study entirely disregards the existence of these individuals.

There is no sound science behind the Turnaway Study. It was an agenda-driven production with the abortion industry behind it, meant solely to promote abortion at the expense of women.